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5 Tips for Becoming An Advanced Writer

Many students struggle to master the art of writing at an advanced level. Often, we are taught in school that the key components of a good academic paper include a thesis, a few supporting paragraphs and a conclusion. However, synthesizing a somewhat abstract idea into a thorough argument involves more than checking off a list of basic criteria. But don't worry! Becoming a better writer is not an impossible task. Contrary to popular belief, writing well is not contingent upon a person being passionate or even naturally gifted in writing. Rather, a good writer is able to use diverse language, critical engagement and exhibit an overall clarity about the topic being discussed. 

Here's a list of five writing tips to help you improve the quality of your work.

1) Use a thesaurus. 

This tip might seem very obvious, but in my opinion, thesauruses are an underutilized tool that can easily elevate any student's writing. Many papers suffer from a lack of flow and maturity in the choice of diction. Something may be "common," but it may also be "pedestrian." Yes, it may be "fitting," but it may also be "germane." By avoiding repetitive and vague language, your paper will sound more sophisticated and direct which is always attractive to a reader (ie. the teacher grading your work.)

2) Aim for Clarity not Originality

Indeed we all would like to think of ourselves as the first to ever do something. But chances are that if you are writing a book report on a work written by a wonderfully important author, your thoughts about their work may already be shared by millions of other readers of that same work. This is not necessarily a bad thing. It could simply mean that you, as well as many other people, are understanding the work in the way that the author may have originally intended. Therefore, don't get too caught up in trying to invent a new meaning to something that you have read and instead try to develop a clear and complete thought about the work. 

3) Streamline Your points

As someone who thoroughly enjoys using words, I can tell you that it is sometimes easy to bury yourself in them. When you want to sound impressive or maybe just when you're in a good mood and feeling passionate about a topic, your paper may veer off into being unnecessarily verbose. Writing as much as you can, can definitely be useful in the planning or first draft stages of a paper. However, when it comes time to create a final draft, you may want to take a critical look at some of the thoughts you've written down and allow some phrases to be cut. In fact, it is a sign of true mastery for one to create a lot of meaning in only a few lines.

4) Engage with More Sources 

When you are required to research a topic to help in writing a paper, don't be afraid to utilize many different (reputable) sources. It can be edifying to your own understanding and also an invaluable way to support the claims that you make in your paper. The more you know about something, the more you will have to say about it. Also, make sure to find sources that contradict your opinions as well. This allows you the opportunity to refute your own claims and strengthen your argument. 

5) Don't Let Planning Get in the Way of Writing

Even as someone who is finishing her Master's Degree, I can tell you that over-planning can really stifle progress in completing a paper. Especially when planning really becomes a clever method of procrastination and eventually makes the task seem more daunting than it actually is. When you feel like you have a good idea of what you want to talk about, or even when you don't, start putting those thoughts down on paper. If you start early enough, you will always have time to revise your work and create a satisfying and complete end result.

Good luck and keep writing! 

Maya H
Stellar Biology & English Literature Tutor
Boston University
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