Task: Work assignment

Exercise 3 - From One Genre to Another

Published: 30.06.2010, Updated: 30.03.2011

Read the text below and answer the questions at the end.

The text is given in a version with hardly any punctuation marks; it has false starts, incomplete sentences and pause signals (um). um): It is an attempt to show that what was originally speech has been turned into written English.

I remember being on an aircraft when I was about five and I was with my parents coming back from a holiday in Greece and would you believe I mean it sounds ridiculous now but the aeroplane was being hit by lightening and um there was an aircraft above and an aircraft  below and we were coming back and it was a massive storm and I can’t remember a lot of it I was sat with my mum and my father was sat with my sister behind the lights went off and the air hostesses went absolutely wild everyone was strapped in

The pilot explained what was going on but don’t panic and there were um a lot of Muslims coming back and they were all saying their prayers and going aiee aiee and I remember a lady standing up and saying we’re all gonna die we’re all gonna die and this lady stood up and smacked her across the face and said if we’re all gonna die we don’t want to listen to you and um afterwards I mean ‘cos I was really young I didn’t realise I realised there was panic going on in the plane and when we actually landed and the pilot came out and said you were lucky um

It was frightening though very frightening but it doesn’t I think it was because I was so young that I’ve never been frightened of flying never I mean even when I get on an aeroplane now I’m not bothered.

From Ronald Carter et al. Working with Texts, Routledge, 2001


  1. What kind of text is this? What genre does it belong to?
  2. Turn this text into a short news text that could appear in the News in Brief section of a serious newspaper.
  3. Explain briefly what elements from the original text you have decided to leave out or change in your news text.
  4. Why have you made these changes?


Suggested key
  1. The text can be called an oral narrative. The speaker tells a story about what happened in the aircraft. The false starts, incomplete sentences, etc. are meant to give an impression of what it sounded like when spoken, but it is impossible to recreate on the printed page the features of real speech.
  2. This is just one possible version:

    Drama in the Air
    A BA airliner en route from Greece to the UK was hit by lightening in a terrible storm yesterday evening. Panic broke out in the plane with passengers, many of whom were Muslims, screaming out their fears and prayers. The pilot and the crew managed to restore calm in the situation and the plane landed safely in London about half-an-hour after schedule. Says five-year-old Sarah Brown: “I was there with my mum and dad, and it was really scary, but the pilot and the crew were great and I don’t think I’ll be afraid to fly again.”  

  3. The first four lines of the news text focus on the where and when of the dramatic event and its outcome in fairly long and complex sentences. The simple language of the last two lines repeats Sarah Brown’s own words. It is not uncommon to give a news report such a personal twist.
  4. A news report has to be short and condensed and written in standard English, which means that features of the original suggested speech have to be changed. In terms of content, a news report will leave out a lot of details of a personal and subjective nature, but may include quotes, as shown above.