All it takes is a few helpful pointers to set you on your way to writing a strong essay, short story, or research paper.
It’s common for people to experience frustration when writing. If this describes you when faced with an essay assignment or an unfinished report, the following techniques can help you strengthen your writing skills this semester.
- Revise and Revise Again
- Seek Outside Advice
- Practice Writing Daily
Let's dive into each in a little more detail.
Revise Your Writing, and Then Revise It Again
When writing any document, it’s important to recognize that your first draft won’t be your final draft. Revising your work is one of the best ways to improve your writing and to identify problem areas.
Try aiming for three drafts—ideally, you’ll first write an outline. Use that to guide your rough first draft. Once you have an initial draft, set it aside for a day or two before revisiting it to make edits. Go back through the piece to look for major issues, such as the order of your main points or whether you are forgetting to answer any key questions. Also smooth out the overall flow and any transitions. Once you’ve made your changes, read it thoroughly one more time, looking for areas where you can cut out unnecessary words and fix any grammar or style problems.
Seek Outside Advice on Your Writing
Find a classmate or friend who’s interested in exchanging essays with you in order to peer edit. Reading each other’s work will help you both, and you don’t have to be an expert in writing or in the subject matter to be a great peer editor.
Once you have a partner, try a few challenges to sharpen your skills. For example, create a goal that each of you will suggest edits that will cut the overall word count by 10 percent. This doesn’t mean eliminating important points. Tightening your work can often happen just by streamlining your language.
Another helpful challenge is to look for words that you tend to use too frequently, and to then come up with more specific or creative alternatives. Expanding your vocabulary will improve your writing by making it more lively and allowing you to express yourself in a more exact way.
Practice Writing Daily
Many of us write only when we are required to do so. However, writing is just like any other skill—you can only improve with frequent practice. To begin, choose a subject that you genuinely want to write about. For instance, try starting a food blog or writing movie reviews. It’s important to get yourself into the habit of leisure writing and to flex your writing muscles in different ways. Make a schedule for when you will work on personal writing. If you schedule the time into your day, it will be harder to forget.
Another creative way to strengthen your writing skills is to read more. Can you imagine being a musician who doesn’t listen to music? It’s the same with writing. It’s hard to become a better writer if you’re not frequently reading. The more you read, the more vocabulary you will learn; you will also be exposed to new and creative styles of writing that may differ from and ultimately influence your own.
Lora Wegman is a contributing writer for Varsity Tutors, a live learning platform that connects students with personalized instruction to accelerate academic achievement.