So you’re starting your freshman year of college. How exciting!
Obviously you want to start your first year off strong, and distractions will start to multiply as your time in college progresses. The best way to combat those distractions is to master some key skills right off the bat that will carry you to graduation. One of these crucial skills is writing.
College writing tips
No matter your major, minor, or interests, you are going to have to write at least one paper throughout your college career. If you have no idea how to start producing a piece of writing, don’t panic – there is still time to learn. Hold these 11 writing tips close for the next couple of years and secure that degree.
Master grammar and style
Because you are now dealing with college-level courses, you need to be writing at a college level. It might seem obvious, but some people still need to hear it. Use proper grammar when writing, and make sure you know which style you need to be writing in (AP, MLA, etc.). There are guides for any style you will be faced with, so if you are unfamiliar with the one you are expected to write in, it might be worth investing in one.
There is a time for exclamation points, emojis, acronyms, and slang, but your college essays aren’t it. Don’t overuse exclamation points, avoid including any images unless asked, and spell everything out. Don’t overuse bolded words and italics for emphasis. The more you use them, the less impact the emphasized text has. Being formal is a good indicator of how seriously you are taking your work and the course, and that effort means a lot to professors.
Be wary of plagiarism
When relaying thoughts from your research into your own writing, be aware of plagiarism. Plagiarism is the act of taking someone else’s work and passing it off as your own. It is a nasty act that is extremely looked down upon in the academic world. Plagiarizing can cost you a good grade in a class or your place in a university.
Sometimes, plagiarizing can even happen by accident. Understanding how to avoid plagiarism is a good skill to take into your college writing career.
It is also important to run your writing work through a plagiarism detector to ensure that there are no traces of plagiarized content. Copyleaks, which is an online plagiarism checker also offers an essay checker, which can prove to be very helpful while writing and turning in assignments.
Copyleaks also allows you to take a trial for the plagiarism checker free of cost. With 10 free pages to scan each month, it makes Copyleaks one of the best free plagiarism checkers to test before making a purchase.
Stick to the point
As you grow more passionate about your work (or if you don’t really know what you’re talking about), it can be easy to ramble. As you are writing and revising your work, make sure you are being as clear and concise as possible. Stick to the point and avoid unnecessary fluff.
Here’s a little secret that might be hard for some to swallow – nobody cares about how many big and fancy words you know. True knowledge is shown through the ability to portray your thoughts in as few words as possible. Get your point across quickly and concisely, and get the grade you want.
Use your resources
Chances are, there are countless resources available to you on your campus that are there to help you with your writing. Take advantage of what is available to you. It takes some extra effort, but it is always worth it.
Here are some common writing tools that you can find on a college campus:
- The library: Visit your campus library when doing research, and ask the librarians or research assistants for help looking for certain texts.
- The writing lab: Somewhere on your campus there is a group dedicated to helping students become better writers. Go meet with them – that is what they are there for.
- Your professor: Go see your professor during their office hours. Not only does this stick out to professors that you are making an extra effort, but you will likely walk with a solution to your problem. Make sure you come with specific questions. Don’t just sit down and say, “I need help.”
- The internet: This one is the simplest option – use the internet! Look up some examples of what other people have written on the same topic.
Prepare with an outline and sources
The best way to start a college essay is with an outline. Lay down the groundwork for your writing and collect the necessary resources before getting started with the actual writing part. This will keep your work organized and give you more specific and broken down research queries. Make sure to keep track of every source you use. This way, when it comes time to document what you used to do research, it is all in one place.
Related: Learn how to properly cite sources for school.
Grasp the assignment
Make sure you have a firm grasp of what the assignment is asking of you before you start writing. As your work progresses, refer back to the assignment guidelines to ensure you are still on track for what it is asking of you. This will help you gather your ideas, but also save you from the trauma of realizing you didn’t complete an assignment as requested after spending hours working on it.
The worst thing you can do when given a writing assignment is putting it off to the last minute. Start as early as you can. Your professor might assign intermediary deadlines where you will need to turn in a topic, outline, rough draft, etc. Even if they don’t, use a calendar tool to help you set deadlines for yourself and block off times dedicated to working on those goals you set for yourself.
Revise, revise, revise
This is arguably the most important writing skill any college student can master – revising. Revise both during and after your writing is complete. Write a paragraph and revise it. If you are picking back up where you left off yesterday, revise what you wrote the day before. Having a fresh set of eyes on your work will almost always result in you finding something offbeat that doesn’t necessarily sound right. Make sure to read your writing out loud when revising. Do this as much as you have time for.
Ask for feedback
In addition to revising your own work, ask a friend or classmate to look it over as well, especially if this person doesn’t have much knowledge on the topic you are presenting. If they aren’t grasping your writing, maybe you need to explain your concepts more clearly. Also, they might just pick out additional mistakes that you have missed.
Sharing your writing with friends, classmates, and professors is easy using document creation software, where you can create, edit, and share your writing. When shared, other users can hop in, make their own edits, offer suggestions, and add comments.
Lastly, be confident in your writing. If you have an original idea, express it. If you have an argument against something, make it. Writing is all about expressing your own thoughts, and if you aren’t confident in what you write, you can’t expect to do it well.
Getting help from a ghostwriting service is common and now a growing practice amongst the student bodies. This is not just highly frowned and condemned upon, but also can lead to punishment in many cases. Forbes writes an interesting article titled, “The Business Of Higher Education: Who’s Cheating Who?“, which can provide further resources to read on this topic.
Becoming an effective writer definitely does not happen overnight, so don’t expect that. However, if you browse these 11 tips before every writing assignment you receive in college, you will be on your way to reaching your writing potential.
Mary Clare Novak is a Content Marketing Associate at G2 in Chicago. A recent graduate, she is happy to be back working in her favorite city. In her free time, you can find her doing a crossword puzzle, listening to cover bands, or eating fish tacos.