The ability to write is an integral part of learning for every student. It is a useful communication tool that allows students to convey their thoughts and opinions and express themselves creatively. Mastering the art of writing is also a crucial skill students will need post-graduation when they begin their careers.
However, many students struggle with writing challenges such as:
- Organizing their thoughts/ideas
- Structuring their essay/paper
- Using proper grammar
- Editing and proofreading
If you’re facing any of these writing challenges as a student, you’re not alone. In this post, we’ll consider seven life-long skills that students will find useful across academic and vocational disciplines.
1. Organizing Thoughts & Ideas
Before you begin writing anything down, you must know what message you want to convey and what points or facts you’ll use to get that message across to the reader.
The best way to do this, is to make an outline that presents your ideas logically and coherently. Let it progress from one point to another, so anyone reading your work can easily follow and understand what you’re trying to say.
With a well-written outline, your writing will be more organized and fluid.
2. Writing Topic Sentences and Transitions
After you have your outline organized, you can start writing your topic sentences and transitions.
Begin with an introduction that clearly explains what you intend to write about. This introduction should conclude with your thesis statement which clearly summarizes what you will be discussing/proving/arguing in the proceeding body paragraphs.
When you’re ready to move on to the bulk of the work (developing the paper’s body paragraphs) use one to two paragraphs for each main point set-up in your thesis. This ensures that each point in your outline is contained in at least one section in your essay.
Every sentence in your body paragraphs needs to progress seamlessly from the previous sentence. Using transitional words and phrases is a great way to give your writing a natural flow.
3. Eliminating Unnecessary Words
Most students believe that complex sentences come across as more authoritative. The reverse is often the case. Shorter, simpler sentences often have a more significant impact.
Start by doing away with wordy phrases and nonessential prepositional phrases. You should avoid filler words like: very, that, just, really, etc. Also, try to use the active voice.
Another tip that helps is to keep your sentences to an average of 20–25 words. This will help you convey your ideas in a balanced way and avoid lengthy and monotonous sentences.
Note that the words per sentence vary by subject, audience, and writing style. For example, when writing an abstract on natural sciences, the average sentence length is shorter than when writing in the social sciences and humanities.
4. Writing the Conclusion
When writing a conclusion for an essay, it should sum up your main ideas. Besides bringing your main point of view to focus, it should also push for a call to action or a presentation of new ideas.
The reader should be motivated to do or act on something specific, or to think about something in different light. Beyond summarizing the main topics covered in the paper, your conclusion should also help the reader connect with you and the topic you’re writing on.
5. Checking for Errors and Typos
No one writes a first draft that’s perfect and error-free. However, as a student, error-free writing is a skill that you can develop with practice.
Pay attention to details; thoroughly go through your work before turning it in. Although spell check and grammar software can help, read your essay over again at least three times. Developing good self-editing skills can help you spot mistakes missed by the software.
Two other great tips for error-free writing include reading your paper out loud (you’d be surprised how often your eye will auto-correct errors) and asking someone else to read it.
It’s important to ensure that your work is polished with proper punctuation and without mistakes and typos. No matter how original or compelling your idea is, it can be marred by grammar and spelling errors.
It can be easy for a student to get frustrated and want to give up on writing. However, by mastering the art of self-discipline, you can train yourself to stay focused on the task at hand and avoid procrastinating.
A great way to practice self-discipline in writing, is to set goals for yourself throughout the day (or week) when you plan on writing your paper. These goals could be as simple as “complete the introduction and first body paragraph.” Reward yourself each time you complete a goal by watching an episode of a 30 minute show you enjoy or taking a snack break.
Self-discipline can be a hard skill to develop, but finding a means to motivate yourself is a great step towards mastering this skill.
7. Keep Writing
Writing practice is essential in brushing up your writing skills. Don’t confine your writing practice to the classroom. Practice writing on your own time as well.
This can include writing emails to friends and family back home, writing creative short stories for your own amusement, or entering essay writing competitions on topics that interest you.
Just as reading more books build your vocabulary and comprehension skills, consistent writing improves your writing skills.
Remember, the more writing, editing, and proofreading you do, the better you’ll get at it.
Not everyone is born a gifted writer. In fact, most of us need to develop these skills overtime.
Learn to avoid long sentences that do not convey any meaning. Keep sentences simple, short, and concise. Follow a structure that introduces the topic, provides detailed body paragraphs, and concludes with a summary of your ideas and a call to action.
The best way to build these skills is to practice — and then practice some more! It will help you express your ideas better and point out areas of weakness that undermine your written work.
Lastly, find what motivates you to keep writing. And keep at it till the process of writing becomes more fluid and less painful.
About Lucy Hatcher:
Lucy Hatcher is a prospective young writer for Online Writers Rating and Best Writers Online. She has an analytical mindset which helps her to be competitive in this business. Lucy is an experienced writer who highly prices professional ethics and takes her job seriously.