Learning Outcomes

By the end of this package you should be able to:

Introduction to Independent Learning

Independent learning gives you more choice about what, when and how fast to study. It also prepares you to learn after complete full time education.

In order to study independently you need to be able to set your own aims, choose how you want to study and reflect on the usefulness of studying that you do and on your overall progress.

Since you have chosen to study one of the reading packages, we can assume that you want to learn more about the subtleties of language through reading. These include looking at the extent to which we can make educated and accurate assessments of the vocabulary and expressions within a text, distinguishing when a writer is presenting fact and opinion and reading not only the words written by the author but finding those sentiments and ideas which are hidden in the meaning, context and nuance of the text. We shall also look at the language features and text structure of different genres.

The online activities are designed to help you to develop an appreciation and enjoyment of reading so that it becomes something you look forward to doing rather than an arduous task you do in order to complete an assignment.

Writing Genres

The Oxford English Dictionary (2012) defines the word ‘genre’ as a noun used to distinguish

“a style or category of art, music or literature”

The term is nowadays also applied to film eg. action adventure movies or romantic comedies which are familiar film genres. In this part of the reading module we shall look at the features and functions of different genres in literature and other written texts.


Genres and titles


Genres Book Title
Travel book A Year on Cheung Chau
Spy thriller Death in the Night
Text book Grammar Moves
History book Vietnam: 1953 – 1975
Political commentary China – friend or foe?
Self-help book How to quit smoking in three days
Science fiction nove Clone Wars
Girls teen story book Trudy Binter and the Awesome Winter Wonderland
Instruction booklet The P300/X Operating Manual
Novel Crossroads



Genres and language features

Of course the title and the book cover can tell us a great deal about which genre a book belongs to but the real test is in the analysis of the language. Read the following excerpts from different genres and use your skills as a reader to determine the genres and the language features.


1 Undo the shaft-wrench on the grondle-spigot and then insert the mainstay into the cleft on the right hand side of the jack-end bite snap.
Genre Language features
instruction manual Imperatives (orders) are used to direct the reader and if numbers or bullet points are not used, the writer uses sequencing and organizing connectives such as ‘first’ and ‘next’. Technical vocabulary and phrases are used throughout.
2 Perhaps your best bet for accommodation would be to stay at one of the numerous family run hotels in the city centre. They are usually very friendly, clean and remarkably good value and most of them serve reasonably priced food.
Genre Language features
travel article This employs a fairly chatty, informal style by referring to the reader directly as ‘you’. It also uses expressions offering advice and opinions and includes quite a lot of descriptive detail with abundant use of adjectives and adverbs.
3 After dinner, Greene sat and waited in his room over the old bakery in Admiralty Street. Down below he could hear the tourists on their way to the evening market or one of the many average eateries that lined the water front – the children were shouting and screaming out of control while their parents called after them not to get lost. How strange he thought, do they think their children would get lost on purpose? Then he smiled to himself – why not, he had.
Genre Language features
novel This narrative can be written in the first person ‘I’ or the third person ‘he/she’. It can be very descriptive as the writer often needs to paint a scene or describe a situation or talk about people’s feelings and emotions.
4 Zarkon V was situated deep in Sector Two, light years from the nearest United Planetary Confederation’s observation station. As a result, the colony was a largely lawless society and not one for the faint-hearted.
Genre Language features
science fiction story This genre commonly uses technical and scientific expressions within the framework of a traditional novel or story. The narrative voice can be first person ‘I’ or third person ‘he/she’ and the story line often involves war, colonization or the end of the world.
5 Completed form AP/714 together with transcripts and original qualification certificates must be submitted to the Secretariat by the end of the month. Failure to meet these requirements will result in the instant termination of the candidate’s application.
Genre Language features
adminstrative document This style of writing commonly uses formal vocabulary and formal, distancing grammatical structures such as the passive voice are very common. The overall tone is formal, distant and yet neutral in terms of politeness.
6 The suspect, a 43 year old man, was arrested at his home in Sai Kung in the early hours of Thursday morning. Police would not comment on the identity of the man but stated later that he was helping them with their enquiries into a recent bank robbery in Central in which three bank employees were injured.
Genre Language features
newspaper story Short, factual sentences are common in this genre. Where sentences are longer, they tend to be active independent clauses joined with simple connectives such as ‘and’ or ‘but’.
7 I would like all staff to attend an emergency departmental meeting in the conference room after work. I apologize for the late notice but I’m afraid that we have some very important issues to discuss. Thank you for your understanding.
Genre Language features
workplace email This is a fairly personalized piece of writing using ‘I ‘ and ‘you’ to refer to the sender and receiver. The tone is generally neutral in terms of formality and directness but polite. The writer presents the content in a clear and concise way avoiding old-fashioned jargon and verbose expressions.
8 The data was obtained from interviewing 150 year one students about their experiences during their first month at university. The respondents were asked 20 multiple-choice questions divided in to four sections on orientation, course information, socializing and belonging. The questionnaires were administered at the end of September and the results collated the following month
Genre Language features
academic report The objective content of this genre is achieved through consistent use of the passive voice. Because of the nature of the text, there is a strong focus on the past tense and a more academic style of vocabulary and grammar.
9 Hi there ! Having a great time ! Sun, sea and sand !!! Food’s fantastic and the people are great. Off to the night market this evening and then up Mount Palawag on Saturday – hope I’m fit enough!!! Trust all’s well at work – see you soon. C & E.
Genre Language features
post card This genre is dominated by its informal style in which short forms, contractions, informal vocabulary, unusual punctuation, incomplete or grammatically cut sentences are all common features. This genre also quite descriptive and often has a humorous or positive feel to it.
10 Some verbs are used transitively and intransitively with different kinds of subject; the intransitive use has a meaning rather like a passive or reflexive verb and these verbs have commonly become known as ergative verbs.
Genre Language features
grammar text book This style of writing uses academic or technical terminology with a strong passive or objective focus usually presented in the present tense.



