Improving Your Writing

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You should consider each essay you write not as a final product in itself, but as a step toward developing the writing skills you will need before and after university.

Use the following checklist for each assignment as a guide to improving your own writing ability.

  1. Clarify the details of your assignment with the professor if there's anything you're not sure about.
  2. Think of writing as a process, and get started on an assignment early in the semester. Make a realistic time schedule for accomplishing the three steps of planning, writing, and revising.
  3. Do some brainstorming about your topic as part of the planning process – remember that spending time planning your paper will save you time and agony in writing it.
  4. Get feedback from the professor early in the semester about your choice of topic and proposed method of dealing with that topic.
  5. Try to write the first draft in one sitting, without agonizing over and editing every sentence. The first draft is your opportunity to get your ideas on paper so that you can see how they are shaping up. Do not worry about grammar and punctuation while you create – leave that for the revising stage.
  6. Remember to put aside your first draft for at least a full day after writing it before you begin revising. The longer you can leave it before revising, the more objective you can be about it and the more effective you will be at detecting problems.
  7. Put some time, effort and thought into the revising process. Remember that 'revising' does not just mean 'recopying'.  It means 're-seeing,' or re-envisaging what you are saying. Even professional writers do several drafts of any piece of writing.
  8. Proofread your final draft carefully before submitting, even if it was typed by a professional. Most professors would prefer to see you correct a typo with a pen than to assume you were careless enough not to catch it.
  9. When your paper is evaluated and returned, read the comments thoroughly. Ask the marker to explain what he or she meant by a particular note if you don't understand.
  10. Try to pick out one or two consistent errors on each paper, and aim to improve or correct them on your next paper. If you can recognize and eliminate even one type of problem each time, you are on your way to becoming a more effective writer.