Students (do, do not, may) benefit from reading this

One element of style that is often manipulated but rarely talked about is modality. According to NAPLAN 2012, “Modal verbs give the reader information about the degree of obligation or certainty involved in the action.” Utilizing modality is a way of expressing ideas with certain amounts of confidence.

Changing the modal verb can change the meaning of a sentence completely. For example:

She can stay late after school.

She should stay late after school.

She has to stay later after school.

As the modal verbs get stronger, the urgency with which the subject stays after school becomes stronger.

Modality is especially important in writing persuasive texts, but knowing how to use it is an important skill to have, regardless of what genre you’re writing.



One thought on “Students (do, do not, may) benefit from reading this

  1. chadprom April 22, 2015 / 12:38 am

    This is the first time I have come across the concept of modality and its relationship with urgency. The example you included is awesome and really explains the idea well. I mentioned in one of my blog posts that persuasive writing is something I particularly enjoy. Being familiar with modality and how it can greatly affect the urgency is highly relevant to that type of writing like you mentioned.


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