Let’s face it, most people don’t enjoy writing. It can be intimidating to look at a blank piece of paper or a blinking cursor and know that you have to fill the page up. Many people are worried that others will judge them by what they write, so they either wait until the last minute, or don’t write at all.
This article is the first in a series that will show you how to go from blank page to polished essay or report. While writing can be a challenge, even for the seasoned professional, by following a few basic principles, anyone can become a better writer. (I’ll be referring to students and assignments, but these steps apply to reports in the work place as well.) Let’s get started.
I have been teaching English for over 10 years, and the most common issue I see with students who see me with questions about their assignments is that they simply don’t know how to start. They have an assignment and little else. Generally, we’d discuss what’s being asked, and that is enough get the words flowing. So how can you do that for yourself? For this example, I’m going to assume that you have a good understanding of the topic you’re writing about
You need to ask yourself some questions…
- What is the assignment? This may seem a bit obvious, but it’s very important that you understand what is being asked of you. Are you talking about English novels, American history, or last quarter’s sales figures? What sort of analysis are you expected to do? Do you have all the materials you need? It can be frustrating to be in the middle of writing, only to find out you need an important piece of information that you don’t have at hand.
- What is the question? Are you given a specific topic (Compare the cultures of ancient Greece and Rome) or something more vague (Select a chapter in your text book and discuss how it relates your life). If you have a specific question, you know exactly what you are going to talk about. If it’s more general, you’ll need to narrow things down first.
- If you don’t have one already, come up with your question. “Tell me something about two poems we discussed in class” is a common assignment. Your best bet is to think about things that interest you about what ever it is you have to write about. You will be spending time working on this, so you may as well write about something you like.
By taking a few minutes to make sure you understand what you need to do, you can avoid aggravation and save yourself a lot of time. Getting clear on what you have to do is a simple, but important first step to good writing. In the next article, we’ll be moving on to generating ideas to write about and avoiding plagiarism.