You are in high school; undoubtedly, you’ve got more papers to write than you’ll have ’til, well, college. Yup, you’ll be writing late into the night for many nights to come, exercising your writing muscle to its fullest potential.
How, then, to make it stronger? How can you ensure the writing you’ve got to do will be better than it’s been?
In my experience, great writers follow a few simple rules.
Great writers are great readers, too. If you find reading tedious or have trouble making time for it, don’t worry; reading is like distance running. The more you do it, the better you get at doing it efficiently, which often means you’ll like it more. Try setting your favorite online newspaper as your homepage on the internet. Make it a goal to read two articles a day; often times, topics in the news make great topics for papers you’re writing, or for important conversations you need to have during college interviews. Another way to incorporate reading into your daily schedule is to consider your nighttime routine; do you dabble on Facebook, or play games on your phone? Swap out your computer or phone for a book. Read a chapter a night before bed. (It’ll help you sleep!)
2) Put the strongest word at the end of the sentence.
(Which of the following sounds more powerful? The adopted girl realized she could not be at peace until she found her mom, the woman she was related to.The adopted girl realized she could not be at peace until she found her mom, the woman to whom she was related.) It may seem a subtle difference, but it goes a long way to make the meaning of your writing clear.
3) Delete “There is,” or “There are,” any chance you get.
These are filler words that can easily be replaced with a little editing. For example, try changing, “There is a lot to be done around the house today,” to “A lot remains to be done around the house.” Doing so means every word you write is valuable. Makes your writing pack more punch.
4) Ask for feedback.
The only kind of feedback that doesn’t make you a better writer is feedback that is dishonest. Teachers can provide good feedback; you don’t have to only solicit feedback from teachers though. You can submit an e-copy of something you’ve written for school to a local newspaper author (you can often find email contacts of these authors online). You can also submit your writing to teachers at your school that aren’t your teachers, but who focus on writing.
5) When describing complicated (or even simple but lengthy) processes, follow the AB-BC-CD method.
That is, make the last word of a sentence the first word (or concept) of the next sentence, and so on, until the description of the process is complete. Here’s an example: Everyone needs a widget. A widget works because the wire inside it is based on a complex architecture. The architecture allows the wire to perform varied tasks. The tasks the widget can perform include emitting light and absorbing moisture.
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Meagan Phelan holds an M.A. in Science Writing from The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD and a B.A. in Biology from Gettysburg College in Gettysburg, Pa. She has freelanced as a science writer and is a Fulbright Scholar. She currently works as a Senior Writer and Editor at AIR Worldwide, a catastrophe risk modeling firm based in Boston.
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