Good academic writing comes from two primary sources: a great deal of practice and using the right methods.
While there are no shortcuts to the first source (the only thing you can do is write as much as possible and gradually improve your style), you can save yourself a lot of time by adopting the right methods early on.
Of course, with enough practice, you will gradually work out the best ways to do things on your own, but it will take much, much longer.
Therefore, you should try to pick up good advice wherever you find it. In this article, we will cover some useful essay tips that will immediately help you improve your writing and skip over many mistakes you would have otherwise made.
Do Not Be Afraid to Use Wikipedia
Most teachers and professors do not treat Wikipedia as a valid source to be used in academic writing and often directly warn you against using it when writing an essay.
In a sense, they are right – although the information on Wikipedia is usually relevant and reliable, it is still can be edited by virtually anybody, and occasionally, you do stumble upon articles containing biased or outright false claims (although it usually happens only with obscure topics).
However, you should not shy away from using it, as long as you understand what you can and cannot do with it.
Firstly, while you should not quote it directly, Wikipedia is an excellent source of background knowledge on a subject you do not know much about.
Secondly, most Wikipedia articles have a reference section where you can find legitimate sources you can freely use and cite in your essay and boost your essay writing skills.
Learn the Stylistic Requirements before You Start Writing
Although you sometimes hear about “academic style” or the “style of academic writing”, the truth is that different schools, colleges, and even individual teachers and professors have their ideas of what is and is not acceptable in an essay, which ultimately teach you and strengthen your essay writing skills.
For example, some of them say you should not use the first person at all, others say that you should avoid it where possible, still, others do not believe it to be important in any way.
So, before you start writing, make sure you know all the stylistic requirements so that you do not have to rewrite anything at the eleventh hour.
Eliminate or Replace Weak Words
Weak words are, well, weak. They do not add meaning and lack strong connotations.
All they do is bloat up your word count – which is exactly why many students fall into the habit of using them.
They allow you to make your essay look big without saying anything in particular.
Some examples of weak words are:
- Verbs “to be” and “to get.” “To be” is a default verb to use in many situations, which is why you should avoid it wherever possible. E.g., instead of “I was busy last night,” write “I worked through the night.” The same with “to get.” Replace it with something more individualized, like “to bring” or “to offer”;
Most specialists agree that adverbs add little to the text while bloating it up an slowing down its pace.
It does not mean that you should blindly eliminate every adverb in your writing, but whenever you see one, ask yourself, “Do I need it to drive my point home?”
If you doubt it, get rid of the adverb in question.
Learn to Recognize Clichés
Clichés are phrases that were creative once when they were first coined, but in the course of time were used so often that they lost almost all meaning.
As a result, by now they naturally roll off the tongue but add little to no meaning and expressiveness to one’s speech.
“Avoid like the plague,” “move at the speed of light,” “it is what it is” are common examples of clichés.
Learn to recognize them in your writing and take some effort towards replacing them with something more original.
Do not Force Yourself to Write Linearly
The reader will perceive your essay from the beginning to the end, but it does not mean that you should write it in the same way.
If you are stuck and currently do not know how to proceed with your current idea, do not try to go on at all costs.
Jump to a different section of the essay and write it to get back to that place later on.
You will have plenty of time to stitch individual elements together and make them work as a cohesive whole later on.
Write in This Order: Body, Introduction, Conclusion
Following the previous tip, do not feel obliged to start writing your essay with the introduction.
It is a difficult and unrewarding task because you essentially try to sum up your essay before you write it.
Chances are, you will have to rewrite it anyway, so do not bother with it to begin with.
Start with the body, then, when you know what your essay is going to be about, write the introduction postpartum. The conclusion will follow naturally after that.
Although these tips will not turn you into a pro overnight, they will still help you avoid many mistakes and ineffective strategies.
Follow these suggestions, and you will be in a much stronger position to acquire skills and abilities to develop your writing style.
I hope the above Tips and key points will improve your content writing or essay writing skills in some or other way.