Whether you’re a journalism student or a nursing student, having the skill to write proficiently and clearly is something you will need in any career you choose.
If you want to get a good grade on your next essay, here are some tips to make your writing even better:
1. Get To Your Point
It’s very easy to tell when someone is trying to BS their way through an essay and just fill up space. If you can’t sum up the point of your paper in a sentence, it’s time to take a break and figure out exactly what you’re trying to say. Your thesis should be one of the first things you get pinned down, as everything you write in the rest of the essay will need to either relate to or defend what you’re trying to say in your thesis. You should be able to defend the importance of each sentence in your essay. If it’s not saying a lot, delete it. If you can say it in a more concise way, do it.
2. Know What You’re Talking About
If you haven’t done your research, it shows. Read the book, find the sources, watch the movie — do whatever you’re required to make your essay well-rounded and factually accurate. If you aren’t sure about something, ask a friend or professor or even Google more information on the topic. While you can’t take everything on the Internet as fact, there are many great resources out there to help you understand tough topics.
3. Refer to the Writing Prompt
It’s extremely easy to get off track when you’re writing a long essay. Something I do is keep the prompt right in front of me the entire time I write so I make sure I’m addressing all parts of the question in my writing. Print it out, keep it in a different window or even paste it in the top of your Word document. Do whatever works best for you but make sure you’re addressing everything you need to.
4. Know Its vs. It’s
This is one of the most basic rules of grammar, but I still see people getting this wrong on a daily basis. If you are trying to say something belongs to an object or non-gender subject, you will want to use its. Example: The store closed its doors. If you are trying to use the conjunction for “it is,” use it’s. Example: It’s time to go to class. Keeping these two straight is important for good writing.
5. Know Your vs. You’re
This is another common mistake in writing. This rule is very similar to the “its vs. it’s” debacle. Your is used to express a possessive word, like you are saying it belongs to someone. Example: Your dog is inside. You’re is a conjunction and means you are trying to say “you are.” Example: You’re losing the game.
6. When and When Not to Capitalize
Some writers like to go crazy and capitalize everything. Most likely, you’re only going to need to capitalize half of what you think you should. Any proper noun (ex: the University of South Carolina, Apple, etc.) needs to be capitalized. Another hint: Unless it’s a foreign language, a class subject doesn’t need to be capitalized (ex: French, English, Spanish — but biology, chemistry). The names of offices, unless you’re using their full names, also do not need to be capitalized. Here’s a great website that goes into even more detail.
7. Avoid Using “I”
If your essay calls for you to take a stand and form an opinion on something, it’s not necessary for you to begin your sentences with “I think” or “I believe.” If you’re writing it, we know you believe it or think this! You don’t need to keep reminding us. If you look at some of the best opinion writers, they rarely use “I.” The excessive use of this is a red flag for poor writing and is redundant.
8. Use Active Voice
Active sentences engage your reader and makes your writing flow more easily. An active sentence is one that uses the subject-verb-object structure. Example: The dog chased the ball. Passive voice slows your reader down and in some cases, can make your writing more confusing. Example: The ball was chased by the dog. Sometimes passive voice is more appropriate for certain situations, but for the most part, you’ll want to write in the active voice.
9. Read it Again. And Again. And Again.
It becomes blatantly obvious when someone has not read over their own work. Sometimes whole paragraphs don’t make sense, the organization is off and words are spelled wrong. It’s important to read over your work — read it aloud if you have to — to make sure what you’re writing is correct and flows nicely.
10. Everyone Needs An Editor
No matter how great of a writer you are, it’s important to have someone else look over your writing. Nobody is perfect and everyone is capable of making writing mistakes. Often times, your reader will be able to find glaring mistakes that you’ve missed just because you’re so involved with your writing. Many campuses have writing centers available for students where you can go to get help writing and editing your papers. Your <a href=”http://anthem.edu/management-school” target=”_blank”>management program</a> will thank you. Take advantage of this if you need it!
Read all of this and realize you need a refresher? There are many great online resources out there to help. Grammar Girl offers great, short explanations for many topics.