Five Steps to Better Writing | Edutopia
Facebook
Edutopia on Facebook
Twitter
Edutopia on Twitter
Google+
Edutopia on Google+
Pinterest
Edutopia on Pinterest Follow Me on Pinterest
WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Five Steps to Better Writing

1 24 Views

During my college years (1974-76) a young professor gave me these simple steps to help students revise their compositions. The steps give the students a concrete action plan that can be repeated and understood. Many of my students have improved their writing skills through these simple revisions. The steps then become reminders of what a good writer does.

1. Find the first word of each sentence and write it in the left margin of the paper.
a. This helps you count the number of sentences in your paragraph – You should have at least 3 to 5 sentences that are related in a good paragraph.
b. This allows you to quickly find out if you are varying the first words of your sentences. It also tells you if you have run-on sentences.

2. Put a circle around all “Ands” that you have written.
a. The “and” indicates that you are writing a list, compound subjects, or compound predicates (verbs). Do not put “and” between two sentences that would better be combined to make an excellent complex sentence. I went to work and then I came home - BORING… Make it something more exciting such as:
“After a long grueling day at the office, the thought of sitting in my recliner reading a book sounded fabulous.”
b. Change the “ands” to another conjunction; separate the two thoughts with a period and a new sentence; or simply add an appropriate transitional word.

3. Underline the use of the verb “to be.” Iit is hidden in the forms of its conjugation: am, is, are, was, were, be being, and been.
a. Many times the use or overuse of this verb indicates a use of passive voice rather than active voice. Ex.: The ball was hit by the boy. This sentence is “passive.” The ball didn’t do the action; the boy did the action. Therefore, we should write – The boy hit the ball.
b. Too many “is” in a series of sentences means that the writer has used short, choppy statements that could be combined into a longer more meaningful complex sentence. Ex: My name is Jose. I am from Mexico, I am living in Winnemucca. When you could write, “After living in Mexico for 10 years, I have moved to Winnemucca.”

4. Avoid repetition of words that seem to pop up frequently in your writing. Try to use a variety of words.
a. You notice that all of your sentences start with the word “I.” Then you need to go back and change the sentence to eliminate that word.
b. Go to a Thesaurus or stretch your mind to think of another way to express what you want to say.

5. Make your adjectives (descriptive words) and adverbs (position or degree of use) words colorful and exciting that paint a mental picture for the reader.
a. Go over your writing and look for overly used words such as good, bad, or nice and try to think of a more descriptive or colorful way to express that thought. I did bad on my assignment – could read “I bombed the test again.” That is much more specific and tells a better story.
b. The word “very” can be changed to many other words such as extremely, highly, overly, wonderfully, truly, etc. There are many words in the English language from which to choose. Look for a new one to learn!


This post was created by a member of Edutopia's community. If you have your own #eduawesome tips, strategies, and ideas for improving education, share them with us.

Print
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • Share

Comments (1)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Gaetan Pappalardo's picture
Gaetan Pappalardo
Teacher, Author, Guitar––Word.
Facilitator

Thanks for sharing. However, these steps were never "easy" for me. I learned to write through writing...I really never knew what I was doing (the names of things and such). Maybe if I had a list like this one, it would had helped me. On the flip side, I list like this probably would have turned me off to writing. As a young writer, I enjoyed poetry because of the "no rules" factor. Too many teachers pointed out my grammatical errors and never really said, "Man, you're a creative writer or your content is excellent." It was always about the grammar. My mom edited so much of my writing, but she would always say, "Gaetan, I could never write would you just wrote, but....here, put a comma there." And that inspired me to keep writing. She acknowledged my strengths helped with my weaknesses.

Gaetan

blog Teach Empathy With Digital Immigration Stories

Last comment 3 hours 33 min ago in Social and Emotional Learning

blog Learning to Work and Think Like an Artist

Last comment 45 min 24 sec ago in Arts Integration

blog Learning With Nature

Last comment 1 day 15 hours ago in Environmental Education

blog Inspiring Progress Toward Learning Goals

Last comment 6 days 19 hours ago in Brain-Based Learning

Discussion Guide on the Side(lines)

Last comment 2 days 7 hours ago in Teaching Strategies

Sign in to comment. Not a member? Register.