Getting StartedWriteHereWriteNowWriteOn

Staying ahead of the curve

by Anna Tarnow

Bad news: getting better at writing is a lot of work. Good news: anyone can do it!

Being good (or even excellent) at writing is not some magical skill that some people have and others don’t. Good writing is the product of dedication and energy, just like pretty much every other skill. Some people may seem astronomically better at things, but they just have a lot of cumulative practice, which is something that anyone can have given time. And to me, at least, that’s encouraging! You can make serious progress just by working a little each day.

Here are some of my top strategies for long term improvement:

  1. Give your written work some percolation time (usually around a week, maybe two or three), and then come back to it. Notice odd quirks or repeated mistakes in your writing, make a list of them, and start checking for them every time you write.
  2. Use ctrl+f or cmd+f to search for words that you overuse. I used to write “really” in every other sentence, but I’ve learned to suppress that urge.
  3. Focus on structure, especially if you’re fresh out of high school, where structure is usually skimmed over. Each point should lead logically to the next, like a chain of stepping stones.
  4. Make sure you’re using the right word! People, myself included, will often throw in words that they don’t actually know to make themselves sound smarter. This is a trap because using the wrong word looks worse than using smaller words correctly.
  5. But do work to expand your vocabulary! There are plenty of apps that can help you do this. I like Magoosh’s products.
  6. And finally, find something you like to write about. Whether it’s complaining about politics, predicting the outcome of sports, or talking about MAC products, something in this world probably gets your gears spinning. So use that, and have fun!

Anna Tarnow is a senior majoring in English and enjoys working on the Pilot newspaper, where she is editor-in-chief.

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