If you've been told time and time again that you express great ideas in your essay writing but your writing needs polishing, you aren't alone. The following tips will help improve your writing skills and turn you into a great writer.
Avoid repetition: It's an essay killer
Though it may seem difficult when writing a five-page term paper on a single idea or character, avoiding repetition is essential to improving your writing skills. When you use the same words ad nauseam, your reader views it as a sign of laziness. Here are three tactics that will help eliminate wordiness and eradicate repetitive words and phrases:
- The simplest approach to improving your writing skills is to eliminate the repetitive word or phrase from your essay.
- If you feel you need to keep the idea, replace the word or phrase with something similar. This may mean substituting a pronoun for a proper name, such as he instead of George; or it may mean searching for an alternative. Use a thesaurus only to remind you of words you already know but have temporarily forgotten. Don't select unfamiliar words that merely sound good; this risky path often leads to the use of words with different underlying meanings, which ultimately can hurt you more than the original repetition.
- The last of our techniques for improving your writing skills is more difficult, but usually the most effective. Begin by crossing out the offending repetition. Next, circle key words in the sentence (skip words such as a, of, while, it, etc.). Now craft a new sentence that retains the circled words but discards the repeat ones. This may require you to add more ideas to round out the thought, but our term paper editors have found that expanding on your new sentence in this manner will improve your paper.
Active voice: Breathe life into your essay writing
In order to improve writing skills, we encourage students to write in the active voice. For those of you who have misplaced your grade school grammar book, this means that the subject of the sentence performs the action; it does not receive the action. Compare the following examples:
- Tom tossed the ball (active)
- The ball was tossed by Tom (passive)
To find the dreaded passive voice, look for a "to be" verb (is, am, are, was, were, be, being, or been) followed by a past participle (often a verb ending with -ed). Ask yourself who is performing the action (the verb). Move that person or subject in front of the verb and make the necessary grammatical changes.
Trite phrases: Banish the banal
In order to improve your writing skills, force yourself to delete all idioms and clichés. Your reader wants original thoughts, not processed or canned sentiments. Yes, this means you must replace those mundane words with something clever of your own. Reduce—perhaps to zero—the number of similes and metaphors, particularly if they are common ones.
There may be instances in which you have devised the perfect comparison, one that highlights the essence of your argument, but chances are that an experienced reader won't be as impressed with your creativity as you are. While certain types of writing (advertising, speeches, etc.) may call for this, such phrases are anathema in formal writing. Eliminate these to improve your writing skills.
Literary present: Just do it
When writing about literature, you must write in the literary present. Your natural inclination will be to write:
The river symbolized freedom and enlightenment for Huckleberry Finn.
But the literary present demands that you write:
The river symbolizes freedom and enlightenment for Huckleberry Finn.
A key tip to improving your writing skills is that everything should be in the present tense. It doesn't matter that you read the book last week, or that the author wrote it a century ago. Write about the characters and events as though they exist in the here and now. This is one of those conventions that is just easier to accept than to question.
Mechanics: Sweating the small stuff is important when improving your writing skills
Always run a spell check. It only takes a moment, and it will save you the embarrassment of turning in an analysis of Julius Caesar in which you consistently misspell Caesar. Pay attention to the suggested replacements when editing your essay, however, as these canned wizards do not always understand your meaning. Even Bill Gates can't turn "it" into "in" or "you're" into "your" for you, so you also need to comb through the paper carefully with your own eyes to find every error before handing it in. Brilliant essays receive lower grades if simple mistakes are left unchanged.
Ask for a second opinion
If you're thinking that this seems like a lot to remember, you're right. But focusing on one or two areas at a time will help you steadily improve your writing skills. If you need more help along the way, try our online essay writing course.
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Are you unsure whether to use the active of passive voice? Our editors explain why using the active voice will make your academic papers stronger.
You're writing an essay, and you want a good grade, or at least to make yourself understood. How can you make this easier for your reader?
After editing thousands of pieces of academic writing, our editors have compiled five of the most common mistakes that academics make and offer suggestions on how to avoid them.
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Whether you have a learning disability in writing or just want to improve your writing grades, learning how to follow this basic essay writing method will improve your writing.
