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The “technique” or “terminology” part of your paragraph is your chance to show the examiner that you know all the important English terms.

This part of the PETZAL essay structure is where you put all of those special words you learnt for the exam. It helps to you to show the examiner that you can identify important key terms and use them properly.

For GCSE students, the terminology you use might fall into one of the following categories:

  • Literary devices (simile, metaphor, personification, pathetic fallacy, etc).
  • Word classes (noun, verb, adjective, adverb, predicate, determiner, etc).
  • Structure terms (flashback, flash-forward, in medias res, etc).
  • Punctuation (full stop, colon, ellipses, etc).
  • Poetic devices (caesura, enjambment, end-stopped line, sonnet, etc).

These terms exist for a reason! They help us to describe and label the language we use. Plus, it helps us to see that each different technique the writer uses is a tool. They can pick out the best one from their toolbox to use on their text receiver to get the desired effect.

Most students forget to use these words that they’ve spent so long learning. So, by including it in the acronym, you’re making sure to make the most of your revision. You’re also giving the examiner a nod and a wink, telling them very explicitly that you’re doing what you need to get high marks.

Why is it Important to Use Terminology?

Every subject has terminology that you need to use. It helps people to be specific when talking to one another, which means they can communicate and share ideas better. That’s not just the case with English, either. It’s true of science, maths, computer science and pretty much every other subject you can study.

Imagine you didn’t have specific names for each tool in a toolbox. If you wanted someone to get something for you, you’d have to describe the tool in great detail and hope that they got what you were talking about. You’d also have to make sure that your description wasn’t too similar to another tool, too. That would cause way too much confusion.

It’s like me running this website, actually. I had a problem with people’s profile pages where the names on the tabs would say “page not found” – even though the content showed up just fine. Since I didn’t know what to call the name on the tab, it took hours to explain my problem to my theme’s support desk.

So, using terminology helps you to communicate your thoughts and ideas better to your teacher, examiner and other people studying the subject.

There’s also a more exam-based reason, too. Both the English language and literature GCSE assessment objectives talk about subject terminology in AO2. That means you get marks for doing it.

Basically, if you don’t use terminology, you’re missing out on some easy marks. Those marks could be enough for you to drop a grade boundary or two!

What Does This Look Like in a PETZAL Paragraph?

The “terminology” part of the PETZAL acronym is the shortest part. It really doesn’t need to be long at all. In fact, I recommend limiting it to a couple of words and combining it with the “evidence” section.

Adding your terminology to the evidence might look something like this:

Shakespeare uses the metaphor “Juliet is the sun” to show how much Romeo loves and idolises her.

Yes, technically, the T comes before the E there, so the acronym would actually be “PTEZAL”.

If you’d rather not confuse yourself by mixing up the letters of the acronym, don’t worry. It still works fine the other way around:

Romeo says “Juliet is the sun”, which is a metaphor that shows how much he loves and idolises her.

Then, you just need to explain why Shakespeare chose to use a metaphor.

If you want to upgrade your use of terminology for higher grades, you can also use it to help you describe the word or phrase you’re going to zoom in on. Then, you’d have a much more sophisticated answer like this:

Shakespeare uses the metaphor “Juliet is the sun”, to show how much Romeo loves and idolises her. The noun “sun” indicates that Romeo feels like Juliet is beautiful, bright and gives him life. It also suggests that his world revolves around her.

If you have keen eyes, you might have noticed that I used two pieces of terminology there. You can absolutely do more than one! Show off! Just don’t go overboard.


How to Avoid Feature Spotting

Feature spotting is when you throw in subject terminology to sound fancy and show that you know big words. You’re not actually analysing or proving you know why they’re being used. You’re basically playing a game of Where’s Wally with literary devices.

When you feature spot, you end up with an unsophisticated answer. That’s why the examiners complain about this so much in their examiner reports.

Feature spotting might look something like this:

Lady Macbeth says “Out Damned Spot”, which is an exclamatory sentence.

The problem with this example is that the terminology (exclamatory sentence) isn’t doing anything. It’s not helping to explain the effect that Shakespeare is having on his audience, or showing us what the message of the play is. It’s just… there. You might as well have said, “Oh look! There’s an exclamation mark!” It would have added just as much to your essay: nothing.

That’s not going to get you many marks at all.

Instead, ask yourself: Why did the writer use that device in particular? How would it change the meaning if they chose a different device?

A good example of this is from the poem “Dulce Et Decorum Est” by Wilfred Owen. In it, he uses imagery to help describe the conditions of the soldiers:

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,

The best students answer the following questions about this part of the poem:

  • Why did Owen choose to use imagery here? What effect was he trying to have on his reader?
  • Why did Owen choose to use similes here?
  • How would the meaning have changed if he had used a metaphor to describe the soldiers instead of a simile? For example, “The old hags were bent double”.

No matter what answer you give to these questions, you’re using your terminology to make a point. That gets you marks.

Where to Learn More Terminology?

If you’re struggling to learn new key terms, don’t worry! There are plenty of ways that you can brush up on what you need to know.

First of all, there are plenty of great resources on websites like Quizlet. This one is quite a good place to start.

Then, there are great books out there that combine learning new terminology with teaching you other important aspects of the GCSE exam. You can get some of these from Amazon:

Please note: as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Here on Shani’s Tutoring, I am working on my own glossary of English language and literature terms. I’ve found over 1000 terms I need to add, so it’s going to take me some time! Bear with me! I’ll add the most important and useful ones first.

If you’re interested in getting your hands on that glossary as soon as possible, become a Study Buddy member now! I’ve got plenty of great resources in the works.

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