There is an exam question that deals with something called ‘Presentational Devices.’ AQA and all the other exam boards offer advice on each one, as does the BBC Bitesize site, but here for you, are just a few ideas. It is the question that always catches everyone out in Section A of the exam and so, take real notice of this in your revision. It is vital you understand these concepts as listed below…
PRESENTATIONAL DEVICES – well, some of them!
- Illustrations and photographs
Writers use devices like these in order to find a visual way to engage the reader’s interest in a particular topic. However, this is not the only reason. Often, an illustration of photograph can be used to impact on the reader’s point of view about a particular topic.
It is important to look closely at the caption that accompanies a particular picture. Very often the caption does more than just explain what is in the picture: it can be used to inflect additional meaning on to the image.
Colour is a subtle way to control the reader’s interpretation of material. Very often, a specific colour carries specific connotations and associations. It is important to think about the colours that are used in a text and the possible emotions or feelings that the writer is trying to evoke as a consequence.
- Charts and diagrams
Simply, charts and diagrams allow the writer to condense facts and statistics into an easily accessible visual form. It allows the writer to take raw data and present it clearly so that the reader comes to think that the writer’s ideas have a basis in quantifiable fact.
- Logos and Slogans
Logos and Slogans are important because they are visual representation of an individual’s or organisations collective identity. In some texts identity is a powerful element of why the text is convincing: that is, because the reader can identify with the values of the group or individual promoting a particular idea, they are more likely to accept it.
- Font Styles
The different font styles that a writer employs are key to their strategy in communicating with the audience. The writer may adopt particular font styles in order to draw the attention to a specific point or to distinguish between different words or phrases in the text.
Titles play a central role in any text: they dictate the tone and meaning of the text from the outset. A title is more than a description of a text’s content, it indicates to the reader the approach that the writer is taking to a topic. Titles may carry concealed or implied meaning that only becomes clearer once the text has been read; alternatively, they might also indicate, from the outset, the writer’s perspective on a particular topic.
Sub-headings are both a presentational and structural device. At a very simple level, sub-headings help to divide information clearly so that the reader can follow a writer’s argument with clarity. However, they also form a much more subtle purpose when used effectively. Sub-headings can also be used to condense a complicated argument into carefully managed segments. This approach is not simply concerned with helping the reader to follow the argument, but also leading them to believe that each stage of the argument is leading to a logical conclusion. In turn, the text can be ultimately more persuasive.
A Note about Presentational Devices
You should see presentational devices as integral to the success of any text. They have not been included by the writer or design team primarily for decorative effect. They help to enhance and extend the meaning of the text that the writer has produced. When writing about persuasive devices, you need to think about what they add to the text.
Illustrations and Photographs
Illustrations and photographs are key elements of a text’s construction. The use of visual images is both engaging and stimulating for the reader. It is important to remember that each individual sees something different in a visual image. In other words, how we interpret visual imagery is subjective. However, illustrations and photographs help us not only to engage with a topic, but they might also visually represent the image that is being written about, or be included to alter our perception of a particular topic.
Describing Visual Imagery
Although our interpretation of visual imagery is subjective, there exists a methodology for analysing visual texts. In order to think about what a picture is showing us we can think about what is illustrates superficially, but also what it implies beneath the surface.
Captions do not simply describe the contents of a picture. Instead, they offer an additional comment on the topic matter. Very often the writer will use an image to add meaning to their text. In turn, the caption is another way that the writer can control the way that the reader thinks about a particular topic.
Colour is a slightly more subtle device that writers or designers can use to enhance the meaning of their texts. This is because of the subconscious associations that we make with what different colours represent. It is important to think about how colour is used in a text. Very often it can be used as a way of directing us to think in a certain way because of what we associate the colour with.
Another key presentational device used by writers and designers are logs. Logos are important because they do two central things. The first is that they promote the identity of an individual or organisation with which we associate the logo. Secondly, the logo itself promotes the values and ideals of that person or organisation.
Slogans are effective tools that writers use in their texts. Essentially, a slogan is a short and pithy phrase that sums up the essence of a product or organisation. Some slogans use what is called phonological patterning. This is devices like alliteration and assonance, for example, which are designed to make the slogan memorable by using the same sounds in the slogan. Alternatively, the slogan might just be a very short phrase that focuses the reader on a particularly unique element of the product or text in general.
Like the use of colour, font styles are another way that the writer and designer can subtly control how you perceive a piece of text. Fonts carry with them a number of perceived meanings. One of the first things to think about is the level of formality implied by the font. The second is to ask yourself if the font is being used to draw your attention to a key idea in the text. The third, is the font designed to draw a distinction between ideas in the text.
Headings are another key element of a text. They work to provide us with an initial sense of the writer’s topic, but also their purpose. That is, headings are more than just illustrations of what will be contained in the piece, instead they can offer us an early insight into the writer’s perspective on a particular topic. You should look closely at headings to determine whether or not the writer is presenting their ideological perspective in addition to an indication of what they intend to write about.
As well as the main titles in a text, you might also think about how the writer’s approach is developed by their use of sub-headings. This will be important because very often, sub-headings do more than simply ‘break up’ the text; instead, they often provide a way for the writer to guide the reader through their argument by continuing to insert headings that deliver their ideological impact.