4 Tips to Improve Your Writing Skills
By Ashford University Staff
We all make mistakes. Even the sharpest minds will misspell a word or forget a comma when typing an email or an assignment. However, if you’re prone to errors you risk being labeled (fairly or unfairly) lazy and forgetful by co-workers and colleagues. This assessment could shake your confidence and cause you unneeded stress every time you start a new writing project.
So what steps can you take to improve your writing skills?
Writing is a process, and one that you must practice in order to excel at, according to Michelle Lekkerkerk, Lead Technology Writing Consultant at Ashford University.
“I like to think of writing skills as a muscle; you’ve got to work out and exercise in order for it to get stronger,” she said.
Avid readers tend to develop a “writer’s eye” that allows them to identify and retain new grammar lessons merely through exposure.
“By reading, you can see how professionals craft sentences and convey their ideas, and it gives you something to emulate,” according to Lekkerkerk. “In general, if you want to write well, you must read well, and you must read widely.
“Think of it this way: a writer who doesn’t read is like a musician who doesn’t listen to music, or a filmmaker who doesn’t watch films. It is impossible to write well without experiencing good writing.”
Use Nearby Resources
For Ashford University students, the best help they’ll find is at the Ashford Writing Center. In addition to monthly webinars, students are able to access everything from style tips to punctuation and grammar guides. Students can also email their writing or grammar questions to the center’s Writing Consultants.
Proofreading Your Work
When it comes to proofreading your work, let’s get one thing straight: Autocorrect cannot save you. If you’ve ever Googled “Autocorrect fails,” you know that to be true.
According to Lekkerkerk, students do not often realize that proofreading and editing is the final stage of the writing process, not an afterthought. Because of this mindset, she said, many students don’t allocate enough time to checking their work. That’s what leads to an abundance of overlooked misspellings, typos, homonyms, and awkward phrasing.
Here are Lekkerkerk’s suggestions for when it’s time to proofread:
- Take a break
Allow yourself some time between writing and proofreading. Even a five-minute break can be productive because it will allow you some distance from what you have written, so you can return to your paper with a fresh eye and mind.
- Read your writing out loud
Reading what you wrote out loud to yourself can help you catch both grammatical errors and awkward organization or development of ideas. By putting yourself in the role of the audience, you can hear what does not "flow" or make sense. Chances are that if you stumble while reading a sentence, there is an issue that needs to be addressed. Also, look closely at transitions between your ideas and paragraphs. Do they jump from one point to another or flow smoothly?
- Get others involved
Asking a friend or family member to read your paper will let you get another perspective on your writing. Also, a fresh reader will be able to help you catch mistakes that you might have overlooked.
- Run Spell Check
When you’ve completed the above steps, run Spell Check so that you can quickly find spelling and grammar mistakes in your writing.
If you’re still not confident that your paper, email, or discussion board post is perfect, follow the steps again. You may also consider running your paper through an online writing tool, such as Grammarly.
For additional help with your writing, reach out to the Ashford Writing Center.
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Written by Jason R. Latham, Content Manager for Bridgepoint Education