This is a sample response for the VCAA Exam 2008, based on a slightly modified paper in that the images are clip art not the originals from the paper, but the words are as cut from the VCAA website. The original document is contained in a separate post so that you can attempt it yourself before looking at the sample response.
Given the time constraints, it is necessary to make decisions about what should be included and what to leave out.
Sample response: The Write Stuff
Using humour to attract readers of the popular magazine, the witty pun on “right” in the headline suggests both the topic, letter writing, and the writer’s perspective on the topic – that it is indeed appreciated as the right stuff. The font of the headline and the first letter of the article are designed to replicate hand writing, reinforcing the writer’s warm-hearted and colloquially expressed contention that “nothing really beats receiving a long letter from a good friend in the mail” The adjectives “long” and “good” leave the reader feeling positive about the experience of receiving mail and disposed to readily accept the writer’s contention. A quick glance at the page links the ideas of writing and romance as readers consider the graphics accompanying the article, an amorous rose, a love heart and the allure of the romantic quill pen in an appeal to nostalgia for times past.
Calling up images of “an anonymous love letter on Valentine’s day” the juxtaposed idea of an sms message is ridiculed by the parody of the well-known rhyme “Roses are red…” in a verse which does not scan properly “If you SMS me this Valentine’s Day”, making the proposition of an sms seem even more ridiculous, encouraging readers to reject the idea as unromantic “consider us through”.
Positioning readers to reject all electronic forms of love letter, the scenario of dancing sheep and the lamely jocular words “I luv ewe…” on email are in stark contrast to the hyperbole of the emotionally charged description of the “thick, red envelope that sprinkles fragrant rose petals” which would guarantee that the romance-focused target audience, instantly reject the dancing sheep, thus reinforcing the contention.
The writer calls on the expertise of one whose job is to promote handwritten material, calligrapher Margaret Shepherd, who compares the romantic image of “candlelight” in opposition to the ridiculously mundane scenario of “flicking on the lights on” which is immediately followed by successive rhetorical questions each beginning “Isn’t it better…” and containing emotional blackmail “make… instead of buy”, “short stroll” presented as self-evident truths, where no disagreement could be countenanced. The acceptance of Shepherd’s position is further strengthened as anyone who is considering disagreement is disparagingly characterized as being “illiterate” or having a “heart of stone”.
The tone of the article changes so as to appear well-informed and authoritative, suggesting “social researchers” argue that “we” want it “faster shorter and sooner”. This buzz phrase and the repeated inclusive language “we can’t” “We’re not” is an indictment of society as a whole which is quickly excused by surprising and confronting statistics from the seemingly authoritative “lifestyle strategist” Ian Hutchinson “20 Million advertising messages before…20”, ensuring readers do not feel offended. The list of other common electronic communications adds to this justification “emails, text messages… voicemail”.
Well known Dr Bob Montgomery, with the impressive title “Director of Communication for the Australian Psychological Society”, is used to add weight to the argument. His argument is expressed in a combination of colloquial “guys” and academic language “visually literate” making his point appear both easy to understand and authoritative. The wry humor of “but they’ve got the attention span of a gnat” plays on a sterieotype to keep the audience’s attention as he drives home his contention “I don’t think It’s useful in the long run”, relying on his position to promote his opinion into the realm of established wisdom.
The final section, preceded by the visual promise of the tender image of the rose and the entwined wedding rings, offers earnest advice on the value of letter writing “Hey, I’ve spent half the day thinking about you…” including a long and appealing list of advantages “slows down… considered response…intimate…real appreciation…” all of which is characterized alliteratively and sentimentally as “fertilizer to friendship”, The contrast to emails “CCed to 23 others” builds on a common shared experience to position readers to accept the value of the handwritten letter to “carry more clout”. A cyclical structure returns to the already ridiculed “roses are red” to end the letter, leaving little room to disagree with the contentions of the writer and the collected experts.