A major chunk of a student’s life is spent writing, yet many do not consider themselves as good writers. And they are not entirely wrong, since what they are writing is not their own words — students are simply reproducing what is in their textbooks, or what the teacher said in the class.
But this shouldn’t be a reason for a student not to become a good writer even in school, because turning one’s thoughts, ideas and imagination into written words is just taking a step beyond the regular academic writing.
Not everyone is a writer, but everyone can become a good writer, and the best time to start your writing journey is in school, when everything in your life involves learning new things.
It is in school that we learn and explore new skills, subjects and information. Once we get older, we simply build upon the foundation of the things we have learnt in school. In the same way, to become a writer or someone who writes well, you need to start learning and practicing all that will help you to became a good writer while in school.
No matter what career you pursue, you will need good writing skills — be it to apply for a job, write your CV, make a report, express your ideas, market your product, complete a research paper or even write the company’s annual report.
Let us look at how you can become better at writing as a student and form certain habits and practices that, when followed regularly, will make you a proficient and effective writer.
Read — a lot!
To be a good writer, you have to be an avid reader. After all, how would you know what good writing is unless you read it?
Reading shows you how words are used in different ways, how different styles and kinds of writings have different impacts on the readers. This will also make you differentiate good writing from bad ones. So the more you read, the more comfortable you will be with the written text and it will give you more confidence to write.
Another advantage of reading is that you will get to improve your vocabulary, as you will come across new words that you are not usually exposed to in everyday life. Do check up the meanings of the new words so that you remember them. And reading those words in sentences in a book will give you a better idea of their usage. Simply knowing the meaning of words is not enough to make you understand when and how they should be used.
Maintain a writing journal
To start writing, you need to have a place to practice your writing, and that’s where a writing journal will help. Try to write something every day, even if it is just a paragraph or a sentence. What is most important is that what you write are your own words, what comes to your mind, not something that you copy from somewhere.
In time, you will find that words will start to come easily to you and you will be writing more. If you read the biography of famous writers, you will realise that most of them were avid diary writers. So you can also start writing a diary as a way to practice writing. But do make sure that you write properly, using correct grammar, sentence structure and spellings. This will get you into the habit of paying attention to writing correctly, without the need to go through the piece again to make corrections.
To learn more about journalling, check out this article Why journalling is good for you.
Make a word book
A word book is a little different than the writing journal I detailed just now. In a word book, note down new words, phrases, sentences, etc., that you find interesting and would like to use in your writing.
You can combine and use one notebook both as a writing journal and word book, since it will mean there will be just one place to do all your writing and noting down of things. You don’t have to buy an expensive diary or journal for this, any notebook, even your old school notebook, will do. It just needs to be handy to carry around.
There are many ways to use a word book, but what helped me most when I started writing professionally was that I used it to note down new words, interesting phrases and sentences, especially those I really enjoyed reading and which I planned on using in my own writings.
I would also note down phrases, phrasal verbs and adjectives which were related to a particular genre of writing or topic that I wrote on frequently. For instance, if you are writing about music, you need to use particular words which are more suitable to express the qualities of songs and music, which would be very different from those used for food. If you have been noting down such words and phrases, it will be easy for you to simply open your writing journal and glance through the list and come up with interesting sentences. This will also help you a lot in your regular schoolwork and essays.
While I would suggest that you make a word book out of any notebook or diary, you can also make a digital one and save it on the computer. A word document or digital space will also be easier to use when reading online as you can easily copy words or phrases, their meanings and usage examples, and paste it on the document file you have made.
You need to know the rules of any language when using its script, so learning the basics of grammar is very important to write well. This takes time and practice.
English is not our first language, and the most common way to learn it and understand its grammatical rules is through grammar textbooks. Thus, your English language lessons in school are very important and you need to pay full attention to them.
To further consolidate your grammar learning, having a good grammar handbook at home is also very helpful. You need to study it from time to time and refer to it when there is any confusion. And there is also a much easier way to handle all the headaches of writing – just Google it! Yes, there are many websites that will give you the answer to your queries and confusions, but do make sure that you check only authentic ones, since not everything you find on internet is correct.
There are also many websites devoted to English grammar, so do go through them during your free time.
Research is needed when you are writing on a particular topic. A writing that contains authentic information and details is more impactful and impressive than something that contains random thoughts and unnecessary words just added to increase the word count.
Another advantage of research is that you will have ample information at hand, and then writing about it will not seem difficult. But you need to make sure that you arrange the information in a proper manner and write it in your own words, inserting your opinion and also mentioning your sources. Plagiarism or what is called “copy-paste” should be avoided like Covid-19.
Edit and proofread
Editing is an important part of writing. Editing means to revise what you have written in order to improve its grammar, organisation and overall flow. While going through the text, you need to look at how you can improve the sentences, remove unnecessary words, improve readability, and turn long sentences and paragraphs into more easy flowing crisp ones, as well as correct the grammar and structure of the whole text.
An easy way to spot problems in the structure of a text is to read it aloud. This will make you easily spot any gaps in the information or a difficult to understand sentence.
Do remember that editing doesn’t mean just running a spell check through the writing. That comes under proofreading, which you should do after editing. Let me explain more clearly — editing requires detailed revision to improve the content while proofreading is correcting of surface errors such as spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc.
Writing is a laborious process, but it can become a labour of love if you start taking interest in writing. With practice, writing will become easier for you. So don’t lose heart, try these tips and discover the writer in you.
Published in Dawn, Young World, September 3rd, 2022