Thank goodness you’re here! We were so worried. What on earth do you think you’ve been doing? But now you’ve arrived, there’s not a moment to lose!
Let’s strap ourselves in for a rollercoaster ride and together we can explore the exciting world of emotive language.
What is emotive language?
Assuming you have survived that emotional bombardment of an introduction, let’s calm down and consider just what is emotive language. Actually, that’s really not such a difficult question.
Emotive language is a language feature that refers to word choices that are intended to get an emotional reaction or arouse an emotion. It doesn’t matter that that emotion is – anxiety, anger, relief, urgency, joy, excitement and so on – as long as it has been evoked by the language used.
Emotive language word choice – Precision over power
It is tempting – even traditional within a primary school setting – to link the idea of expressive writing with the concept of ‘powerful’ words. This is perhaps misleading. After all, watchmakers and silversmiths rarely, if ever, require power tools to create accurate timepieces or fine jewellery. They tend to use delicate, precise implements.
In a similar vein, you should encourage your pupils to choose their words with precision rather than raw power when trying to use emotive language. Subtlety can often have more impact in evoking emotion than wild exaggeration.
Vocabulary and emotional impact
Surely, no one would deny the general importance of broadening children’s vocabulary. Writing emotively, however, is one area where it probably matters more than most. After all, life tends not to be a straight choice between happy and sad, calm and panicked.
Emotions are a spectrum, a sliding scale, and it really helps to know as many words as possible between any two extremes.
Being able to use emotive words effectively requires the writer to be able to distinguish between different shades of emotion and, preferably, arrange them in order of intensity. It’s well worth practising this skill regularly with simple word-ranking tasks, which is why we created our KS2 synonyms worksheets for ordering emotions and feelings.
Try it – we’re sure you’ll be pleased, delighted, thrilled, overjoyed with it. Alternatively (or additionally), try our word webs activity for exploring synonyms.
Genres for emotive language
You can find emotive language examples in almost every genre of writing but there are some to which it is especially well suited. Obviously poetry and narrative frequently rely on emotive writing to create drama, build tension and engage the reader. As for non-fiction, it has an important role to play in discussion texts, explanations and even recounts, should the context require it – especially highly personal recounts such as diary entries.
Where it really comes into its own, though, is in persuasive writing, from letters of complaint to promotional leaflets and, above all, advertisements. Given limited space or time, advertisements need to pack a powerful emotional punch within a minimum number of words in order to get their message across.
That is why advertising copywriters can agonise for ages over finding the best possible way of connecting with the reader’s emotions using persuasive language, persuasive techniques and persuasive devices. Fortunately, the stakes are less high for schoolchildren trying to write advertisements of their own but it remains one of the most challenging emotive language activities to do well.
If you are stuck for ideas, we can help with our persuasive writing pack. This includes model texts, a vocabulary bank, success criteria, worksheets and a writing plan. It’s a one-stop shop for compelling compositions! (See what we did there?)
Pupils should be encouraged to use all language devices at their disposal in order to write emotively and make informed choices about which techniques to use where. Figurative language such as similes, metaphors and personification can often convey a concept with such imaginative clarity that it leaves a profound impression on the reader. While it might not always be appropriate – in formal letters, for example – it can often be absolutely perfect for other text types.
If you feel your class needs a little revision on metaphors, for example, there’s no need to swim against the tide. Save yourself a job by using our writing features challenge mat.
Emotional language – Hyperbole!
The use of exaggerated statements – hyperbole – is often classed as a form of figurative language but, for these purposes, it probably deserves a section to itself. Everyone else uses it, so there is no reason why pupils shouldn’t too. When promoting it as a form of emotive language, however, counsel caution. If the exaggeration is too blatant or too extreme, it can have the opposite effect to the desired one as the reader won’t believe it. The same is true of exclamation marks, incidentally: one is enough and often too many!
Get an emotional response from rhetorical questions
Are you looking for other linguistic tricks to teach your class? Do you recognise the power of questions when it comes to engaging the reader. Can you imagine how effective rhetorical questions could be, given the right context? Then why not urge your pupils to use them?
With so many options to choose from, every young writer should be able to find some way of using words to connect with the feelings of their audience. Fortunately, they have you to guide them towards the effective use of these techniques and generally nurture them towards achieving their innate potential as a writer. How rewarding is that?
Do you want to extend your pupils’ vocabulary?
If you are looking for ways to close the vocabulary gap and ensure progress from the start, take a look at our Word Power resources. We have over 48 resource packs for years 1-6 that will help your pupils to learn 144 ambitious tier 2 words – a new word taught each week. Find out more here.