Put pen to paper: 5 secrets to becoming a stronger writer in school, work and beyond
If you feel nervous at the thought of putting pen to paper—or rather, fingers to keyboard—check out this advice from University of Phoenix instructors.
1. Read like a writer
You may already read novels for enjoyment, non-fiction for enlightenment, or magazines for edutainment. But did you know all this material could help you become a better writer? As you read, ask yourself how these authors coin a phrase, organize an argument or craft a sentence that sticks in your head long after you close the cover. The best writing instructors assign smart, challenging reading because they know that better readers are better writers.
2. Get organized (thoughts, not closets)
Thought you left outlines behind in high school? Not so fast. Outlines help you put ideas in order, craft a story that keeps people reading and discover where you need more evidence to build a persuasive argument. (Side note: Closets are what we organize when we are avoiding writing. If you’re doing it, dig deep—sit back down at your desk and get after it!)
Don’t think you have to use the old-school 1, 2, 3, and A, B, C. Even sketching out the order of your points or writing out subheads can help you get organized and write better and faster. Or try “clustering”: write the thing you want to write about in the middle of a piece of paper and circle it; then, jot down points to make all around it until you start to see a path to a paper. Hey, that’s writing. No kidding.
3. Sharpen your everyday writing
From texts with friends to status updates on Facebook, you probably write more than you realize—and each time you communicate with someone is a chance to practice your writing skills.
When you’re shooting off an email or writing a note to your child’s teacher, pay attention to your sentences—spelling, grammar and word choice in particular. Focus on saying what you’re trying to say through your words instead of exclamation points and emojis.
4. Spell and speak
Get over the fear of your own work—hearing it out loud will improve it dramatically. You’ll hear phrases that sound clunky, words that are missing and places to trim. Even better, have a friend or family member read it out loud. The fresh perspective will be eye opening.
5. Ask for help
Writing isn’t easy, but there’s no need to go it alone. An outside voice can provide valuable feedback, suggesting new ways to assemble sentences, clear out clichés and streamline your style.
Of course, your instructors are always available and happy to help you through any tough spots in your writing assignments. Or try joining the University of Phoenix’s Writing Help Community for advice and feedback from experts, and check out the University’s Media Library for videos and tips on writing as well.