4 Ways to Improve Your Writing

Writing is a necessary and important skill, regardless of what your major is, or what your career is likely to be. Here are 4 simple ways to improve your writing before turning in your next assignment.

1. Know Your Audience

Who is the intended audience for your writing? The answer is not simply–Duh, Dr. B. it’s the professor! Rather, think about the kind of writing assignment you are being asked to complete? Is it a research paper? A business proposal? Maybe it’s a blog post/op-ed or a report. Each of these kinds of assignments have a different intended audience. A research paper is going to be aimed at other people studying that same topic. A business proposal is intended to be read by potential investors. A blog post or op-ed is intended to be read by the general public. A report should be written with a specific person or group of people in mind.

Knowing your audience allows you to consider how to pitch your topic. If you are describing a concept or issue for the general public, you will want to avoid discipline or industry specific jargon. If you are writing for a specific group, you can think about what background information they already know versus what you need to explain to them. Keeping your audience in mind allows your writing to be more focused and more accessible.

2. Keep It Simple!

When writing, particularly about complex ideas, it is easy to get wrapped up in the details and dive into the really meaty sections right away. But that’s a big mistake. When you are describing a complex topic, you want to start by explaining it in the simplest way possible. By attempting to explain a concept/issue in the simplest way possible, you ensure that you get the full picture into the writing piece without missing anything important. Then, add details and more minutia as space (and the audience!) allow.

3. Start with an outline

As anyone who has ever had me in class will tell you, I LOVE outlines. That’s because an outline will help you capture all the main ideas you need to include in your writing and help you figure out in what order they are best presented.

When students attempt to write without an outline, they often end up meandering all over and never really get to the point. The argument can be hard to follow–if you can even find it, and it reads more like a stream of consciousness novel than an accessible piece of writing. The issue with diving right in sans outline is that it is going to make the writing hard to grade, and that’s likely going to cause you to end up with a lower grade!

4. Find a Proof Reader

One of the biggest mistakes students make when it comes to writing assignments is not rereading the paper before turning it in. At minimum, you need to reread your paper yourself. But a better solution is to find someone to read your paper over for you. The reason? When you write a paper, you can accidently miss typos, grammatical errors, or other pesky mistakes because you wrote it. The paper is in your “voice” and your brain inherently knows what you meant to say, even if that’s not what made it onto the page. Getting a second set of eyes to read over your work means you’re less likely to turn in a mistake filled paper. BONUS: proof readers do not have to have any truly special qualities beyond being able to read at a college level and not being you–so go ahead, ask your mom!


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