The Three Point Five Paragraph Essay:
- Tells readers what about the topic you intend to show or prove;
- Explains three main supporting ideas that prove your argument or support your position; and
- Summarizes the main point, supporting ideas, and reinforces your conclusions about the topic.
Understanding Your Assignment
What is a Three Point Five Paragraph Paper? A three point five paragraph paper, also called a 3.5 paper, is a type of essay that includes five paragraphs and three main ideas, or points:
- The first paragraph is an introduction.
- The second, third, and fourth paragraphs each include one main point or idea.
- The final paragraph is a conclusion.
Why Write a Three Point Five Paragraph Essay?
A 3.5 paper is a type of essay that organizes and presents your topic in a clear, well-supported, and complete way.
You can use this form of writing for many types of assignments such as:
- Classroom homework assignments;
- Essay tests and examinations;
- Articles for the school or local newspaper;
- Presentations using PowerPoint or other slideshow software;
- Speeches and Oral Presentations;
- Poster presentations for science fairs or other academic presentations; and
- Workplace assignments for papers or presentations on the job.
Improve Essay Writing with Pre-writing Tasks
As with any type of writing project, performing pre-writing tasks is an important first step:
- Get clear instructions from your teacher, and check your understanding with her.
- Ask if there are handouts on the assignment or a rubric explaining how the assignment will be scored.
- Ask for a sample 3.5 paper your teacher thinks is a good example. Teachers may not always do this, but if a sample is available, it can give you important information on what kind of writing your teacher considers good work. Use it as inspiration, but never copy anyone else's writing.
Thinking About and Research Your Topic Improves Your Essay Writing
List your thoughts about the topic in brief sentences. Write at least twelve sentences on separate index cards. To get started, use these questions to get your thoughts going:
- What do you already know about the topic?
- What does your teacher think is important about it?
- What does your textbook or the media say about it?
- What would most people want to know about the topic?
Read your sentences, and think about how they can be grouped. Combine your sentences into three main groups.
Improve Essay Writing by Organizing Your Ideas in Groups
Look for relationships between your ideas, and identify three main groups. Examples:
Separate your index cards into three piles, one for each main idea.
- A time sequence such as first, second, and third events;
- Three social studies themes such as political, social, and economic influences;
- A shift in focus from how your topic affects one person, a community, and a nation;
- Development of a piece of art from an idea to creation, to its impact on the art world; and
- Background research on a science project, design of the project, and analysis of results.
Analyze and Organize for Better Writing
Now you're ready to begin writing the three paragraphs that will form the body of your paper.
Working with one stack of cards at a time, organize the cards into logical order within each pile.
Order the piles in the sequence you will use them in the paper. Examples of order:
- Temporal order as in which came first, second, and third in time;
- Order of importance, as in least important, more important, and most important idea;
- Order of construction as in the foundation, main parts, and finishing touches; or
- Other order that makes sense for your unique topic.
Write the First Draft of Each Paragraph
Working with one stack at a time, write each paragraph on a separate piece of paper:
- Write using the sentences you created in your first stack.
- As you write, feel free to make small edits, such as choosing more descriptive words or the correcting the wrong tense.
- Include any important new ideas you think of as you write.
- Exclude any sentences that no longer seem to fit.
- When you've finished with the first paragraph, write the second and third following the same steps.
Develop the Introduction Paragraph
Many students find that writing the essay's introduction after the main points are developed is much easier because it enables you to focus your writing. Your introduction should include at least two parts:
- A sentence stating the main purpose or idea your essay will address
- One to three sentences that briefly introduce the three main supporting points that will prove, support, or justify the main idea of the paper.
Develop the Closing Paragraph
The conclusion paragraph should be a brief restating of your introduction should include at least two parts:
- A sentence that reminds your reader of the main purpose or idea your essay addressed; and
- A sentence that briefly reminds readers that your three points prove your main idea or shows that your position is correct.
As you work toward the final version of your paper:
- Ask your teacher if you can submit a draft for your teacher to make suggestions for improvement that you can use in your final version;
- Ask a parent, another student, or a friend to read your paper and offer suggestions; and as always,
- Check spelling, word use, and your teacher's input to make final revisions.
- You can adapt these steps using a computer or word processor if that is the way you prefer to write.
- Writing on paper with pencils, however, helps some students reflect more on the content of their essays.