‘Emotive language’ refers to word choices that are intended to get an emotional reaction or arouse an emotion. It doesn’t matter what it is – anxiety, anger, relief, urgency, joy, excitement and so on – as long as it has been evoked by the language used.

It is tempting – even traditional within a primary school setting – to link the idea of expressive, emotive writing with the concept of ‘powerful’ words.

However, this can be misleading. After all, watchmakers and silversmiths rarely, if ever, require power tools to create accurate timepieces or fine jewellery. They tend to use delicate, precise implements.

In a similar vein, you should encourage your pupils to choose their words with precision rather than raw power as they seek to move their reader. Subtlety can often have more impact in evoking emotion than wild exaggeration.

Emotional impact

Of course, no one would deny the general importance of broadening children’s vocabulary. Writing emotively, however, is one area where it probably matters even more than most.

After all, life tends not to be a straight choice between ‘happy’ and ‘sad’, ‘calm’ and ‘panicked’. Instead, emotions are a spectrum – a sliding scale – and so it really helps to know as many words as possible between any two extremes.

Being able to use emotive words effectively requires the writer to be able to distinguish between different shades of emotion and, preferably, arrange them in order of intensity.

It’s well worth practising this skill regularly with simple word-ranking tasks like this one

Persuasive writing KS2

You can find emotive language examples in almost every genre of writing – but where it really comes into its own is in persuasive writing, from letters of complaint to promotional leaflets and, above all, advertisements.

Given limited space or time, ads need to pack a powerful emotional punch with the minimum number of words.

Copywriters can agonise for ages over finding the best possible way of connecting with the reader’s emotions using persuasive language, techniques and devices. Why not challenge your pupils to do the same, with the help of this text types resources pack: bit.ly/PlazoomPersuade

Figurative language KS2

Pupils should be encouraged to use all language devices at their disposal in order to write emotively. Figurative language such as similes, metaphors and personification can often convey a concept with such imaginative clarity that it leaves a profound impression on the reader.

While this might not always be appropriate – in formal letters, for example – it can often be absolutely perfect for other types of text.

But what about hyperbole? Well, everyone else uses it, so there is no reason why pupils shouldn’t, too. When promoting it as a form of emotive language, however, counsel caution.

If the exaggeration is too blatant or extreme, it can have the opposite effect to the desired one, as the reader simply won’t believe it – this set of worksheets will help children to strike a balance. (The same is true of exclamation marks, incidentally: one is enough and often too many!)

Finally, are you looking for other linguistic tricks to teach your class? Do you recognise the power of questions when it comes to engaging the reader? Can you imagine how effective rhetorical questions could be, given the right context? Then why not urge your pupils to use them?

With so many options to choose from, every young writer should be able to find some way of using words to connect with the feelings of their audience.

And fortunately, they have you to guide them towards the effective use of these techniques and generally nurture them towards achieving their innate potential as a writer. How rewarding – and powerful – is that?

Sue Drury is literacy lead at Plazoom, the expert literacy resources website. Find more advice at plazoom.com/blog.