Improving your writing skills

writing-image

I Am a Writer. Digital image. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Jan. 2017.

As a graduate student, I have spent MANY hours at my laptop writing papers, discussion posts, and creating power point presentations. I can spend tons of time on these assignments and edit, edit, EDIT, but my professors always seem to find some careless mistake that I overlooked which takes a huge bite out of my grade. It’s the worst. Literally. So, after hours of searching for sites to help improve my writing, I found a site that will not only provide edits and feedback, but they will also work with you to write a completely  custom-written piece that will fit your specific needs. I also found many other sites that only offered advice on how to improve. However, they were all very helpful to me.

First, and foremost, be honest with yourself about your writing ability. If you aren’t being honest with yourself, you’ll continuously find yourself in over your head or overwhelmed with the task at hand.  I’ll label the ability levels as below average, average, and above average. I know that’s vague and you may find yourself between two levels. If you are between two levels, err on the side of caution and go with the lower level. In doing this, it’s super easy to feel very insecure. However, there is NOTHING wrong with admitting that you aren’t perfect at something and want to learn more. Besides, even if you do feel a little down about not being above average, just know that you aren’t alone. I’m right there with ya.

The next thing you need to do is ask your instructor for help. Most of the time, instructors are happy to meet with you about these things, but if for some reason they can’t, ask if there is some sort of writing center or workshop provided at your school. IF there is, show up, put your phone away, and focus on honing your skill.

I have compiled a short list of things I have done to improve my own skills and seen progress. Before I give you the list, let me just say that you will get out of it what you put into it. If you try these things whole-heartedly, you are likely to see a lot of growth. However, if you just skim the top of some of these methods, you might see some growth, but not near as much as you could if you fully commit.

Here’s the list:

  • Brush up on the basics. Before you try anything else, take a look at things you have already learned. There are tons of books on this at your local library and a quick google search while also provide you with more than enough information to refresh those writing fundamentals.
  • Read. The most successful people are readers, so pick up a good book, magazine, scholarly article, or a funny blog and make a point to read a little bit every day. If you start with a blog, make sure you switch it up and diversify what you read. Pay attention to certain elements of the writing like syntax, style, and word choice.
  • Write. This should not come as a complete shock, but in order to get better at something, you need to practice. So, in order to get better at writing, practice writing. The more you write while paying attention to things you’ve learned from brushing up on the basics and what other people have written, the more you will begin to see those creative choices in your own writing.
  • Get a writing buddy. This one was hard for me. I don’t have a ton of writer friends, but I was able to find sites from a google search that brought me to several different online communities. This allowed me to make friends and share my work, as well as review the work of others. You’d be surprised how much your writing improves when you realize what you look for in other peoples’ writing.
  • Edit. Edit. Edit. I was the student who would write a paper for a class and never look back at it to find mistakes. I thought spellcheck would make any necessary corrections and that’s all I needed. I WAS WRONG! Spellcheck does suggest corrections for misspelled words but if you write “My shit is blue”, spellcheck will look at that and go “okay. It’s fine” and leave it there for everyone to read. At least that’s what happened to me. My professor got a good laugh out of it, but it was super embarrassing having to go back and change that to “shirt”. This is why editing is so important. Also, don’t try editing immediately after you finish the first draft. Allow yourself plenty of time to take 24 hours away from it and then go back and reread it in the most boring voice you can muster up. Doing this allows you to find grammatical errors, misspelled words, and places within your writing that don’t flow or feel awkward. Then, you can make the necessary changes to your piece. (Don’t be discouraged if there is a lot to correct. Almost ALL first drafts are crap).

perservere

Perservere. Digital image. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Oct. 2016

These are steps that I have taken to improve my skills and I have seen tons of improvement. Also, my grades have improved as a result.

I wish you all the best of luck in your writing endeavors and I hope that you will share some of your work with me. Send me links, messages, comments, or emails with any stories you’d like to share, questions you’d like to ask, or even to give advice. Thanks!

K. Watkins

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