Six Things Every Student Writer Needs to Know
By Amie Perschnick, Junior High English Teacher
What does it take to write well? Or is it write good? When speaking, we often interchange the two words; however, grammatical rules and the formal nature of writing dictate when each should be used: well is an adverb describing a verb, where good is an adjective describing a noun. With so much confusion surrounding just one set of commonly confused words, how is it possible to become a good writer and write well?
Being an English teacher, I have accustomed myself to the groans and moans that accompany assigning writing projects. And being honest, I remember sitting in their shoes and being overwhelmed by the daunting task of writing a five-page paper. Anxiety and writer’s block flare up, and what started out as a “compare and contrast” essay has become a behemoth chore.
So, how do we overcome the stresses of writing to let our words shine? Writing is a personal skill that is honed with practice, and following these tips and strategies can help with the process:
Prewrite, prewrite, prewrite! Get your ideas down on paper: make a web, create a chart, or formulate an outline. This is the best way to organize your thoughts!
Read the prompt carefully and stay on topic. Underline the verbs in the prompt and make sure to address each one. Watch out for going on a tangent...it is important to stay focused. Summarize each body paragraph in one sentence and make sure it connects to the original prompt.
Support your ideas. As students progress in their academic careers, it is imperative to add commentary to their thoughts. Don’t just state an idea, explain it. Find proof to back up your thoughts. Basically, answer the “so what?” question.
Add adjectives, adverbs, and clauses. The more colorful your writing is, the more the reader can create a mental picture. et the sentences leap off the page by inserting details in the form of adjectives, adverbs, and clauses. What color was the man’s shirt (blue)? How did the man talk (loudly)? When did the man in the blue shirt talking loudly enter the room?
Revise and Edit. We live in a digital world, and computers are teeming with great resources to help writers! Run Spellcheck. Submit to Grammarly. These tools can help with errors that were accidentally overlooked; however, make sure to also review any suggestions and use logic when taking the computer’s recommendations.
Additionally, take this opportunity to incorporate vivid verbs into the mix… exchange mediocre, tired verbs like walk, with their more vivid cousins like saunter, waltz, or strut!
READ the essay out loud. In general, we can think a lot faster than we can type. Little words are easy to omit by accident, and sometimes punctuation marks get lost in the shuffle. It is extremely important to read over the completed draft before submitting—and not just in your head, but aloud! Read it to a parent, a sibling, a pet, a stuffed animal, even the wall! Vocalizing your written product forces you to slow down enough to notice things like awkward phrases, missing words, or the dreaded run-on sentence.
Words are powerful. They can help us, and they can hurt us. Words can explain, and words can persuade. We have been blessed with the gift of the written word, and it is a communication tool that fuels the future. So let’s erase the stigma and struggle of writing and let our good ideas speak well for themselves!
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