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Effective Writing Skills: A Boost for All Students

Your student is likely in the throes of writing this term — from term papers for class to internship essays to summer job inquiries. Effective writing skills are quite necessary, as professors, employers and others in your student's life require writing that is clear, concise and clean.

The simple tips below can help improve writing skills, one step at a time. One caveat, though: professors and others may require specific writing styles for projects that don't exactly adhere to the general tips below. Make sure your student finds this out before plunging in.

Be Specific. Just like a reporter, communicate the "who, what, where, why, when and how" of what needs to done. Stay objective and factual unless you've been specifically instructed to use subjective language.

Avoid the Passive Voice. Instead of writing "The program was planned by Dane," write, "Dane planned the program." This makes it more clear and less awkward.

Be Concise. There's no need to be long-winded. Get to the point and steer clear of too much "fluff" in your writing. You'll lose readers if you spout off too long!

Get Things Right. Take great care when spelling names, getting titles correct and other specifics. And also make sure that you do a careful proof of your work. Spell check doesn't catch everything.         Attribute the Words of Others. If you're quoting someone, put quotes around her words and tell where you got the information. Don't take credit for words other than your own.

Know When Formal Language is Required. If you're writing an informal note, it's fine to use contractions ("don't" instead of "do not"). However, if you're writing for a more formal audience, like a scholarship search committee, be more formal with your language. Don't use contractions, steer clear of slang, don't use abbreviations or symbols, and avoid clichés.

Don't Go "And" Crazy. When you're trying to cram a lot of information into what you're writing, it's easy to insert "and" many times. However, this makes for a real run-on sentence that is poor form and hard to read. So, if you have more than two "ands" in a sentence, consider turning that long sentence into two shorter ones instead.

Make Things Match. If you're referring to one person, then don't use "they" later on. Make your tenses match throughout your writing, instead of using "did" one time and then "does" the next. And your singular/plural references should jive, too.

Sources: CommSkll/WritingSkills.htm,



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