10 Things Smart Students Do When Writing

10 Things Smart Students Do When Writing
Published on 27 August 2015

Writing may not be your cup of tea, but if you’re a student, you’re going to have to bite the bullet and drink up. And, no, we’re not recommending you take one of the increasingly popular “study drugs” like Adderall or Ritalin with that glass of acceptance.

As much as these kinds of brain boosters have been in the news lately for their widespread appeal among college students who haven’t been diagnosed with ADHD, it’s not smart to take a Schedule II prescription drug to improve your writing if you don’t actually need it. What is smart, though, is taking to heart the ten tips below. They’ll definitely aid you in taking your papers and writing pieces from meh to magnificent. The only side effect? Better grades!

1Don’t procrastinate (even if that’s your middle name).

Contrary to how it may seem at the time, starting your assignment early is way better than binge-watching your favorite series or Snapchatting what you had for breakfast. Avoiding an ill-fated all-nighter also allows you to work properly throughout the entire writing process, which will inevitably make for a better end product and a far less stressful experience.

2Clarify expectations.

If you’re one of those people who always has to be reminded to read the directions all the way to the end, this one is for you. Before you get cracking, make sure you understand exactly what your teacher expects from your writing. Figure out whether you need to analyze something, discuss different critical elements, summarize an idea, make a persuasive argument, or simply show off your creativity. Pinpointing the prompt will give you the purpose you need to move forward.

3Research like a boss (and be wary of Wikipedia).

Most student assignments demand fact-based supporting data, and even those that don’t will benefit from research. Make time to truly invest in the information-gathering stage of the writing process, and be sure to carefully evaluate sources along the way. The evidence you glean from this stage of the process is paramount to the success of your work.

4Plan your paper.

Don’t waste time on false starts; this only cuts into the hours of fun you could be having as a not-adult. Rather, develop a logical and thoughtful outline that can guide you in your writing. Having a blueprint will help you to see where you need to do more research, and it will aid you in avoiding writer’s block.

5Find your sweet spot.

As even the most accomplished writers will attest, finding the right environment is key to turning out awesome writing. Set yourself up somewhere where you can be comfortable, focused, and even inspired.

6Make your point.

We won’t go as far as recommending you underline your thesis statement (there are enough instructors harping on you about that), but the reality is that most student assignments require you to make a claim and then support that claim. You should be able to pick out the one or two sentences in your piece that illuminate this point clearly and concisely. You should also be able to see how the body of your paper provides evidence for this point. If you get to the end of your paper and there’s no clear takeaway, you need to revisit a few things.

7Work the system.

One of the most amazing benefits of an educational environment is the sheer number of resources at your disposal. Don’t be afraid to milk them for all they’re worth. Visit the writing center, take advantage of an instructor’s after-school or open office hours, and make those charming, bespectacled darlings behind the library desk your friends!

8“Write to express, not impress.”

This advice from Villanova University English professor Dr. Ellen Bonds is all about the KISS principle. That is, keep it simple, stupid. Students often use big words because they believe it makes them seem smarter. Unfortunately, research done at Princeton University not only disproves this assumption, it also shows that using more complicated language can make people come off as dumber. So, be smart and keep it clear and concise!

9Reserve time for revision.

Writing is a process that helps you think through ideas, so sometimes it’s only after you’ve finished that your most brilliant notions come to light. This is why revision is so important. Plus, putting a piece down and then returning to it allows you to gain some perspective on your work and to see the little errors that you were likely glazing over after hours of intense effort. This last bit is especially crucial if you’re turning in an assignment that will be marked down for spelling and grammatical mistakes.

10Roll out the red carpet.

In other words, make sure your final product looks polished. A well-formatted, well-organized piece communicates that you’ve put time and effort into your writing. Don’t turn in a crumpled, food-stained paper—this only overshadows all the hard work you’ve channeled into the assignment.

Are you a student struggling with other elements of writing? Tell us what you’re grappling with in our comment feed below and we’ll try to address it in a blog post.

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