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Teachers' notes – glossaries

The examples illustrating the glossary items below have been sourced from both the print and the online-only exemplars.

These glossaries are not definitive, but are intended to be helpful to teachers as they work with their students through the writing process, or in oral or visual language. Teachers could also consult the Grammar Toolbox or other relevant sections in the Ministry of Education handbook Exploring Language: A Handbook for Teachers

Written Language Glossary

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The title of the exemplars is given in full. The exemplar set is referred to by initial letters, and the curriculum level is indicated by the number: for example, TW:E:4 stands for transactional writing – explanation, level 4.

TW:E = Transactional writing – explanation.
TW:A = Transactional writing – argument.
PW:PE = Poetic writing – personal experience.
PW:C = Poetic writing – character.


Alliteration is the repetition of consonants, especially at the beginning of words, so that the words are linked together by sound.

Then we walked into the woods trees were like Witches waving their wands...
(There's an Eagle Ray in the Bay PW:PE:4)

An analogy is an extended comparison, in which the writer helps the reader's understanding by relating something new to something they already know.

Assonance is the similarity in sound between vowels followed by different consonants in two or more stressed syllables.

Auxiliary verbs
Primary auxiliary verbs are used with other verbs to give information about tense (for example, am, have, will, and was).

The population in Egypt has expanded rapidly, so dams had to be made on the River Nile
(Rescuing the Temples at Abu Simbel TW:E:5)

Modal auxiliary verbs express such ideas as probability, willingness, prediction, speculation, deduction, and necessity. They are do, will, shall, should, can, could, may, might, must, and ought. Will and shall are used to indicate the future. There can only be one modal in a verb phrase and the modal always appears before any other auxiliaries.

Feral cats should be neutered and when they all die ... We can have a hakiri not a tangi.
(Feral Cats: TW:A:4)


A clause is a group of words containing a subject and a finite verb. It can form part of a larger sentence or stand alone as a simple sentence.

A subordinate clause cannot stand alone. It depends on another clause to make sense, and is introduced by a subordinating conjunction.

Colloquial language
Colloquial language is casual rather than formal. It is characteristic of conversation between people who know each other well. It is primarily used when speaking, but may be used in writing to create a sense of familiarity between the writer and reader.

Just from me to you, here's a trick, use them in a sling-shot, its bound to work.
(Bending the Truth! TW:A:5)

Conjunctions are words that join words or constructions within sentences. Co-ordinating conjunctions (and, but, for, nor, or, so, yet) join clauses into compound sentences. Subordinating conjunctions (for example, after, although, as, because, before, if, since, till, unless, until, when, where, while) join clauses into complex sentences.

Conjunctions can show the relationship between the ideas within and between sentences. They show four main types of relationship:

adding information and, but, or
indicating cause and effect as, because, if, since
indicating time after, as, since, until
contrasting ideas unless, although

Connectives include both conjunctions and connecting adverbs or adverbial phrases. Connecting adverbs or adverbial phrases help to maintain the cohesion of the text. Connectives have the following functions:

addition also, furthermore, moreover
opposition however, nevertheless, on the other hand
reinforcing besides, anyway, after all
explaining for example, in other words, that is to say
listing firstly, first of all, finally
indicating result therefore, consequently, as a result
indicating time just then, meanwhile, later

Content words
Content words are those that carry most of the meaning in the sentence – nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. In the context of the exemplars for explanation and argument, the term "content words" is replaced by "topic-related words" to refer to words that relate particularly to the topics the students wrote about.

And the Eaf ods ard the san the Eof gos ard. [And the earth orbits around the sun. The earth goes around.]
(Night and Day TW:E:1ii)


Direct speech
In direct speech, the writer quotes the speaker's original words. Speech marks ('...' or "...", also called inverted commas or quotes) denote the beginning and end of direct speech.

I trid to ual alt to him "Look out you silly goose you well pae for this." [I tried to yell out to him, "Look out you silly goose, you will pay for this."]
(I Was Sad When My Cat Died PW:PE:1iii)


Ellipsis is the term used for a set of three dots (...) that show that words or sentences have been omitted from within a paragraph, or that indicate a pause. In the following example, the writer attempts to use an ellipsis to create a sense of suspense.

Nena had one of those washing lines that go round and being a little child as I was, I was swinging on it until . . it broke, the top half fell off.
(The Memories of Nena Mahele PW:PE:5)

Emotive language
Emotive language may express the feelings and attitudes of the writer. It is often used in persuasive writing to appeal to the reader's emotions about the topic.

