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How to Be a Better Writer

Tips on how to write wellIf you’re one of the many people who gets a little nervous at the thought of having to write an essay, create content for individual class projects, or even write your own thoughts down for an online discussion board, don’t fret, you’re not alone. Most effective written communication starts with proper preparation—and at Colorado Technical University, we want to help prepare you for any writing assignments that come your way.

Turn your good ideas into complete, descriptive sentences in just a few steps

When you sit down at your computer unprepared and try to write, it can be overwhelming. So what can you do? Brainstorm a list of words, phrases, and ideas that relate to your assignment.

Your word/phrase/idea list doesn’t have to be fancy. It can be done on scrap paper, the back of an envelope, whatever you have handy. Even your computer or tablet; whatever you choose.

Now it’s time to refine that list and turn them into complete, descriptive sentences. Here’s how:

5 Tips to Being a Better Writer

  1. Jot down words and phrases: If you have several topics to cover in an essay or a discussion post, make a list of words or phrases that you want to talk about. Don’t worry about the order they belong in yet, just let them flow freely from your mind to your paper. When you’ve exhausted your list of words, phrases, primary and secondary ideas, take a good look at them. Did you leave anything out? Is there a word or phrase that could be expressed more clearly?
  2. Look over your class materials and jot down more words and phrases, if needed: After you’ve created your first brainstorming list as described above, revisit your assignment to make sure you’re on the right track. You may realize that you forgot to add some crucial information on your first list. Take a few minutes and add anything you may have left out the first time. Be sure to note where you got your information in case you need to use it to back up an idea or footnote later for your assignment.
  3. Take apart the assignment and group your ideas against each section: For instance if it’s an essay, your introduction should re-establish the topic, the objective, and tell what opinion you plan to support. Don’t start answering the essay as if the reader already knows the essay question. You’ll also notice that some of your ideas and phrases will be used when stating your opinion in the introduction and again, in the conclusion. Now look at the supporting paragraphs, do you have key phrases that help you explain why a person should agree with your opinion? Put those ideas in paragraph placeholders – like an outline.
  4. Make phrases into complete sentences: It is very helpful to have a list of “connector” words on hand, words that help you connect one thought or one sentence to another. Here are a few examples to help you out: however, although, moreover, furthermore, in addition, contrary to, all in all, in conclusion, etc. Look up synonyms of these words to find even more. Now you can logically and effectively communicate your point of view. And, you have enough of a start to type everything into a Word document in an order that flows well when checked against your assignment. Save it as a background file that you can copy and paste as necessary into your first draft.
  5. Open a fresh document: Now it’s time to begin writing, and remember it’s just your first draft, not the final piece. As writer Terry Pratchett said, “The first draft is you just telling yourself the story.” In your case, it could be a discussion board post or an individual assignment, but the sentiment is the same—just get it all down on paper and rewrite it to perfection later.

Putting the Finishing Touches on Your Writing

When you’re writing your essay, discussion post, or assignment, be sure to check out CTU’s helpful interactive basic guide on the American Psychological Association (APA) style. There are also extensive guides to the undergraduate and graduate APA styles and detailed information on APA style that are used throughout CTU classes. And you can always look through the resources in the Virtual Campus and especially the virtual library.

Finding time for your coursework, including a writing assignment, with all of your other responsibilities can sometimes be difficult. To help you be more successful in managing it all, you may enjoy reading: Student Success Starts With a Great Attitude.

1Goodreads.com. Terry Pratchett Quotes. http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/644139-the-first-draft-is-just-you-telling-yourself-the-story (Visited 3/28/2016)