C1 – Writing: A contribution to a guidebook (1)

The writing task in September was to produce a contribution to a guidebook for a section called Off the beaten track.  Many of you chose destinations in and around Coimbra that have given me a great list of things to do during my first months here.

For the first in a series of follow-up posts, this one will focus attention on a similar text in order to analyse some language features it contains.

Text reconstruction – Lagos

The following sentence beginnings and endings come from a text I found on the Internet (from a google search:  “off the beaten track” “Portugal”).  Match the beginnings 1-9  with the endings a-i.  The beginnings 1-9 are in their original order.

1 Lagos is a small city in a where you can make boat tours to the natural caves.
2 You can pretty b (the) Algarve, (in the) south of Portugal.
3 There is a great variety c of things to see;
4 The city centre is sculpted with traditional d activity, if you like to wake up early don’t miss it.
5 Beaches vary in shape and style from long sandy beaches e much walk everywhere.
6 Ponta da Piedade is a beautiful spot with a nice lighthouse from f about anyone, from the relaxing beaches to the exciting dolphin tours.
7 The harbor in the morning is full of g to almost private ones hidden by cliffs.
8 Also the fish market is an interesting h spot.
9 Lagos has things to do for just i architecture and colours from the region.

You can check your answers by following this link.

(Text source:  http://www.gotsaga.com/detailsaga/off-the-beaten-path-in-portugal-5-places-that-will-leave-you-dreamin/3574 Copyright 2011 GotSaga LLC)

A useful pattern to notice:

Find examples of the word from in the text (there are 4 of them).  How does from work with the other words around it to communicate the following ideas:
(a)  to show the origin of something (e.g. I’m from…)
(b)  to illustrate a range of possibilities that might be very different
(c)  to show that it is possible to make a journey that originates in a particular place
I am interested in highlighting the pattern in (b).  This is an extremely useful pattern/structure that can help give added cohesion to texts.  It can also be used in speech.  The form is simply:  from (example one) to (example two).  It is often used to show that someone/something is very varied.  So varied in fact that it includes things at different ends of a scale.  Take an example from the text:
“Beaches vary in shape and style from long sandy beaches to almost private ones hidden by cliffs.”  At one end of the scale we find the bigger, “long sandy beaches,” while at the opposite end, we find smaller, private ones “hidden by cliffs.”
Here are some more examples:
  • My music tastes are really varied, I like anything from Jazz and Classical music to Rock and Pop.
  • At XYZ language school we provide classes for everyone, from pre-school infants to retired people.
  • Coimbra is a great shopping city.  From dusty antique shops to state-of-the-art shopping centres, there’s something to fit everyone’s tastes.
  • He’s spent time living in many interesting places, from remote villages in The Andes to more than 5 European capital cities.
Generally speaking, we value variety in society so I suspect that this structure is often used to make people, places and things sound interesting, positive, professional etc.
We can use it to express negative ideas…
“I hate all forms of contemporary music from Hip-Hop and Techno to RnB and House.”
…but I doubt it is as frequently used in negative contexts as it is in positive ones.
This pattern is probably not new to you.  It’s frequent because of examples like…
The shop is open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
I lived in London from 1999 to 2004.
I work from Monday to Friday.
What I wanted to highlight was how it can be adapted to add cohesion to texts like guidebook entries or even other CAE writing texts.
Here are some example sentences.  What type of CAE writing text type could these come from?
0)  Coimbra has something for everyone, from energetic water sports to quiet places to sit and read, there’s enough to appeal to everyone’s tastes.  A contribution to a guidebook
1)  As many students as possible were interviewed from those studying the arts to those focusing on the sciences, but the overwhelming majority of people expressed similar views:  It would be regrettable if the budget for the University theatre company were cut.
2)  I guess that if I was in your position I’d be doing everything I could to get them to take me on permanently from asking for extra work to show I was keen to telling the boss how great he was!
3)  She speaks German, French and Italian fluently, capable of doing anything in these languages from negotiating a key deal to socialising with clients and putting them at ease.
4)  We need to do all we can to act responsibly and protect the environment.  That could mean anything from using more public transport to recycling more of our waste to buying energy saving lightbulbs.
1)  Report  2)  Informal letter  3)  Character reference  4)  Article
The from ___ to ___ pattern causes some people to get a bit worked up about incorrect use of it.  If you are interested, read the short text on this link and decide if the writer would complain about the use of from…to in examples 1-4, above.  Why?
This warning apart, it seems that the pattern from…to is a much used technique for showing range of variety.  For texts such as guidebooks they can be really useful for showing why a region or city is worth visiting.
I’ll leave you with some further examples:
The perfect trip: California  Take a classic road trip through the best of the west coast, from Yosemite’s granite domes to the giant redwood trees, and acres of vineyards and dramatic landscapes in betweenwww.bbc.co.uk (travel)

Take a couple of weeks, hit the road and explore the best of America’s west, from nature’s biggest, tallest and most powerful features to beautiful wineries, before finishing by heading back to San Francisco or north to Seattle.  http://www.bbc.com/travel/feature/20111017-the-perfect-trip-california

With 62 restaurants included in the programme, there will definitely be something for everyone, as it caters to all tastes: from the more conservative and classic environments to the more modern and trendier placeshttp://www.portugaldailyview.com/01-whats-new/lisboa-restaurant-week-taste-the-best

Holiday accommodation in Penela comes in many shapes and forms, providing the kind of variety and versatility that caters for anything from a quietly relaxing break for two to a vacation for all your family and friends… http://www.ownersdirect.co.uk/penela.htm

 The final two examples really show how this aspect of pushing a message of variety is common in travel texts (“comes in all shapes and forms” / “providing the kind of variety and versatility”/”caters for anything”/”offers something for everyone”) because they add an element of persuasion.   Commercial travel texts and guidebooks try to sell a destination, make it seem appealing.  The more people they can attract, the better.  The more varied the experience the destination is seen to offer and the more they can make the destination sound like it will appeal to as many people as possible, the better.  For this reason I suspect that the frequency of using the pattern from…to with phrases like ‘there’s something for everyone‘ and ‘caters to all/many tastes‘ is quite high.


  • “caters to anything” – 20,400 google results, “caters to anything from” – 3,730 google results
  • “cater to anything” – 48,700 google results, “cater to anything from” – 22,700 google results
  • “cater to all tastes” – 1,700,000 google results, “cater to all tastes from” – 49,200 google results
  • “cater to any taste” – 40,800 google results, “cater to any taste from” – 1,340 google results
  • “something for everyone” – 37,100,000 results, “something for everyone from” – 5,500,000 google results



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Filed under C1 / CAE Writing, C1+ Vocabulary, Topic - Travel

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