While at Gideon we don’t focus on writing long essays, we do recognize the need for this skill. In high school and college, you’ll need to be able to write two to ten (TEN?!) page papers. Don’t think being a STEM based major will allow you to avoid them either. While you can side step philosophy if you want, one of your required elective classes will likely have you writing. Since I was a math major, most of my classes didn’t require the lengthier ones; however, with an education minor, I still had a pull out a five pager every now and then. My law school friend describes the requirement to easily whip out a paper of twelve pages overnight with much longer ones such as 30+ in a week.
If you don’t have your own personal writing tutor, check out this article by Dustin Wax with tips for better writing. I wish I had these tips when I was in high school during AP English. I had my father proofread my papers, and they were generally a red hot mess after he handed back his marked revisions. Oh the revisions! As the years pass though, all those tweaks for better writing have served me well.
Writing well is easily one of the most sought-after and useful skills in the business world. Ironically, it is one of the rarest and most undervalued skills among students, and few professors have the time, resources, or skills to teach writing skills effectively. What follows are a handful of tips and general principles to help you develop your writing skills, which will not only improve your grades (the most worthless indicator of academic progress) but will help develop your ability to think and explain the most difficult topics. Although directed at students, most of this advice applies equally well to any sort of writing; in the end, good writing is not limited to one context or another.
Some things he mentions that you may not have thought of are:
3. Start in the middle. One of the biggest problems facing writers of all kinds is figuring out how to start. Rather than staring at a blank screen until it’s burned into your retinas trying to think of something awe-inspiring and profound to open your paper with, skip the introduction and jump in at paragraph two. You can always come back and write another paragraph at the top when you’re done — but then again, you might find you don’t need to. As it turns out, the first paragraph or so are usually the weakest, as we use them to warm up to our topic rather than to do any useful work.
8. Focus on communicating your purpose. Revise your paper at least once, focusing on how well each line directs your readers towards the understanding you’ve set out to instill in them. Every sentence should direct your reader towards your conclusion. Ask yourself, “Does this sentence add to my argument or just take up space? Does it follow from the sentence before, and lead into the following sentence? Is the topic of each paragraph clear? Does each sentence in the paragraph contribute to a deeper understanding of the paragraph’s topic?” Revising your paper is where the magic happens — when you’re done with your first draft, your understanding of your subject will be much greater than it was when you started writing; use that deeper knowledge to clarify and enrich your writing. Revision should take about the same time as writing — say 15 – 30 minutes a page.
10. Conclude something. Don’t confuse a “conclusion” with a “summary”. The last paragraph or two should be the culmination of your argument, not a rehash of it. Explain the findings of your research, propose an explanation for the data presented, point out avenues for future research, or point out the significance of the facts you’ve laid out in your paper. The conclusion should be a strong resolution to the paper, not a weak recapitulation tacked on to pad out the page count.
Check out the rest of his 10 tips HERE.