Cats are violent bullies.
(Feral Cats TW:A:4)


Finite verbs
A finite verb is a complete verb. It describes an action or state and locates it in time.

I was sad When my cat died from a car.
(I Was Sad When My Cat Died PW:PE:1iii)


In hyperbole, the writer emphasises a point through exaggeration.

I thought I'd never be able to do that even if I lived [to] be a bizillion years old.
(The Diving Board PW:C:4)


An imperative is an order, command, or instruction. While the subject is not stated, it is generally understood to be "you".

(Possum Debate TW:A:3)

Irony is the use of words that are clearly the opposite of what is really meant.


In a metaphor, the writer writes about something or someone as if they were really something else, without using like or as.

As I reached the kitchen table my stomach started to make a rumbling sound, the sound of a hungry animal, so I took out two pieces of bread and slipped them into the toaster and turned it up to high so it would cook faster.
(Getting Ready PW:PE:5)


Onomatopoeia is the use of words and phrases that echo sounds associated with their meaning.

... the sea was a roaring monster crashing against the sand and the long grass is like a ton of snakes hissing.
(There's an Eagle Ray in the Bay PW:PE:4)


A parenthesis is a word or phrase that interrupts a sentence in order to explain or elaborate. It is usually marked off by brackets, dashes, or paired commas.

Even if your brother's paintings are pretty pathetic you "bend" the truth so you don't hurt his feelings because (being optimistic) one day they will get a lot better.
(Bending the Truth! TW:A:5)

The term "parentheses" also refers to the brackets used to enclose the added information.

Passive voice
Verbs can be active or passive. When the verb is active, the subject performs the action. The sentence is written in the active voice.

When the verb is passive, the subject has the action done to it by an agent who may or may not be named.

The temples at Abu Simbel were going to be flooded.
(Rescuing the Temples at Abu Simbel TW: E: 5)

Passive verb forms are more common in impersonal, formal styles of writing, where the writer may use them to suggest distance and objectivity.

Personification is a form of metaphor in which non-human things are identified with humans or given human attributes.

The roaring monster [the sea] is tucked up in his bed of sand and the flounder have come out to play in the shallows.
(There's an Eagle Ray in the Bay PW:PE:4)

A phrase is a small group of words that do not have a finite verb and do not make sense on their own.

... an anaweing brother ... [an annoying brother]
(On My Own PW:PE:1ii)

Pronouns to denote inclusion and exclusion
Pronouns may be used rhetorically to make readers or listeners feel included with the writer or speaker (for example, us, we, and our) and to appear to exclude others (for example, they and them).

They are killing machines and they have us fooled into thinking we look after them ...
(Feral Cats: TW:A:4)


In repetition, the writer deliberately repeats a word or idea in order to emphasise it. In this example, Wiremu repeats the word "kill" in order to emphasise the threat he believes cats pose to the environment.

Cats are killing machines. ... Cats kill over 16.24 million creatures a year in Aotearoa. They kill for fun. They can kill with or without claws or fangs and they stalk and silently pounce on their prey. (Feral Cats TW:A:4)

Rhetorical questions
A rhetorical question implies that the answer is obvious. It is the kind of question that does not need to be answered. Rhetorical questions often disguise imperatives. For example, "Don't you think it's time you settled down?"


A sentence is a group of words that makes sense on its own.

A simple sentence consists of one clause.

My DaD like Fines. [My Dad likes friends.]
(My Dad's Name is Crash PW:C1iii)

A compound sentence has two or more clauses joined by a co-ordinating conjunction. The clauses are of equal weight; that is, they are both main clauses.

Mi Gran has bAn heR and Grancome in The pleoel weTh me. [My Gran has brown hair and Gran comes in the pool with me.]
(Gran Comes in the Pool with Me: PW:C:1ii)

A complex sentence consists of a main clause, joined to one or more subordinate clauses.

However, even if all this is done cats will still kill.
(Feral Cats: TW:A:4)

Minor sentences are also called elliptical sentences. They are sentences in which part of the structure has been omitted. They are more common in conversation than written language.

So no manu no forest.
(Feral Cats TW:A:4)

Stream of consciousness
Stream of consciousness is narrative which records the thoughts going on in a person's mind as they occur.

I'm winning the chase one more kick I say to myself and.... now "Kick" I'm running, running, running and try time.
(My First Try PW:PE:3)

In a simile, the writer creates an image in readers' minds by comparing a subject to something else, using the words "like" or "as".

