Genre, form and register are all elements of a written text. A native English speaker can tell two important things by the sequence, the vocabulary and the appearance of a text: the kind of writing the text is and the type of reader the text is aimed at.
However, a non-native English speaker will have more difficulty in constructing the text due to lack of knowledge of the genre in relation to English culture.
Using the right style of writing is essential in order to convey your emotion or manner in relation to the reader. In this way, the genre, form and register of writing create a tone of voice for your English writing.
Genre and Form of Writing
When writing a text in English, you need to think about the following aspects of genre and form:
- Purpose (the reason for the text, for example, a job application)
- Specific name (what kind of text it is, for example, a letter or an essay)
- Typical / atypical: how the structure of the writing and content are typical for the purpose and specific name.
- Stages: the text is usually divided into stages. For example, a letter would start with the address at the top, then ‘Dear Sir/Madam’, the body copy, the ending ‘yours sincerely’, and finally the signature. Or an academic essay would have an introduction at the start, the middle section and a conclusion at the end followed by a reference list.
Register of Writing
Another consideration for developing your writing skills is the register of your writing. Register has three aspects:
- Field tells us just what the text is about. For example, in a job application letter, the field is jobs: there is a job opening that is being applied for.
- Mode is how the text is produced. In terms of mode, the example job application letter is a written discourse conducted and laid out as a typed letter. The formal lay out and typed text would have the effect of reinforcing the serious and respectful nature of the text.
A typical letter of this sort, for example, would be less than a page long and always include contact information. If the letter is to a friend, it could be much longer and would be informal in tone.
- Tenor is about who is involved in the discourse and the relationship between the participants. In a job application letter, the tenor is the prospective employer, as the text is addressing a person who is interested in hiring a new employee.
The writer might not know exactly who will read the text, but assumes that it is someone who is potentially interested in hiring them to do a job and would therefore find the letter relevant to them. The language would be typically formal.
As a whole, tenor is influenced by mode and field. Depending on who the reader is intended to be, the writer would alter how he/she conveys the message.
Share your thoughts on genre, form and register in English
Do you find capturing the appropriate register difficult when writing in English?
Do you have any tips for writing in the appropriate style?
Which style of writing do you find easiest when writing in English?
Let us know your thoughts in the comments.