This section gives you the opportunity to compare two genres which you will probably need to be familiar with at some time in your life:

  • academic writing – essays, reports, papers, research proposals etc…
  • normal workplace writing – workplace emails, letters, memos, reports, proposals etc…

Genre comparison

Read the two texts and then decide which features best describe each one by dragging the language features from the box and dropping them in the table.

By examining the filmic representation of Macao and Taiwan in Hong Kong films, mostly released after the 1997 sovereignty transfer, this paper will address the notion of Chineseness in its plural form as associated with different Chinese societies. Attention will be brought to the cosmopolitan side of Chineseness in Hong Kong cinema rather than the mere influence from the Mainland (PRC) and it will be argued that it is this pluralised, composite Chineseness reflected in Hong Kong cinema that has reinforced its very “Hong Kong-ness” against the impact from the “orthodox” Chineseness of the Mainland. Through a combination of textual and contextual analyses of selected Hong Kong diaspora films respectively set in Macao and Taiwan, a general understanding of the imbrications of various Chinese societies within Greater China and, most importantly, the changing role and position of Hong Kong (cinema) within this conceptual China as “one country” before and after it became a special part of the PRC, will be provided.

Reprinted with permission from: “Chinesenesses” Outside Mainland China: Macao and Taiwan through Post-1997 Hong Kong Cinema Author: Hilary Hongjin He Journal: Culture Unbound: Journal of Current Cultural Research ISSN/EISSN: 20001525 Year: 2012 Volume: 4 Pages: 297-325 Publisher: Linkoping University

Dear Mr Hong

We recently met at the Hong Kong Film Festival where we discussed your interest in buying Hong Kong films for your research project.

I attach our film catalogue which contains a comprehensive list of Chinese films made after 1997. I have highlighted those which pay special attention to Macau and Taiwan.

We would be happy to discuss bulk or repeated orders and are sure that we can come to mutually satisfactory deal.

I hope that this is of interest to you and look forward to meeting up soon.


Jammy Mavis Jnr.


Academic writing genre Feature Workplace writing genre
common use of low frequency, complex vocabulary Vocabulary focus on simple, high frequency words
frequent use of the passive voice Voice stresses using the active voice with action verbs
uses full forms Contractions can use contractions
employs long, complex sentences Sentence length sentences are short and simple to make the texts easier to read
uses highly technical terminology Technical terms in general avoids highly technical terms
strives to be objective Objectivity can be objective but is often subjective
formats documents in paragraphs with tables, graphs and charts Format uses a layout that avoids dense text and stresses the use of white space, bullet points, numbers, tables and headings
uses a formal tone Formality uses a neutral tone
avoids personal pronouns as they impinge upon objectivity Personalisation tends to use personal pronouns to increase proximity to the audience
verbose Style concise


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