Basic Writing Tips to Share with Students
Dr. Nina Haydel
You cannot write the way you speak; a reader does not function as a listener. Writing has its own set of conditions. Writing gives you the opportunity to revise your ideas and the way you present them. You must always consider your audience: what does the reader already know and what does he or she need to know in order to make sense of what you have written? Decide your purpose and deliver what you promise. By revising, you can make significant changes as you move through the drafts; continue to add, delete, move ideas around, and re-arrange your points until you have supported your thesis and achieved your goal. Consider the following tips:
You need not always begin at the beginning. The reader will never know where you have begun, once you have completed your final draft. Start with the section that is easier for you to write. Then, put the puzzle together later.
Brainstorm and write your first draft in a stream-of consciousness flow of words. Concentrate on putting your ideas on paper. This draft is for your eyes only.
Keep the assignment, question, focus, or thesis very much in your mind. After you write each paragraph, re-read it and ask yourself, “So what?” in reference to the theme. If you are not making any contribution to the theme, strike that paragraph or imbed that idea somewhere else. Everything you write must have relevance.
Be specific, and include interesting, supportive details.
Avoid words like good, bad, thing. They have no specific, concrete meaning.
Review your work for redundancies. If you have already said something, do not say it again.
Watch out for repeated wording. Look for synonyms that make your writing live.
Save all your notes, drafts, and especially a copy of your final draft.
When you think you are finished, put the “final” draft away for several days and return to it with a fresh perspective.
You are not cheating when you have someone serve as a peer evaluator. Don’t allow your reader to do the revising for you. Just listen to the comments.
Look at the logic of what you have written and rethink your approach.
At some point, consider the work completed. A writer can revise forever, as there are always new ways of stating the same idea. Abandon the writing; it will never be finished.
Remember , it is the writer’s fault when a reader cannot understand the writing.
Dr. Hayes Do Not Dos
1) Do not start subsequent sentences or paragraphs with the same word/term/phrase
2) Do not use the word thing or derivations thereof
3) Do not use “it” at the beginning of a sentence, and avoid use of “it” altogether
4) Do not use contractions, e.g. don’t
5) Never use etc.
6) Do not use more than one “and” in a sentence
7) Do not have a paragraph that is longer than a page
8) Do not have one sentence paragraphs, even two sentences paragraphs are suspect
9) Do not use first person
10) Do not think you will only write the paper once
Remember , technical papers should be alive with information, not prose.
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