General Rules of Writing Essays, Stories, Articles and Letters

There are guidelines applicable to writing essays, stories, articles and letters for WAEC and Senior Secondary School Certificate examinations, as well as other writings in the cause of business or various activities.

These guidelines are almost similar across the types of writing with minor modifications. When you are about to start any writing, note that different writings must include these parts:

Part 1: Introduction

Essays, stories, articles and letters must begin with an introduction. It does not matter if it is an informal letter. The introduction serves to present the topic you want to discuss or, in the case of an informal letter, it may be used for pleasantries. In story writing the introduction narrates the initiating incident before the conflict, climax and conclusion.

You can use this part to define the subject matter under discussion. Let your reader immediately have an idea of what you want to talk about.

If you are writing a story, you may begin with something that will pique the interest of the reader and draw him in, making him want to read more and find out how the situation resolves in the end.

Part 2: Content

Some students, and writers, stray from the subject matter that they have been asked or wish to write on. You must ensure that you stay within the context of what you have been asked to write on. If the question is on how you spent your last holidays, you can start from when the holiday began and stop at when it ended. Don’t continue to write on events that happened after the holiday. You could be asked to write about your visit to the local zoo. What is needed from you is a description of the zoo, your thoughts about the zoo, and any adventures or interesting occurrences that you encountered while at the zoo. Here, it is not necessary to write about events after you had returned.

The content of your writing should be contained in three or four paragraphs depending on the nature of your writing. A formal letter may not be up to the number of paragraphs stated earlier. If you are writing an argumentative essay you should dedicate these paragraphs to making your points to support your argument.

When writing the main content, that is, the body of your work, bear in mind the maximum word count specified by the examination. If you are writing for a personal or official issue, it is also necessary to control the length of your writing in order to keep the concentration of the reader. This will enable your points to be better understood and absorbed by the reader.

WEAC and Senior School Certificate English theory questions are usually assigned a word count of 750 words. An A4 or foolscap paper contains about 300 words. Therefore, writing three pages in your answer sheet is equivalent to about 750 words (in average lettering).

Part 3: Summary

After you have outlined and discussed your points in the body of your writing, the next paragraph should be used to summarize your narration/point of view. You don’t have to write all the points again just bring everything together to make sense. If it is a letter, for whatever purpose; employment, complaint, consent, condolence, a summary is necessary to marshal and pinpoint why you are writing.

Part 4: Conclusion

The last paragraph will be used to conclude your writing. It is imperative that you write a conclusion even if it a just one sentence. A conclusion is not just a rehash of the summary. The conclusion can be used to express appreciation, or appeal for consideration, etc.

Points to Note:

  • Be conscious of your punctuation
  • Spell correctly
  • Don’t use informal language for any writing except informal letters and narrative essays

Exam Bodies Marking Guide

  1. Content/Context:        This factor identifies whether you understood the question.
  2. Grammar:                   Correct sentences.
  3. Expression:                  Your use of English
  4. Spelling/Punctuation:  Spelling errors will reduce your marks

How NOT to Write a Story for the WAEC English Exam (or any other Exam)

Question: write a story that ends with “That’s the Longest Journey I Ever Made”.

THE LONGEST JOURNEY

It was 22/4/2004 comes the end of my first semister holiday in City Poly.

I was very happy when my uncle invited me to spend my holiday with him in Kano. 

One week before the vaccation day, I started prepairing for my journey which I intended making it two (2) days after the vaccation. It was on Friday that the school officially vaccated.

On Monday morning I took off to Greenways Transport Station Jabi, Abuja. The journey started exactly 8am. After two (2) hours journey, snack was been served to the passagers with can juice which was very nice breakfast.

The journey was fantastic for about 4 hours drived from Abuja.

Gotten to a village called Kotya, there was serious accident that claimed five (5) lives at a spot. It was my first experienced seeing such a trouble dead of such kind.

The accident occurred a result of bad spot on the road. 

