Becoming a better writer

Becoming a better writer

Danielle Zukowski

I recently began working as a writing consultant at the Fred Meijer Center for Writing & Michigan authors. For those of you who are not familiar with the center, it is a place designed to help students through the writing process for a variety of academic and creative purposes. The intriguing mission statement aims to help make better writers as opposed to just better papers.

During the month I have been consulting here, I have heard quite a few students say, “I’m just not a good writer.” I’m very used to being in upper level classes where everyone is a good writer, but what makes a good writer and can everyone become one?

I suppose it goes back to whether talent in writing is a skill we are just born with or if it is something we develop over time, nature versus nurture of sorts. I’m sure genetics do play a role in our academic capabilities and the predispositions of our environment certainly will determine what we yield from our education, but I like to think that writing is just like any other scholarly subject. In math class we have homework to practice trigonometry every night. We have to constantly keep doing problems in order to improve. Then the phrasing of the question changes, so we have to really examine critically if we have obtained the skill yet. Writing is very similar. The more you write, the easier it is to become a good writer. It is important to keep practicing with a variety of questions just as in math. The more familiar you become with the diverse formats of essays, it becomes easier to approach new assignments.

With each new assignment, there is a different topic and different requirements yet there seems to be an general internalized consensus if a paper is good writing or not. So what characteristics of a paper can trigger that feeling inside readers?

There are many little tips in how to be a better writer. Organization is one of the most significant factors in whether a paper is good. Organization of the essay allows for better clarity and makes it easier to convey ideas. To organize these ideas, it sometimes helps to use topic sentences to begin each paragraph to maintain a strong focus. In research papers, creating an introduction with a thesis statement that declares your position in the argument as well as addresses the main ideas that will be discussed in the essay.

Creating a thesis statement that does this is also helpful because if every paragraph can be connected back to it, then the writer will be able to see if the evidence provided in the paragraphs are relevant to the argument the essay is making. It is helpful to go back to those essay-writing basics when you’re struggling with an assignment. Look over a traditional essay format for the essay you’ll be writing and see where your argument and main points can fit into this. Eventually, you’ll get to the point where you feel comfortable arguing stylistically. Then you can ditch the traditional essay format and start exercising creativity on the road to becoming a better writer.