Writing papers is a part of college, regardless of major, so in this piece, I’m going to share some editing and planning tips to help make your essay better. There is no way to really teach good writing, but there are definitely ways to make writing less painful.
Planning is huge. Before you even start writing, list three or four main ideas you want to accomplish through this essay or topics you want the reader to remember after they finish reading. After listing what you want this paper to accomplish, make an outline.
Outlines are extremely underrated because many of us can sneak through a 3-page paper without really needing an outline. However, when the word counts grow, it becomes harder to organize every idea and detail in a way that flows well. Use an outline. The format of this is going to differ person to person, but this is simply a way to organize your ideas in a way that make sense to you.
From here, just start writing. Even if it’s terrible, write, then edit later. Editing is also huge in writing papers. Editing and getting your paper where it needs to be really is up to you. I have good news though: editing is easy.
Personally, my favorite ways to edit include highlighting “forbidden” words, making note of confusing sentences, and taking a look at the piece in and of itself to see the overall quality. The idea of “forbidden” words is a concept I learned in high school that is actually life-changing. Yes, I do use the forbidden words more than I should, and it differs how often they can be used based on the context of the piece.
The forbidden words include “it,” “things,” “stuff,” “a lot,” “that,” and “you.” I highlight every single time these words are used, to see how over-used they are in my papers. I then edit and find other words to get my point across. By no means do these words have to be entirely taken out, just don’t overuse them.
The next tip for editing is reading aloud sentences that are choppy and fixing them so they will flow well. I even recommend reading the entire essay aloud or have a friend read it aloud to you. We often read over mistakes that when heard aloud, we notice immediately.
At the end of this planning, writing and editing, ask yourself if you answered the prompt. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had the sentence “does not answer the prompt” written on my essays. This is the most crucial part of the piece, and such a simple way to guarantee you receive the credit you deserve.
What I love about Baylor is how willing people are to help you, for free. At the end of editing, go to the Writing Center, or email the piece to your professor to see what they think before grading. Some professors even offer extra credit for you to reach out to them because you're showing them that you're making an effort in their class and in your writing. A new set of eyes can catch a mistake that you otherwise would have missed.
Writing is not easy, and not everyone’s strongest suit and that is OK. (Math is NOT my strongest suit). However, there are steps to take that improve your writing without hardly any effort. The sad truth is that we all have to write in college, so as we get into research paper season, use these tips to improve your grade.