Faced with a writing prompt – and an empty page? Take a deep breath. Writing is easy as long as you approach it the right way. Here, Tucson tutor Blake C. shares the best writing advice to keep in mind…
Many students simply dread writing assignments. When faced with the task of writing, some of us tend to get tongue-tied on the page. Thankfully, there are some simple truths to writing that can help you get your words out.
1. First of all, writing is not so very different from speaking as you might think. Granted, writing is generally a more formal exercise, but the same kind of thinking and word choice you use in class to ask a well-phrased question is exactly what is needed. If you can adequately explain something verbally, chances are you can write it just as well.
2. Written words should actually emulate speech. You should be able to read what you have written aloud and it should seem as though you are simply explaining something very clearly. The clarity of our words is what writing gives us the opportunity to perfect, but in essence writing is just the exercise of perfecting your own explanation of the topic you’re being asked to write about.
3. Word counts must be ignored, at least until you’ve said what you have to say. Far too many students hyper-fixate on word count. This is a momentum killer. You can’t finish explaining what you’re thinking if you stop every few seconds to check the word count. First focus instead on explaining what your position is completely. When you feel you have fully explained yourself and that your best friend or parent could easily follow what you’ve said, then see where the chips fall. Adjusting written works for word count is not difficult. If push comes to shove, ask a tutor for some advice on how to either add another point to your discussion, or on what you might be able to do without.
4. If you can speak English, you can write. So many students come to me completely unsure of what to write. When prompted, they can address the topic verbally with ease, but they struggle with extreme uncertainty when it comes to actually typing up their thoughts. Trust yourself. Start by typing what you think. Simply answer the question as you would if a friend asked you to explain. Sort out any style or mechanics issues later.
5. Writing is a process of revision. It doesn’t have to be perfect the first time and chances are it ‘ain’t gonna’ be. When we write, we are engaging in the exercise of thinking. We are working out our thoughts on the page, the same way we work them out in our heads. Your job as an academic writer is to first engage with the prompt and then explore it. One of the best pieces of writing advice out there is to just have fun with it. Play with ideas and positions; just make sure you write down these ideas. Let the perfected final version be separate from the first draft and use your first draft as a chance to go hog wild.
The most important writing advice is to get to a place where you feel comfortable doing it. Understand that writing is a process and that there will be more than one draft of almost everything you write. Perhaps most importantly, you should understand that above all else writing is an opportunity to express yourself and to contribute to an ongoing discussion. Remember to participate!
Blake C. tutors in various subjects, including math, reading, and SAT prep, in Tucson, AZ and online. A Flinn Scholar, Blake C. graduated from The University of Arizona with a degree in Business Management in 2007 and later returned for a second Bachelor’s in Music Theory History and Criticism, which was awarded in December of 2013. Learn more about Blake here!
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