Writing an essay can be a daunting task, but no matter what you’re studying, it’s highly likely that you’ll have to write an essay at some point. Personally, I enjoy writing and I was lucky to have teachers that taught me quite well. For that reason, I would love to share some methods on how to become a better writer.
1. Be accurate.
Conveying a wide vocabulary is great, as long as the words you use accurately convey what you are trying to say. The problem with using thesauruses to find alternative words is that they don’t always mean exactly the same thing, and then you sound like you’re trying too hard, and a professor or TA can always distinguish between a writer that understands their word choice and a writer that uses a thesaurus.
2. Cut to the chase.
Don’t start an essay with a general statement – cut to the chase. Starting an essay with a broad, general statement on humanity, or time, or any other big notion that has little to no relevance to the bulk of your essay takes away from the quality of your writing.
3. Ditch the cliché statements and metaphors.
If it’s something along the lines of “everything happens for a reason” or “that’s life,” don’t include it in your writing. Metaphors or analogies with little or no relevance to what you’re actually writing about generally take away from your writing, too.
4. Proofread and edit, edit, edit.
Ruthless editing is one of the key methods to improve writing, in my opinion. Too often, we are too lenient with ourselves. Reading out loud is a great way to catch any grammatical errors, awkward-sounding sentences or phrases.
5. Ditch the 5-paragraph essay.
For simplicity’s sake, most middle and high schools teach students to write 5-paragraph essays, but there is no actual reason for providing such an arbitrary method of organization. Depending on what you’re writing, your writing style, and your word limit, the number of paragraphs you write can and should vary. Of course, this differs from topic to topic, but the general consensus is to keep it limited to one main idea (with sub-ideas) for each paragraph.
6. Stay organized.
Organization is key when it comes to becoming a better writer. In fact, I believe it is the difference between a mediocre essay and a brilliant one. Don’t forget the basics – introductions, thesis statements, topic sentences, transition phrases, conclusions, and so on.
7. Be concise.
There is no need to be flowery or superfluous if that’s not your style of writing. If something can be said in one sentence, say it one sentence. Remember that the quality of your writing matters more than how much you’re writing.
8. Develop your voice.
One of the most difficult things to develop as a writer is voice. In terms of that, all you can really do is just allow it to develop. Keep writing until it feels right and sounds like you. That’s not to say you should write the way you speak, because that would be disastrous for most of us, but at some point, your own voice and style will come.
9. Don’t forget the basics.
Don’t forget to use correct grammar and spelling. Very often we focus so much on the word choice, organization, and so on, but fail to pay the necessary attention to writing using correct grammar and spelling.
10. Mirror other writers.
If you’re a reader, try to understand why you like the authors that you like. Dissect their writing, find out what is likable about their writing, and look for ways you can improve your own writing as a result of your examination of theirs.