Teaching Kids About Writing Conventions

What is a writing convention?

Writing and language conventions are simply the rules people must follow when writing any text. Whether you’re writing a story or a political speech, certain principles, such as correctly writing in complete sentences and spelling words, will help the text make sense and impact the audience.

As well as the more general writing conventions that apply to all texts, certain genres have specific rules and principles that guide them. For example, you know you’re reading a play script if it contains stage directions, scenes, and speech without speech marks.

Keep reading below to learn all about language conventions and techniques, including a language conventions list for you to use with your class.

What are the leading writing conventions?

The main writing conventions that children will learn are the ones that apply to all texts. These guidelines must be followed in all writing tasks to help the reader understand what has been written. This language conventions list includes:

  • Spelling – words must be spelled correctly, including any homophones.
  • Punctuation – punctuation must be utilized appropriately, such as a complete stop at the end of a sentence or commas separating items in a list.
  • Capitalization – all words that require a capital letter should have one, including proper nouns and words at the beginning of a sentence.
  • Grammar – all grammatical rules must be followed, such as subject-verb agreements and correct use of tense.

Writing conventions for specific genres:

While spelling, punctuation, capitalization, and grammar are necessary for all texts, some genres have rules and principles to follow. These features help the reader to identify what kind of text they are looking at. Read on to find out about some of the more common genres and their conventions:

Narrative writing conventions

A narrative text tells a story, like a book. Some standard features of a narrative piece include characters, speech, and a clear story structure. For example, children might plan using a story mountain structure so that their narrative text has a clear introduction, build-up, climax, resolution, and ending. If you are reading a text with a plot like this, you can be sure you are reading a narrative.

Persuasive writing conventions

Persuasive texts aim to convince the reader to agree with the author’s point of view and might be presented in a format such as a speech, article, or poster. One example of a persuasive writing convention would be having a clear point of view, which is likely to be presented in the introduction and the conclusion. Standard features include facts and figures, emotive language, and rhetorical questions.

Letter writing conventions

When reading a letter, many visual clues tell you what type of text you are looking at. For example, a note will include an address in the top right-hand corner, a date, and a greeting (such as “Dear Sir/Madam”). It is also likely to be written in paragraphs and finish with a sign-off, such as “Yours Sincerely.”

Instructional writing conventions

Instructional writing covers text types such as recipes, instruction manuals, and how-to articles. This genre has many defining conventions, such as having a numbered list of instructions; this will be written in chronological order and include imperative verb commands, such as “Mix the batter.” Instructions are unlikely to have any speech or defining features. This specific list of conventions helps the reader to know they are reading a set of instructions and to follow them effectively.

Formal writing conventions

There are also writing conventions for specific writing registers and genres. If you are writing a standard text, such as a letter to your headteacher, particular rules will guide your writing and help the reader to know that you are writing formally. Including avoiding contractions, for example, saying “cannot” instead of the more informal “can’t.” A formal text is also unlikely to have any nicknames or slang terms. These conventions will help you to set the right tone for your writing.

Why are writing conventions necessary?

The main aim of writing conventions is to help the reader understand what they are reading. If spelling, punctuation, and grammar were all incorrect, no one would be able to read and enjoy the text!

Writing conventions are the foundation of any written work, so children must learn to master them as best they can before they move on to more detailed writing.

Many school exams and tests are graded according to writing conventions, so this is an important skill to master. For children to succeed academically, writing conventions are a must-know for children of all ages. A piece of work can be brilliantly structured and informed in its contents, but if it is littered with spelling and grammar mistakes, children will lose marks quickly.

Following the conventions of writing isn’t just a skill child will need throughout their school years; it’s also an essential skill that will help them in their adult life. For example, following the conventions specific to writing a resume and using correct spelling, punctuation, and grammar will work in their favor when applying for a job in the future.

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