7 Tips To Improve Your Writing — From An English Major

Most college students dread writing research papers, essays, and scholarly pieces. Even when undergrads choose the topic, they must adhere to strict guidelines. Students often procrastinate, resulting in a halfhearted quality. As an English major, I’ve written research papers, short stories, analytical essays, creative pieces, poems, scripts, and articles. When it comes to my assignments, I follow a precedent that makes my literature accurate and professional.


Reread Everything

Proofreading Checklist


Sometimes the deadline is minutes away, and other times you’re too lazy to reread your ten-page research paper. By the time you finish typing your essay, you are ready to be done. Yet, reviewing your work is vital, even if the assignment is only a few sentences. Professors, employers, and readers always know when a writer didn’t look over their work. By taking a couple of minutes to reread, you will discover dozens of word, punctuation, and spelling mistakes.


Revise and Edit

grammar police


When you reread your paper, revise and edit simultaneously. Once you see a mistake, correct it immediately. If there is a word, phrase, or sentence that you are hesitant about, make revisions. The majority of the time, uncertainty revolves around word choice, word use, or a grammatical mistake you don’t know how to fix. Take advantage of Google Docs and Microsoft Word’s spelling and grammar checks for additional critiques. Use the A.R.M.S. method of editing, an acronym that stands for add, remove, move, and replace.


Use Grammarly



The software Grammarly assists in sentence structure, grammatical accuracy, punctuation, spelling, and more. There are three versions available—one that is free and two that require a monthly payment. For the free version, all users need to provide is an email account. You are present with dozens of suggestions once you upload your work. While the bulk of Grammarly’s suggestions are accurate, I don’t always agree with the software’s comma use or diction. I recommend reviewing each critique. Click here to download Grammarly.


Benefit From A Thesaurus (Or Two)



Whenever I am writing, I always have an online thesaurus opened on another tab. This tool helps writers find alternative words to avoid redundancy. There are two great websites I love. PowerThesaurus.org allows users to enter short phrases, while Thesaurus.com accommodates words that have multiple meanings. Don’t hesitant to search for synonyms, definitions, and examples. Those who enjoy going old-school may prefer a physical book.


Understand Basic Grammar Rules

Grammar rules


  • Eight parts of speech: noun, pronoun, verb, adjective, adverb, conjunction, interjection, preposition
  • Comma splices, sentence fragments, run-on sentences
  • Dangling modifiers, misplaced modifiers, squinting modifiers, disruptive modifiers
  • Punctuation
  • Correct and incorrect comma use
  • Staying consistent with verb tense
  • Point of view (first, second, third limited, third omniscient)
  • Common misconceptions (there, their, they’re;  its, it’s;  your, you’re)
  • Subject vs. predicate
  • Every sentence must serve a point
  • Avoid wordiness

There are hundreds of websites and YouTube videos that clarify this information without confusing learners.


Create a Variety of Sentence Types



The four types of sentences are simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex. Keep readers on their toes by using all of them at random. Writers must know the difference between an independent clause and a dependent clause to understand the four sentence types.

An independent clause is a statement that makes sense by itself, whereas a dependent clause does not. Dependent clauses must be attached to an independent clause to form a grammatically correct sentence. They contain “extra words,” such as after, before, if, when, because, since, although, that, etc. For instance, “I walked the dog” is an independent clause, while “after I walked the dog” is a dependent clause and not a full sentence. Below are explanations and examples for each of the four types of sentences.

Simple Sentence: Contains one independent clause.
“I walked the dog.”  “Mary went to church.”  “We brought chicken sandwiches to the picnic.”

Compound Sentence: Contains two or more independent clauses and no dependent clauses. Each independent clause must be connected with a coordinating conjunction (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so) or a semicolon.
“Josh went to the park, and Jake visited his grandmother.”  “Nicole loves pink; she dislikes yellow.”

Complex Sentence: Contains one independent clause and one dependent clause.
Although he is usually afraid of plane rides, he decided to toughen up.”  “She has been heartbroken since her uncle died.”

Compound-Complex Sentence: Contains at least two independent clauses and at least one dependent clause.
When he won the Bingo game, he collected his money and danced in the middle of the room.”

The website Grammar Revolution offers more information on sentence structure. 


Remove and Replace Repetitive Words

Typing on a laptop


Everyone repeats words, and this becomes apparent when rereading and editing. To minimize repetition, press the “ctrl” and “f” keys on the computer, which opens up a search bar. Type in any word or phrase and the number of times it appears on the webpage or document is counted and highlighted. For more information, read 5 Reasons Why “Control-F” Is Your Best Friend for Productivity.”

Below is a list of synonyms for a few cliché words:
Said  —> yell, state, call, praise, mumble, muddle, ask, answer, told, joke, explain, describe, claim, remark, insist, mention, declare, speak, reply, utter, point out, inform, discuss.
But —> yet, however, so, although, even though, nevertheless, on the other hand, meanwhile, contrary.
Like —> appreciate, cherish, enjoy, thankful, grateful, love, admire, wish, desire, adore, prefer, favor.
See —> look, glance, peer, notice, recognize, watch, observe.
Things —> stuff, belongings, possessions, items, gear, equipment, property, goods, supplies, personals, collection, baggage.

Reader’s Digest recommends finding alternatives for these boring words. Other overused words include that, because, but, which, when, much, more, many, most, like, though, enjoy, use, help, important, best, very, & said.



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