If you are an avid Torch reader, you may remember back in February when I wrote a column called, “Tips from the copy editor’s corner,” in which I covered a few basics such as how to properly use “it’s” vs. “its” and some other key components of English grammar.
This column is another (hopefully) humorous guide designed to help you take your writing to the next level. While there are many styles of, and purposes for, writing, this column focuses primarily on academic writing the stuff we do here at the college level.
The first suggestion I would offer is to create an outline. Hear me out — I know they tried to tell us this back in high school writing classes and we scoffed, but it’s actually a really helpful process.
Instructors will sometimes provide an outline of what they expect you to do, and how to cover it, with varying degrees of specificity. The key for making your own outline is knowing exactly what you plan to write, within your instructor’s parameters.
Organizing your thoughts is invaluable; it gives you a chance to look for holes in whatever kind of paper you’re writing. Also, it makes it surprisingly simple to fill in the blanks, almost like a template, as you research and gather information.
Start early, edit often
Another thing I would recommend is to write multiple drafts. I know, I know, they also talked about this back in high school, and while we simply don’t always have time to do this in college, it can play a significant role in writing a high quality paper.
Sometimes when we step away for fresh air, an afternoon snack, a good night’s rest, etc., it gives us a chance to process the work we’ve already done, and make space for a new perspective.
So, as soon as you get an assignment, write an outline of what you will need to cover. Then, write a really rough draft. Take a break! Come back within a day or two and start plugging in the research you’ve been doing. Check your latest draft against your original outline to see how things are panning out, and make adjustments as needed. Take a break, make some edits. Repeat. Do this at least two to three times if you can before turning in your final draft.
Be careful not to start sentences in a similar fashion. For example, three sentences in a row that open with, “According to harvardmedical.edu, unicorn tears are beneficial because…” would be a bit boring. Variety keeps the reader engaged!
Keep it balanced
Do you need to add a paragraph or two to support your arguments for why medicinal marijuana should be legal in all 50 states? Or maybe you realize now while looking at your second draft and scanning your outline you’ve already talked a lot about medical marijuana, but need to talk about the benefits of unicorn tears as a sleep aid a bit more. Whatever the case may be, check for a balanced paper that supports all of the arguments you need to make without relying too heavily on one concept over another.
There are many ways to improve your writing, and these are just a couple of quick tips. Hopefully they will help you with your next paper.