As a result of bad road around this village, the driver coming from Kano tried to dotch spot and as a result his motor failed break and collided with the one coming from Abuja which we were following directly. We were so lucky that our vehicle was at a slow motion.

The two motors distroled beyond repaired, five people die at instant. The rest were wounded and were taking to a nearby clinic for treatment. Passagers in our bus contributed some money to assist the victims. I was suck for seeing such a trouble accident of this kind.

Thereafter, we continued our journey which took us another 3 hours to Greenways Station in Kano. The journey was then so boring all the passegers were wearing damour faces. There was no more communication. People were scared and the driver was advice to moved slowly. The journey that supposed to took us 7 hours end up 9 hours due to the problem.

On reaching to Kano’s Greenways Transport Station, my uncle was patiently waiting for me. He was living 2km away from the terminor. We took a drop from there to his house, reaching to his house I was highly welcome by his family.

The follow day, I rested at home, have my sleep and in the evening I watch some interested movies. My uncle is a civil servant, he goes to work everyday by 7am and we will be left at home with the rest of the family to do some domestic work. I contributed by helping them in different ways.

After three (3) days, I was taken to some recreational areas in Kano where we have funs, snap pictures and play volley ball (my favourite game). After this, I was able to visited the area myself to play my favourite game (volleyball).

I played with a term called “Loving Group”. I make friends in the term, Francis, Flix, Joshua and Victoria, they were very good in volleyball. With these number of stars in the term, the term was the powerful one.

The term organized a match with a term called “Shagalinka” we won the match and I was the star of the game that day.

My friend Victoria was a very nice friend to me. I cherish her too much. She is a good looking girl, sharp in brain and always make a funs of me. We love each other.

The weather in Kano is very cool, people there are mostly Hausa, therefore the dominant language is Hausa language. I was even opportuned to learned Hausa language which is of advantage to me now.

It is a city for business where many tribes are found.

One week to my resumption date, my uncle started prepairing for me. He bought many textbook and exercise book for me. Also some cloths and other things that I needed.

I enjoy staying in Kano. I missed my friends and my uncle especially Victoria.

On the day of my travelling, it was like a moaning. Everybody was not happy of my going especially my friend Victoria.

But there was no how we can do so have to go. I really missed them and they missed me too and we hope to meet one day.

It was same Greenways Transport that I followed back to Abuja. The journey was successful, there was no such incident like when we were coming. We arrived Abuja on time and I was able to meet my parents. They were glad to see me. Two days after I resumed school.

Corrections to Above Sample Story

  1. Don’t start telling long stories and repeating yourself. Everything the writer presented in paragraphs 1, 2 and 3 should have been written in one paragraph.
  2. Paragraphs 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 ought to be contained in one paragraph. You cannot start paragraphs arbitrarily. A narrative essay of 1,500 words should be 5 or 6 paragraphs in length. A letter can be 4 or 5 paragraphs maximum, namely;
  3. The introduction – 1st paragraph
  4. The body of the letter – 2nd, 3rd and 4th paragraphs
  5. Conclusion – 5th paragraph

A narrative essay takes the same format except that the paragraphs will be more.

  • Take note of the story writing guide which requires that every paragraph must be concluded. You cannot carry over what you have in the second paragraph to the third paragraph, etc.
  • The writer should have stopped the story at the end of the journey. You should not continue writing about what you did during the holidays. That is out of context.
  • The story above better represents how the writer spent his holidays, which is not what he was asked to write.
  • When you are asked to write about the longest journey you ever made, you should start the story at the time you embarked on the journey and stop at when the journey ended.
  • “The longest journey” doesn’t mean that the distance would be far. It could be a journey of one hour, but so many things happened on the way and that made the journey seem longer. The things that happened on the way could be bad or they could be good. The bad things should not be obvious things like an accident or armed robbery. How about a pregnant woman delivering in the car?

Grading the Sample

On Content: the writer of above story would not score high points on content because he clearly veered off course from the subject of the story.

Grammar: The grammatical errors are many and have been highlighted in blue colour.

Expression: The errors are underlined.

Spelling: the bold texts are spelling errors

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