Don’t worry, fellow reader, the title is mistaken on purpose. It should be, “Six Tips for Good Writing”, because the adjective “good” cannot be preceded by a progressive action. Congratulations, you’re already on the fast track toward becoming a more effective writer.
Oftentimes, I cannot fathom why people experience so much trouble with producing a paper. Then I remember that, unlike mathematics and the natural sciences, writing comes more naturally to me than it does to others. Therefore, I have devised six tips that I believe, when applied to your writing, can increase its quality So let’s begin!
Tip 1: Always speak TO your audience, and never AT your audience.
I was unfriended by a lot of people on Facebook in response to the constant rants I posted. I attempted to justify these unfriendings by quite euphemistically pointing out that my rants weren’t even rants — they were discussions. This opened my mind up to the hard truth that people will never listen to you if they feel like they’re being “talked at”, so to speak. Rather, they would prefer to have a larger role in the conversation. For this reason, you should always adjust your tone in such a way that it doesn’t sound arrogant or worse, abrasive. State facts and arguments as is without attaching your opinions to them, discounting any preconceived biases that might distort your tone-of-voice.
Tip 2: Install transition words and phrases.
Transitional words and phrases are incredibly useful because they connect disparate ideas to each other and generally link up paragraphs, creating a special sense of cohesiveness. They can be used to convey similarity, contrast, agreement and my personal favorite, emphasis. SmartWords.org provides up to 200 acceptable transitions that are commonly employed in many articles and essays. But also don’t overuse them. It’s annoying when every other sentence begins with a “For example” or a “For instance”, so use them in moderation.
Tip 3: Write until the point is made.
Have I ever told you that I hate word counts? They’re demotivating and restrict creativity. If a professor or teacher ever tells you that your paper must be X number of words, then don’t listen to them. Whether your paper is 100, 250 or 1,000 words in length, the prescribed word count shouldn’t matter so long as you proved your argument soundly and effectively. Therefore, write every word you need to until the point gets struck. Anything more will leave your readers feeling like you’re just biding time for the sake of it, and anything less will leave them feeling like your work is under-prepared.
Tip 4: Utilize a thesaurus.
At the end of the day, the heart of good writing is the vocabulary you choose. I recommend utilizing a thesaurus for two reasons. One reason is that if you switch out words with more sophisticated variants, your teachers and professors will grade your papers less harshly. I’m not joking — an advanced vocabulary literally creates the impression of an intelligent and hardworking student, and as such teachers will be more apt to grade your work with a little mercy.
The second reason is that frequent usage of a thesaurus strengthens your vocabulary overall. You begin to speak to your friends, family members, and coworkers with greater eloquence, while your writing takes on profound depth and substance. And plus, who doesn’t like using a few big words here and there to sound smart?
However, be very careful not to overdo this one. You might use so many “big” words that people no longer know what you’re talking about. In addition, you run the risk of using certain words awkwardly or not semantically valid, so always check the dictionary beforehand.
Tip 5: Throw in some adverbs.
Adverbs are wonderful not only because they modify the meanings of adjectives and verbs, but because they help “buff up” your sentences, helping to express thoughts that would otherwise be near impossible to put into words. Take the adverbial version of, let’s say “extraordinary”, and you can pair it up with just about every adjective in the English dictionary and still make a great deal of sense (e.g., extraordinarily smart, extraordinarily stupid, etc.). In this manner, adverbs don’t just modify meaning, they supercharge meaning!
Tip 6: “Don’t practice until you get it right. Practice until you can’t get it wrong.”
This was a tip my statistics professor shared with my class last summer, and it holds true across all skills you aim to perfect. Don’t practice until you stop making mistakes, but rather practice until the very prospect of making mistakes is incogitable. Master the mechanics of effective writing in the same way that a pilot masters the mechanics of flying a plane, and you don’t even need to worry about screwing up anymore. It all just comes naturally to you, whether you want it to or not.
And that’s it. Six tips for more effective writing. Do you think there’s some room for improvement, or are you a modern day Shakespeare?