Writing is a skill that many students — and even professionals — struggle with. There is a difference between knowing how to form a sentence and knowing how to write it in a way that truly resonates with readers and sustains their interest. When considering how to become a better writer, it’s important to understand that improving your writing abilities can be a long process that requires a great deal of practice and a lifelong willingness to improve.
In This Article:
- Get Started Becoming a Better Writer
- 5 Ways to Become a Better Writer
- Writing Tools and Resources
- Improve Writing Skills With ACE Centers and Learning Lounge
Get Started Becoming a Better Writer
First, let’s take a look at why you should explore ways to become a better writer. In other words, why exactly are writing skills so important?
As a student, your writing ability will prove critical for maintaining good grades. Even if you plan to pursue a STEM major, you’ll need to be able to write well-organized papers that provide clear information and advocate for a particular point of view in a coherent and engaging way. If you’re a humanities major, then you should expect to be given paper assignments quite often.
But, it’s important to know how to write well outside of school, too. Even if you have a technical sort of job, you’ll likely need to write reports, emails and other forms of communication. Furthermore, in your personal life, you’ll find it valuable to know how to express yourself clearly. Poor writing skills can easily lead to miscommunications and, consequently, misunderstandings.
Now that you understand why it’s important to know how to become a better writer, you should know that one of the first steps you should take has nothing to do with writing — or at least, not your own writing. The human brain is like a sponge soaking up information from various external stimuli each day. In order to become a better writer, you’ll need to treat your brain to a regular reading habit.
Set aside some time — perhaps 30 minutes — each day to read something beyond your assigned reading for class. An argument could be made that students should try to focus on reading the classics, such as books by Mark Twain, Harriet Beecher Stowe or George Eliot. Although reading the classics is certainly a laudable endeavor, it may not actually help you become a better writer in modern times, given the old-fashioned language in those books.
Instead, focus your efforts on modern literature. Choose a genre you love; historical fiction, literary fiction, fantasy or science fiction will all help you improve your writing skills equally well.
How exactly will daily reading help you become a better writer? Every time you read a book by an accomplished writer, you’ll subconsciously soak up its writing conventions, structures, style, syntax and grammar. The more you read, the more confident you’ll be with the English language when you’re writing.
5 Ways To Become a Better Writer
1. Take a Few Minutes for Reflection
Before you put pen to paper — or fingers to keyboard — you’ll need to organize your thoughts. If you’re writing a paper for school, carefully review the instructions for the assignment. Even if you write an excellent paper, you’re likely to receive a less than ideal grade if you fail to follow the instructions. In other words, if you’re asked to write a paper about your favorite invention, don’t write it about the theory of relativity, because technically that isn’t an invention.
Once you understand the assignment, the next step is to identify your angle. An angle is like your argument. For example, it isn’t sufficient to decide that you’re going to write about axolotls. You need the “why” behind the information.
You can often find your “why” by researching your topic. While you’re researching axolotls, for example, suppose you discover that they are a critically endangered species of salamander. Perhaps your angle will be that axolotls should not be kept as pets, or maybe you decide to advocate in favor of keeping axolotls as pets, but only when these animals can be sourced from ethical breeders who never take the animals out of the wild.
2. Prepare an Outline Before Writing
Among all of the ways to become a better writer, one oft-overlooked step is to prepare an outline. An outline will help you become a better writer because you’ll be better able to present your ideas in an organized fashion with a logical flow. For example, if you’re writing about axolotls, you’ll first need an introductory section to provide an overview of these animals, followed by a section that discusses their critically endangered status.
There are many methods for creating an outline, including:
- Bullet point ideas: Jot down ideas or topics that could be a part of your work using a bulleted structure
- Draw a bubble map: Brainstorm related ideas and topics using a bubble map
- Make a flow map: Draw a flow map to visually understand what will be in each section
3. Know When To Avoid Writing in Order
Even if you have a solid outline, you may find yourself feeling stuck when you begin writing the paper. For many people, the introduction can be the most difficult section to write. If you find yourself stuck, skip the introduction and begin writing the conclusion first.
Why start with the ending? Typically, the ending is where you’ll sum up your argument and try to leave your reader with a strong impression of the writing. If you write the ending first, you may find that you’re more focused when writing the rest of the paper.
After writing the ending, work on the body of the paper. Lastly, write the introduction. Strive for an engaging first sentence that grabs your reader’s attention with an intriguing, little-known fact or statistic — or even a question, if appropriate.
The potential pitfall with writing out of order, however, is that your sections may lack good transitions. Be sure to end and lead each section with a strong transition.
For instance, if you have a section discussing the critically endangered nature of axolotls, you might end that section by asking the question: “Given that axolotls are nearing extinction, is it ethical to keep them as pets?” The next section should then open with a sentence either in favor of or against keeping axolotls as pets.
4. Edit and Proofread Thoroughly
When learning how to write better, the biggest step you may tend to overlook is editing and proofreading. When editing, look for the “big picture” stuff, such as an organized and coherent flow.
When proofreading, look for common grammatical errors like using "you're" rather than "your." It’s best to set your paper aside for at least a day or two, and then come back and edit and proofread with fresh eyes.
5. Have Others Proofread Your Work
It is always good to get feedback from others and have a new perspective on your paper. If you have classmates, friends or family members who are willing to check your work, ask them for their honest feedback.
There are also various writing programs that can help you such as ThinkingStorm. Students at Grand Canyon University (GCU) get 10 prepaid hours annually to help with tutoring that includes a submission-based writing support option.1 This option can be beneficial for online students who need to work on other projects or have a day job.
Writing Tools and Resources
There are several ways to format a paper, and it's important to understand the differences between each one. For example, some classes require the use of APA or MLA style. Some colleges may even provide templates for various required styles of writing, such as those listed at GCU's Student Success Center.
Improve Writing Skills With ACE Centers and Learning Lounge
If you still feel like you’re struggling with the writing process and you aren’t getting the results you had hoped for, it may be time to reach out for help. If you’re a student at GCU or you are a K-12 student in the local area, you’ll be pleased to know that GCU offers numerous resources to strengthen academic skills, including writing for students.
GCU has several Academic and Career Excellence (ACE) Centers across its campus. The various locations are open for students in need of tutoring. On-campus students can take advantage of these locations for any subject because each location caters to a different range of subjects.
The GCU Learning Lounge is a great resource for students of K-12 programs in need of tutoring. The Learning Lounge provides online and in-person tutoring to improve a student’s skills, including reading and writing. Getting an earlier start on creating well-written papers can give you an advantage that may benefit your college experience.
At Grand Canyon University, it’s our mission to deliver great educational programs to nurture students as they become the servant leaders of tomorrow. Our Student Success Center offers a variety of tools and resources to support students along their academic journeys. Students at GCU can choose from a range of modern degree programs, including the Bachelor of Arts in Professional Writing for New Media degree, which prepares graduates to confidently enter the job market as skilled writers.
Begin exploring the possibilities at GCU today by filling out the form on this page.
1 Retrieved from ThinkingStorm, ThinkingStorm Online Tutoring in August 2021
Approved by the English department chair for the College of Humanities and Social Sciences on March 9, 2023.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.