The title of this post might seem presumptuous to you. Surely you don’t become a writer: you’re born one. That’s a common assumption about artists. We believe that people who write or sculpt or sing are born with an innate ability for their craft, that perhaps their education had less influence on their artistic success than the capabilities endowed by their creator. And this expectation—that natural talent ultimately determines performance—prevents those of us who didn’t pen Nobel Prize-winning novels at age 12 from ever writing our own story.Read More
I was recently helping someone with a comparative essay they had to write for school. This person did not like writing—a common enough state of affairs. They felt that they had no talent for it. The process frustrated them. I could see that they were struggling in part because they were trying to do everything at once (come up with ideas, write grammatically sound sentences, discover their own thinking and opinions on the topic at hand).Read More
A meritorious lexicon is imperative for perspicacity. Or, in plain English, a good vocabulary is important for understanding things. It helps you in your education and your career—and, for our immediate purposes, on standardized tests.
But it can be tricky to memorize a slew of words you don’t understand, especially if you don’t see or hear them all that often. When’s the last time you said to a friend that something seemed, say, “diaphanous,” “multifarious,” or “truculent”? Beyond reading widely and memorizing flashcards with fancy words on them before bed each night, what can you do to increase your vocabulary?Read More
Every paper you write in college should have it. Sometimes professors call this a “thesis statement,” sometimes a “claim,” and sometimes they don’t really specify what it is. But it’s essential — and sometime elusive. But it shouldn’t be!Read More
Tags: expository writing
We've all been there. The teacher is at the front of the classroom with a pile a blue books. She begins handing them out. You scrawl the name and date on the front, and wait for her to start the timer. As you open the first page, an overwhelming white page stares back at you. And you panic.
Luckily, there are ways to prepare for essay exams that make this moment easier. Believe it or not, is a matter of remembering steps -- simply master the approach and practice it, and you will do better. Promise.
So what are the steps?Read More
When I was a high school AP Biology student, my teacher used to walk by my desk during multiple choice exams and whisper, “You didn’t really mean to circle B there, did you? Keep it simple.” He knew I was an overthinker. Instead of circling the simplest and most obvious answer—which I often knew to be the right one—I would overthink the question, until I’d talked myself in to a trick wrong answer.Read More
It’s not unusual to get an essay back from a teacher with the feedback, “write in your own voice,” scrawled across the top. But it’s easier said than done. Here you are, writing your own thoughts and your own opinions, all according to the directions of the assignment; how can it not be in your own voice? What your teacher is actually telling you is that your writing sounds too formulaic, too stilted, or too bland. Sure, you’ve learned how to write using proper grammar and you’ve learned how to formulate and format your thoughts into an essay, but now you need to take it to the next level. Don’t stick to the formula; write in your own voice. Here are a few tips for getting started.Read More
Very few rules of good writing are without exceptions, and this one is no exception, but I think it might be close:
You can always — or nearly always — make your writing stronger, clearer, and sharper if you follow the word “this” with a noun.*Read More
I’m going to tell you something embarrassing: I… sometimes… get my news from Facebook! I know, I know, I’m supposed to be better than this. I’m a tutor! I should be waking up three hours early to read every single paper from around the world while looking through a reference dictionary. I’m not perfect.Read More
Tags: expository writing
After you receive your grade and read your professor’s comments you might have a lot of those “if only” thoughts. “If only I had looked up that concept.” “If only I had taken extra time to proofread that.” “If only I had read the assignment more carefully.” “If only I had started earlier and done more research.” “If only I had realized I was contradicting myself.” “If only I had re-read the class reading before starting to write.” Then suddenly the film of your life starts to run backwards. You are back 4 days before the assignment is due and have all the knowledge you have now! Fantasy, right? Not necessarily. Quite often professors will:Read More