She's got skin that looks like screwed up celopane and the creases are getting depper with time.
(My Nana Is So Small PW:C:2)

Structure is the sequence and flow of ideas within a piece of text. It allows the reader to understand the connections between different ideas. For example, in Possum Debate (TW:A:3) Elliott states his position, provides evidence to support it, and concludes with an emphatic statement.


Text forms
English in the New Zealand Curriculum (page 142) defines "text" as "a piece of spoken, written, or visual communication that constitutes a coherent, identifiable unit."


"Voice" refers to those aspects of a piece of writing that give it a personal flavour.

When ever I go there, I allways tell myself table manners serviette rings ... Gee what next.
(Table Manners: PW:PE:2)
(See Dancing with the Pen, page 129)


English Online 

Ministry of Education (1992). Dancing with the Pen: The Learner as a Writer. Wellington: Learning Media.

Ministry of Education (1994). English in the New Zealand Curriculum. Wellington: Learning Media.

Ministry of Education (1996). Exploring Language: A Handbook for Teachers. Wellington: Learning Media.

Oral Language Glossary

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See the Written Language glossary for definitions of those language features that students might use when speaking or when incorporating text in their static or moving images.

This glossary is not definitive, but is intended to be helpful to teachers as they work with their students on Oral Language: Speaking and Listening.


With reference to sound, including speech, relates to a speaker's control over his or her volume, pace, and articulation (the elements of the words spoken being clearly distinguishable).


The stress laid on a word or words to indicate special meaning or significance. Emphasis may sometimes be intensified by an immediate repetition of the key word or words.


A modulation of the voice upwards or downwards through modifying intonation and/or pitch. For example, a rising inflection is common when the speaker is asking a question or expressing doubt or incredulity.

By changing the musical pitch of their voice, a speaker can structure their speech and amplify or clarify their meaning. Intonation may distinguish questions from statements (as in "Sure?", "Sure!") or indicate contrastive and emotive stress (as in "I said two, not three" or "I just hate that advertisement!"). Intonation reveals the speaker's attitude or feelings. Each language has its own set of intonation patterns.


Non-verbal features
These may include eye contact (gaze), facial expressions such as smiling or frowning, body position (body language), gesture, and movements such as nodding or shaking the head. As well as discussing the effective use of non-verbal features, students may need to consider the appropriateness of particular non-verbal features when speaking to, or holding discussions with, listeners of different cultures.


The speed or tempo adopted by the speaker, whether naturally or deliberately for effect.

Breaks in speaking or moments of silence that occur naturally as speakers take a breath or think about what to say next. When quoting or reading aloud, the speaker will use pauses to indicate sentence or paragraph transitions. The pause can also be exploited dramatically for effect.

Spoken language has variation in pitch, which we hear as the voice going up and down.


The effect created by the particular pitch, quality, and strength of a sound. Speakers can vary their tone of voice to convey a feeling or mood.

Tone group
In English, the intonation patterns are in tone groups. These are the basic units in spoken language, much like a sentence in written language. Each tone group conveys one idea and is said in a single group. Speakers pause between tone groups in order to breathe and to plan what to say next.


A speaker may deliberately exploit volume (the power of sound or fullness of tone) by speaking more loudly or more softly to capture listeners' attention, emphasise a point, or elicit an emotional response.

Visual Language Glossary

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See the Written Language glossary for definitions of those language features that students might use when speaking or when incorporating text in their static or moving images.

This glossary is not definitive, but is intended to be helpful to teachers as they work with their students on producing static images or making videos.


The angle is the position from which the camera views the subject. For example, to get a high angle, the camera is directed down at the subject, making the subject seem smaller. To get a low angle, the camera looks up at the subject, who then appears to be large. The apparent smallness or largeness of the subject may also be used to cue the viewer's perceptions of the subject's weakness or vulnerability (a high-angle shot) or strength and power (a low-angle shot).


A border or frame can be used to enclose a static image. The border can be inset from the page edge, leaving margins or white space showing, or can be set flush to the page's edges. It directs the viewer's eye in to the static image. A border or frame can be plain or ornamented. The images or pattern on a border can be used to symbolise the important aspects of the dominant image.


Camera movements
Camera movements include:

  • panning (side to side from a stationary position)
  • tilting (up and down from a stationary position)
  • tracking (a moving camera following a moving subject)
  • the zoom (in towards the subject)
  • the reverse zoom (outwards from the subject).

All of these movements may be faster or slower for effect.

Used in relation to both static and moving images. It refers to the way an artist organises visual elements in a design to establish relationships and create particular effects.

