Easy ways to improve your college writing skills

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Writing is unique to everyone. The more you write, the more you’ll discover a process of your own.

If you’ve yet to develop your own process and are struggling to get assignments completed in an organized fashion, it’s time to get organized. If you make an effort to get organized, any piece you write can feel ten times easier than it would otherwise.

Here are some writing tips to help you tackle any writing project.

Define your topic or understand your assignment

Before you get started, it’s important to have a solid idea of what you’re writing about. Whether you need to come up with the topic yourself or it’s been assigned to you, start the research process before you even put a word on the page.

Why does this help? When you go through the research process, the general shape of your outline will start to fall into place. It will help you define the main topics you need to address and how to organize them logically.

Which brings us to the next helpful hint…

Write an outline

Outlines are a HUGE help when it comes to organizing your thoughts. It’s easy to use your research time as an opportunity to create your outline. Jot down notes as you research and use those notes to define key points you need for your piece.

An outline is easy, and chances are you’ve already done one at this point, but if you haven’t, there are a ton of resources online that help you structure an outline that suits your style.

Here’s an example of an outline I’ve used in the past:

Outline Template

With the outline completed, you can get started on the hard part. 

Let the word vomit commence

Once I’ve done my research and have an outline, my first draft is a hot mess of all those ideas with little attention to flow, grammar, or readability.

I use my research notes and my outline to write my first draft. This first draft is something that will never see the light of day. I’m throwing all my ideas for each section onto the page, just to get them all out.

With that messy first draft done, I can begin the harder process of cleaning it up and building in some flow. 

Edit, Edit, Edit

Now that you have a super rough version, it’s time to clean that up. Go through it and start to create some flow. 

Each section should easily flow into the other. You should never be hopping from one idea to the next without any explanation. That way, the reader can easily follow the flow of your ideas to their ultimate conclusion. 

This is also the time to fix sentence structure, grammar, and get rid of anything that isn’t adding value to the piece. 

It can be really hard, especially as a new writer, to edit your piece down. Here are some glaring issues new writers usually experience that you should keep your eyes out for:

  • Do you repeat yourself? Even if you rephase a thought, but it essentially means the same thing as something you said earlier, you can get rid of it.
  • Are you using a lot of the same words? Repetitive words can cause readers to lose interest and make your writing sound monotonous. 
  • Are you over-complicating your thoughts? If you find a thought hard to follow, that means your readers definitely won’t understand it. Try to simplify both language and ideas where you can. 
  • Can you simplify your words? Phrases like “a number of reasons” can be simplified to “several reasons.” Try to pick out phrases you can shorten to make them easier to read.

I’ve yet to meet a fellow writer that actually likes the editing process. However, taking the time to move through your writing with a fine-toothed comb will help you create your best piece.

Read it out loud

That’s right. Now that you’ve edited it and feel like it’s almost complete read it out loud. 

Typically, you’ll catch confusing phrases and major issues better this way. Something about saying the words to the room, even an empty one, points out the flaws in the flow and context. 

Read it several times. I read mine from the beginning every single time I make a change. When I get through it without having to edit something, I consider it ready to go. 

Pass it through your tools

Even the most seasoned writers use tools to help them catch something they might have overlooked. I always run spell-check and also use Grammarly to help me keep an eye out for issues I didn’t see. 

These tools are great as a final resource, but keep in mind that they’re not always accurate. Before you allow a tool to change anything, ensure that it understands the context and use of the word. You should have the final say in what you change. 

Turn that piece in! 

Congrats! You finished your assignment and are ready to turn it in. Hopefully, these writing tips were able to help you get there in a more organized and cohesive way.