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writing for godot

Advice for Students: 4 Steps Toward Better Writing

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Written by Janet91   
Friday, 06 January 2017 00:42

When you’re a student a great deal about your effectiveness as a student is decided by how well you write. Poorly written texts are like cages that keep your ideas captive. They force your professors and your fellow students to struggle to understand what you said. And they won’t like doing it.

Well-written texts, on the other hand, give your ideas wings. They lucidly present what you want to talk about and even make it engaging to read, thereby earning you extra points simply through the enjoyment fact. The question, of course, is how to actually become a better writer. What is it about one essay that makes it a joy to read, while another very similar one has you wanting to run head first into the nearest wall?

That’s what we’re going to explore today.

Short sentences

There are a lot of tricks that you can use to make your text more accessible. One of the easiest, however, has to be to simply shorten your sentences. It immediately serves to make your text easier to read.

Why? Because we have very poor short-term memories. In fact, there is research that shows our attention span is shorter than that of a goldfish. That means that if your sentences are overly long, your audience will have forgotten how it started by the time you finish it!

That doesn’t happen when your sentences are short. In that case, the period closes off the thought and your reader can engage in what is known as ‘chunking’ which is where they remember the gist of what your sentence means and discard everything else.

And so, your texts become far easier to read.

Finding it difficult to figure out what sentences you should shorten? Then try something like the Hemingway App. It’s free and will point out problem sentences to you.

Long words don’t make you look smart

In fact, studies have found quite the opposite. When somebody uses a lot of long words people are likely to think they’re actually stupid. One of the reasons for this is that they think that you’re trying to hide what you’re saying behind the words that you’re using. Another one might be that your audience doesn’t understand you and therefore start focusing on peripheral cues – and those are rarely flattering.

So don’t use long words when short ones will do.

In fact, take people saying ‘use a thesaurus’ with a pinch of salt. Sure, you should definitely look at a thesaurus if you find yourself using the same words repeatedly. That isn’t something that people generally appreciate. When you do use it, however, make sure you don’t choose words that almost nobody will know. Instead, opt for simpler more common options. Your audience will thank you for it.

Edit your work

It seems so straightforward and yet so few people do it. It really is a shame, because in truth that’s where the writing actually takes place. That’s where you clear the muddled water and make sure that your ideas are as accessible as they can be.

In fact, you could almost say that the editing is the writing. Your initial text is the clay, while your editing is where you form it into the shape that you desire.

So edit. I normally prefer to leave at least a day between when I finish a text and when I edit it. This will give my mind the space to read what I actually wrote instead of what I think I wrote. That is important if you want to make sure you actually edit your work.

And sure, you can use writing services. The thing is, that unless you make sure that you actually read what they did with your text and how they edited it, you’re not going to learn anything. And the whole point of university is to get the skills to get better at life.

Write regularly

Whatever people might have told you, writing is not an inborn talent. It is something that you’ve got to work at in order to get better. For that reason, if you’re really hoping to become a better writer, then make sure you write!

Now, it doesn’t all have to be academic writing. Sure, that will help you the most if that’s what you’re trying to get better at, but at the same time, rare are the people who actually want to sit down and write academic texts for fun.

So don’t let yourself be restricted in that way. Instead, write about everything, just make sure that you do so regularly. If you find you’re struggling to find things to write about, then there are now plenty of tools online to help you in that regard. For example, writepls will give you daily writing prompts to help you write about a huge variety of different topics.

Last words

If you’re not yet an excellent writer, don’t despair. None of us started off being great writers. It is a matter of putting in the effort and – most importantly – making sure that you get the feedback, as that will let you know where you’re falling short and where you’re rocking the boat.

The thing is when you’re a student you’re going to get more feedback about your writing than at any time of your life. Later on, in fact, you’ll have to twist yourself into knots to get people to give you their honest opinion.

So use this time. Pay attention to what people are saying. That doesn’t mean they’re always right. Teachers and professors aren’t necessarily the best writers either. But it does mean you can learn something from them.

My trick is to pay attention to how often people say something about my writing. If they say it only once, then it’s interesting but not necessarily something I need to act on. If different people keep saying the same thing, however, then I know it’s time to take action.

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