In a static image, the designer might consider:

  • balancing the elements in the composition through their relative size and placement
  • centre positioning of the dominant image
  • juxtaposing or placing elements side-by-side to draw attention to their similarities or contrasts.

In moving images, the producer may begin from the "rule of thirds", with the focus of a shot located approximately a third of the distance from the top. If the focus is on a person or group, the producer will have to consider the amount of space to show above them (headroom) or between them when they are talking. The producer may want to suggest space between the "observing" camera and a subject talking to camera. Space for subjects to move in ("walking space") is also another compositional consideration.


Images may appear to be two- or three-dimensional. Two-dimensional images look flat, and three-dimensional images have depth. The artist can achieve the illusion of depth and enable the viewer to understand the relationships between visual elements by the way he or she places subjects in the foreground in relation to the background behind them. "Depth" may also be referred to as "depth of field". In film, depth of field is the area in a moving image that appears to be in focus.

Dominant image
The dominant image is the central focus of a static image. It is often, but not always, at the centre of the static image.


In moving images, a flashback is a scene (or sequence) set earlier in time than the main action (or sequence).

Font (also typeface) is a set of type of one face (look) and size. Font size is expressed in points, for example, 10 point Arial. Any typeface can also be presented in a variety of styles, such as bold, italic, or other ornamental finishes.

In moving images, a frame is a single picture. In videos, there are 30 frames per second. (For static images, see also border.)


In static images, a montage is an assemblage of smaller images and/or text fragments to form a single larger composition. In moving images, a montage is a series of quick cuts between several shots that are related in theme or content but may be from different times or settings.


In moving images, pace is the impression of speed or slowness created for the viewer by the length or shortness of shots and sequences and the frequency and speed of camera movements and transitions.


In moving images, a scene is generally either a group of sequences (longer) or a group of shots (shorter) limited to one setting or place and covering a single event.

In moving images, "script" usually means a written description of the visual and audio elements the producer wants to capture. A video script may be backed up by a shot list and a story board (a series of drawings mapping out the scope of the video).

In moving images, a sequence is a group of shots that flow together. They might focus on an action or character, create a mood, or set a scene. An in-point is an image that starts a sequence, capturing the audience's attention and establishing the situation. An out-point is an image that ends a sequence, either concluding the narrative or leaving it so that it can be returned to. If it concludes the narrative, it may resolve it or leave it open.

In moving images, a shot is a single run of the camera of varying duration. In deciding what kind of shot to employ, the producer will be considering what he or she is trying to convey to the viewers, for example, establishing a setting or showing character action and reaction. See also sequence and transitions.

  • A wide shot (sometimes, long shot) shows a more distant picture of the scene or subject and is often used at the beginning of a video to orient the viewer.
  • A mid or medium shot focuses more closely on the scene or subject by moving the camera position or using a zoom lens. A medium shot may be a useful transition from wide to close-up shots.
  • A close-up focuses on details of the subject or scene.
  • A cutaway shot moves from the subject to an observer or observers, for example, the interviewer listening to the interviewee's response, bystanders to the action, or audience members watching a performance. Such a shot may be literally over the shoulder or taken from behind the subject.

In moving images, sound may encompass:

  • natural sound (the background noises captured by a camera microphone)
  • dialogue
  • voice-over (a recorded track made by an off-camera narrator and added to the video)
  • special sound effects
  • music by itself or as a backing track to dialogue
  • the deliberate use of silence.

In static images, spacing includes:

  • the margins (head, foot, and tail) around a single image or a block of text and image(s) on a page
  • the leading or space between lines of type
  • the kerning or space between characters or words in a line of type
  • the spacing between blocks of text.

These different aspects of spacing affect the amount of white space or visible (unmarked) page that is left showing around a static image or a block of text and image(s). White space can contribute to an open or uncluttered look.


Refers to the resolution of static or moving images. High-resolution images appear sharp, with clearly defined detail and good depth of colour. Low-resolution images look grainy. Detail may be harder to see and colours appear murkier. Both high- and low-resolution images or shots may be very effective in conveying certain moods.

In moving images, this refers to the movement from one shot to another. Transitions include:

  • the cut (a direct transition from one shot to another)
  • the jump cut (a deliberately jerky or not obviously consistent transition)
  • the fade-out (an image darkening to black)
  • the fade-in (a new image brightening into visibility)
  • the dissolve (one image fades out as another fades in, both images appearing briefly to be superimposed on each other)
  • the wipe (one image moving horizontally across the screen to cover another).