Essays are a huge part of college. No matter what you’re studying, there is bound to be at least one class in which the instructor assigns an essay (sometimes several). If you don’t mind writing, then it may be a piece of cake to crank out a five page paper. However, if you aren’t a big fan of writing and put it off until the last minute, it can be a nightmare. Either way, there are several important tips every college student should know to make your writing the best it can possibly be.
1. Find A Quiet Space
It is more difficult to study, do homework, prepare for exams, or write if you are sitting in a crowded, buzzing Starbucks. I used to bring my laptop there, thinking all of the other writers and readers would inspire me, but I only ended up distracted by the sound of steaming milk, coffee orders, and not-so-quiet conversations. When you’re in a quiet environment, such as the library or a study lounge, you’ll focus better. I also recommend to leave your living space to minimize typical distractions (roommates, television, etc.). If you tell yourself you are physically going somewhere to write, you will take it more seriously and be much more focused when you are in that environment.
2. Review, Review, Review
One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen friends and fellow students make, is that they don’t take the time to re-read what they wrote when they have finished. However, reviewing your writing is so important! Avoid yourself the embarrassment of turning in a paper with simple mistakes (spelling, punctuation, and grammar). A lot of professors actually dock points for simple mistakes such as these. Reviewing it can also ensure that you have covered everything you wanted to in your paper and that it all makes sense. This is also the chance to read it aloud to hear how it will sound to your reader. Keep in mind who your reader is (your professor), and write it for them.
3. Remove Unnecessary Words
People sometimes add filler words to their writing to make it longer, which is clever (and I’ve done it too), but it’ll only make your writing sound immature. When you edit, delete these filler words, including “that,” “so,” “and,” etc. Sometimes you may not even realize these writing habits until you review your writing. Also, search your paper for repetitive words. Trying replacing words used often in your paper with synonyms to still explain your point without sounding redundant.
4. Add Detail
Depending on what class and topic your essay is for, it might be a good idea to spice it up a bit with some added detail. It’s good to be informative in your writing, but to really grab a reader’s attention, add some adjectives to make your writing descriptive and easy to visualize. Write everything as if you’re really seeing it in front of you as it happens. J.K. Rowling and Tolkien had great success because their visions translated so well to paper with their descriptions.
5. Use Another Pair Of Eyes
Whether it’s a friend, classmate, or your instructor, have someone else read your writing. If they’re confused about something, that’s cue that revisions need to be made. Ask them for their honest feedback and to get out their pen to provide editing suggestions. You could even take it one step further and have them write down what they think the main idea of each paragraph is. If they have a different idea of what you were going for, it’s your chance to fix it.
Look for inspiration by taking a closer look at some of your favorite author’s writing. What in particular do you like about it? When you find the answer, learn to incorporate that into your own writing. The more you practice and try to improve your writing, the easier it will become to write. This skill will be helpful not just for college, but for any career as well.