Tips for Writing at the College Level
Let’s face it – in college, you will be writing often. Becoming a good writer doesn’t happen overnight, but mastering grammar rules and vocabulary tools are crucial. Writing is a process, and there is always room for improvement. Elevate your writing over time with these tips and guiding principles!
Procrastination is the bane of a college student’s existence, especially when multiple assignments for various courses pile up over time. That being said, it is never a bad idea to start early. In fact, it’s one of the easiest things you can do to help ensure success in your writing! Pencil in due dates, and jot down intermediary deadlines for important steps in the writing process. Allow yourself time to choose a topic (if it’s not already provided to you), conduct research, organize your thoughts, create a rough draft, revise, and so on. Remember to keep the goals realistic so that you are more likely to stick to them.
Identify Your Audience
There are a plethora of factors to consider before writing. Who will be reading what you write? What is the topic or subject at hand? Depending on the assignment, you may even need to research, interview people, and collect data to back up your points. The first step to writing a strong article is knowing your audience. From there, you can decide the appropriate tone to use. In most cases, it doesn’t hurt to err on the formal side when it comes to college writing. Save the everyday slang, abbreviations, and overuse of punctuation for texts and emails with your friends.
Organize Your Thoughts
Once you’ve identified your audience and established the tone you’re going to use, it’s time to gather your thoughts and make an outline of the points you’ll be discussing in your paper. Unless otherwise instructed, it’s safe to start with an introduction, followed by a body consisting of a couple supporting paragraphs, and a conclusion. The more detailed you make your outline, the easier the writing process will be later on because you can easily reference to make sure you’ve included all your important points.
Another thing to keep in mind is, plagiarism is a big no-no in college. You can get in big trouble if ever caught, and it’s just not a good thing to do! Research papers in college require proper citations. As you do your research and create your outline, be as specific as possible with these so that you don’t have to fumble around trying to find the source of your findings later on. Create a system of easy referencing for yourself, so that your writing process remains smooth and efficient.
Use “big” words when appropriate, but avoid stuffing the paper with them as that can get overwhelming and come off inauthentic. You want to deliver your point in an intelligent and straightforward way. Complicated sentence structure may not only deter you from making your point clearly, but it also doesn’t improve your paper if the reader can’t understand what you are trying to say. In addition to keeping grammar in check, it’s crucial to be mindful of structural errors. If you are having trouble getting started with your paper, don’t hesitate to just write what’s on your mind for the sake of getting going. It’s totally okay if your first draft isn’t perfect. That’s what editing is for, once you’ve got a rough draft done!
Revise, Revise, Revise
After finishing your first draft, the editing process begins. Work on revising paragraph by paragraph, fixing any grammatical, spelling, run-on sentences, and other structural errors and inconsistencies. It may help to read what you’ve written out loud to ensure that everything sounds right and makes sense. Don’t rush this process, and feel free to take a break and get back to the paper in an hour or even a few days. Reading a paper with fresh eyes can help you detect errors that you didn’t catch before.
Get a Proofreader
So you’ve put in your very best – now it’s time to have another set of fresh eyes to read your masterpiece! This is a fantastic way to get a third person’s point of view and perspective on what you’ve written. Perhaps there was something you wouldn’t have caught if someone else didn’t bring it to your attention. While this step isn’t totally mandatory, it can really help you hone in on your writing skills and find areas of improvement. If you finish an essay or research paper early, it’s always smart to get a proofreader to read it once through before you turn it in. This could be a trusted family member, a roommate, or even your teacher’s assistant! Getting feedback will provide you with the opportunity to make final tweaks and know what to improve on next time.
Believe in Yourself
The most important thing in writing, and college in general, is to be confident in your abilities to succeed. Self-doubt never feels good, and believing you can do it is half the battle! Often, students don’t give themselves enough credit for simply doing their best.
As with anything in life, practice makes perfect. This means that the more you write, the better you will become at it. So, don’t be discouraged if you struggle in the beginning. College writing can be tough! But by taking the initiative to start early, organize your thoughts, write thoughtfully, revise several times, and get feedback, you’ll be surprised at how quickly your writing improves.