1. Pay attention to the directions and the prompt.

Too many students glance at a topic and get an idea in their head without really paying attention to what the assignment is really requesting. They then take off on whatever tangent has popped into their head and end up writing a paper that doesn’t really fit the prompt or answer the question. Spend some time analyzing the prompt and directions. Write them in LARGE PRINT at the top of your prewriting page to help remind you as you compose and to keep you focused on the right things.

2. Take the time to pre-write.

Spend some time jotting down your ideas. You don’t have to use a formal outline or graphic organizer but at least concentrate on the subject and write down a few points before you tackle the full paper.

3. Be yourself!

Use your own language, not someone else’s. Don’t try to use words you don’t know in an effort to impress. Never plagiarize! If you want to include a quote from someone else’s work, be sure to document it appropriately.
If you are writing about your own experiences or opinions, don’t be afraid to show your personality through your writing. This will keep your reader interested and make them want to know more about what you have to say.

4. Check your work.

Once you have completed your essay, check and double-check your grammar, spelling, and word usage. Word check tools don’t catch everything. After you have checked your writing, have someone else read it and check it as well. Take the time to revise and edit as necessary. A polished piece of work is much easier to read and usually results in a better grade.

Sharon Carlton

is a retired teacher who worked in middle and high schools. She has devoted much of her life to helping young minds flourish and discover their potential.