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Writing is something that many of us have to do every day, and that virtually all of us will have to do at some point. We write text messages to friends, emails to co-workers, and of course, the dreaded high school and college essays that will help us further our educations and build our careers. Writing is powerful, and writing well is more powerful still—but it’s certainly not easy. The world is full of bad writers, so much so that experts at Harvard University have actually spent time trying to figure out why, exactly, so many of us are so bad at putting words on a page.
We have a lot of reasons for developing bad habits as writers, and a lot of reasons why we dread college term papers and other big tests of our writing skills. But, fortunately, we also have a lot of ways to become better writers. Whether you’re worried about your next big research paper or simply hoping to write clearer emails, you’ll want to read the steps below.
Read a lot.
The simplest way to become a better writer? Read! That’s what professional writers, especially fiction authors, recommend. We don’t have to necessarily study what we read (though that can help, too—more on that later). We just have to get used to it and begin to feel the rhythms and sense the superior writing.
When you’re a habitual reader, you’re constantly seeing good sentences, great paragraphs, and well-organized books written by the best writers around. There will be some stinkers, too, of course, but you’ll have great books in your future. Read enough, and you just might write one.
Study the style of superior writers.
College students know that they can find essays for sale online and that grabbing one could help them meet a deadline or get a better grade. But these aren’t the only uses for quality essays. Reading and studying the form of a really good essay could help you learn how to make use of similar strategies yourself.
This is beyond just reading habitually. This is about picking up a copy of a book of essays and breaking down the form of an essay. Take notes and map out the structure. Look at how arguments are built and supported. You could even buy an essay on a topic that you’ve been assigned and then write your own version of it, using the structure of the purchased essay. Working within such a framework will show you the value of a great organization.
Other than the shortest and simplest emails, you should be outlining everything you write. A good outline will protect you from the frustrations of rambling thoughts, excessive editing and rewriting, and other perils of a poorly thought-through essays, research papers, theses, or books.
Take the time to organize your writing before you’ve put the words down. In the same way that you need a foundation before you can build a house, you need an outline before you start writing an essay.
Ask for advice.
Not everyone is as baffled by writing as you may sometimes be—but just about everyone was at some point. Talk to the people who have been where you are now, and learn how they became great writers. Ask your professors for advice on your next essay (on top of great general advice, you might learn a trick or two to appeal to your professor’s writing preferences). Make full use of your thesis adviser. Get a writing mentor. Head to your campus writing center.
And get advice in the form of books, too. Style guides are an essential desktop reference for all writers, and plenty more information is available online. With all the resources you have at your fingertips, you have a lot of paths to becoming a better writer.