1 – Less is more. This is a constant battle. The fewer words you use the better off you are. If you write carelessly and redundantly, you are weakening your arguments because you’re not being as direct and forceful as you should be.
Don’t write: “Any task assigned to Sam can be counted on to be finished in the appropriate time frame.’’
Instead, write: “Any task assigned to Sam will be finished on time.’’ Or even better, “Sam will finish any task on time.”
If the first draft of your 750-word essay includes 100 words that can be squeezed out, you’re getting far less bang for your 750-word buck. If you’re economical, you will have a 100-word edge on the sloppy writer – 100 more words to make your case.
2 – Every word you choose either helps or hurts your essay. The more good choices you make, the better your writing will be. It sounds obvious, but you’d be amazed at how much more effective you’ll be if you make 20 better choices each essay.
3 – Read what you’ve written out loud. If it sounds awkward, it will read awkward. If it sounds like a run-on sentence, it almost certainly is a run-on sentence. Close the door and start reading out loud. It’s crucial.
4 – Don’t be vague. Be specific. Paint a picture. Avoid the dreaded V-word at all costs. Let the reader see what needs to be seen and understand what must be understood.
5 – The verb is the most important word in almost any sentence. It provides the sentence’s “energy.” And whenever possible, use active verbs in the present tense.
6 – Good writing is re-writing. Never be satisfied. Go over and over what you’ve written. You’ll be amazed what you find the fifth or sixth time through the essay.
7 – You’re telling a story. No matter what you write, be it a personal essay or a term paper on the Industrial Revolution, always remember that you’re telling a story, with a beginning, a middle, and an end. And every good story has a narrative thread that weaves through it and engages the reader, even if it’s about the rise of industrialism in the U.S. Finally, transition is not just paragraph to paragraph – it’s also sentence to sentence.
8 – A conclusion is NEVER a summary. It should take your thoughts one step further. And it NEVER, EVER begins with, “In conclusion . . . ”
9 – Read, read, read, and then read some more. The more writers you discover, the more styles you are exposed to, the better off you’ll be. You will gradually absorb the various styles and instinctively understand what you can use and how to use it.
10 – Your dictionary should be your new best friend. That’s for when you’re writing, and also for when you’re reading. It’s one of mankind’s greatest inventions!!!