A reformulation exercise for English retourists

The purpose of this exercise is to help you work on the versatility of your English B and on deducing meaning from context and applying background knowledge.

I have chosen a short excerpt from a Guardian article, and blanked out some of the words.

Your task is to read each paragraph carefully, and come up with possible solutions to fill in the gaps. See how many options you can find.

If you like, you can be more radical, and change the whole phrase around that word.

Think about the solutions you’ve come up with. Are some of them lower register, or more formal?

Spoiler alert: I’ve given you the solutions under the text of the article, so avert your eyes if you want to make this a real exercise.

Text of the article

“MPs have criticised a project by academics that involved sending emails from fictitious constituents claiming they were concerned about financial support during the coronavirus lockdown.

Researchers at King’s College London (KCL) and the London School of Economics (LSE) sent emails to every MP’s inbox from characters including a cleaner and lawyer.

Copies of messages seen by the Guardian showed the senders – who with names including Paul, Thomas and Maryam – wrote that they worked for large companies but were “ about the long term” and saw “people all around me who are jobs or pay cuts”.

All emails ended with the request: “I’d like to know what you and the Conservative party are going to do to this crisis in the best possible way.” Some added they were a “Conservative supporter”.

in different MPs’ offices discovered the connection only when they replied with a standard question, asking for the sender’s address so they could confirm they were the right person to help, and received no response.”

Solutions – don’t read until you’ve done the exercise!

Para 2: the missing word is invented. You could have used fictitious or even fake. If you found made-up, be aware that this is more informal.

Para 3: the missing words are purported, signed themselves off, worried, losing, experiencing. You could use supposed instead of purported. You have several options for worried, including concerned – you just need to watch out for the preposition, which limits you. For experiencing pay cuts, you could try being hit by, being affected by, suffering because of…

Para 4: the missing phrase is get us through. You could have used overcome, tackle, address, get us out of (which is more informal), etc.

Para 5: the missing word is staffers, and you could simply have used staff.

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Sophie Llewellyn Smith, writing as The Interpreting Coach, is a coach, interpreter trainer, conference interpreter, designer of online teaching materials, and creator of Speechpool. Follow the blog to pick up tips on how to improve your interpreting skills.

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