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Tips to Become a Better Writer

Tips to Become a Better Writer

by Dr. Nicole B. Dhanraj
February 21, 2017

Are you considering writing more this year? Do you wish to become a published author? If so, check out my Coauthoring: A Pathway to Publication article. If you read that and/or are already on you path to publication, I have some tips for you to become a better writer this year. This can help for both academic and nonacademic writing.

1. Find a peer editing buddy. This person may be an experienced person or a newbie. Not only can this person provide content feedback, but engaging such a person is a great way to keep you accountable to your writing goals as well!  A peer editing buddy can be anyone. A friend, a colleague, a mentor, an acquaintance; anyone. After I completed my doctorate, I asked my mentor if she would help me get started in exchange for credit on my paper. I also reached out to colleagues I met at various conferences that had similar writing ambition to see if they would be willing to spare an extra set of eyes. This extra set of eyes is helpful in a number of ways:

  1. Comprehends the intent of the paper.
  2. Determines whether your arguments are clear, well supported and fit together cohesively.
  3. Understands what the writer is saying.
  4. Recognizes the thesis statement and determines whether the supporting information supports the thesis statement or whether it drifts away from the main idea.
  5. Provides feedback on weak areas or paragraphs that need more or less emphasis.

Once you find a peer editing buddy or you serve as one, it is important to remind them (or yourself) that peer editing is not an opportunity

  1. To influence the writer of your own opinions or thoughts on the subject.
  2. To be judgmental and overly critical.
  3. Let the writer restart from scratch to change the direction of their thoughts.

As a writer, once you receive your peer’s feedback, you then analyze it. What are they saying? What are they asking you to do? What revisions will address their concerns? If your reviewer dissected your paper to bits, don’t be discouraged. Address one area at a time. If you feel the reviewer was too critical, engage more feedback, see what other reviewers think.  I will remind you to be thick skinned and not take the criticism personally. This is professional critique to propel your skill to the next level.

2. Identify the area you want to improve. For me, its synthesis, that is, how I analyze my resources. The way I have been working on improving this is through reading a lot of journal articles. Also, I started reading dissertations because I feel these are well scrutinized and criticized by mentors. Doing so helps me to understand how these writers used the “MEAL” or ICE to structure their ideas within their sentences.

3. Use resources that address the areas you want to improve. Perhaps you need a style guide, a structure guide, or a real life guide, such as a writing mentor. Whatever it is, choose a resource that addresses your weakness.  I will share some of my favorites. Using these alone will improve your grammar, sentence construction, language choice and formatting.

  1. Grammar girl:  www.quickanddirtytips.com. Available free online and has a podcast version.
  2. Grammarly:  www.grammarly.com. Available as a free or paid version. The free version is quite good.
  3. Getting back to the basics : a good review is https://www.york.ac.uk/media/study/schoolsandcolleges/sixth-form-resources/how-to-improve-your-academic-writing.pdf
  4. Purdue Online Writing Lab: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/01/
  5. Facebook Groups. Depending on your interests, there are many groups out there that you can join. I am always able to find a tip or two or reach out for help. I am a member of Make a Living Teaching Online, PhD Women’s Network, Walden University Support Group, Capella Doctoral Cohort, Ph.D Sisters. Some of these are closed groups, so you will need to request permission. Your school writing center. This is an excellent resource with a wealth of information.

4. Just write. Whether for fun or not, just start to write. I don’t usually create an outline every time I write, but outlines are helpful and can save you considerable time. Both ways of writing are useful though. If you choose to use and outline, it is better if your outline is detailed. This way your thoughts and research are focused and avoids you chasing the rabbit down the rabbit hole!

5. Set writing goals. I am not a very structured individual, I enjoy chaos…well somewhat ☺. However, when it comes to writing, I set writing goals. Consequently, I am able to stay on track and not let time slip away from me. When establishing your writing goals, make them specific. Don’t say, “I want to write an article by the end of the year”. You can start broad like this, but then break this down further to be more specific. What does it take to write an article by the end of the year? What type of article? How long will it be? Which journal will you seek to publish? To answer such questions, you will need to set writing goals to accomplish certain tasks need each month, each week or even each day. This forces you to be on the right track for accomplishing your writing goals.

I used to feel writing is a chore and I had lacked the skills to be ANY kind of writer. Over the last year, I conquered many of my writing fears. I was able to fulfill my dream of being a published writer as well as a participating as a blogger. My next goal is to write a book by the end of the year! I better get started on setting my writing goals. If you are looking for encouragement or a peer editing buddy, please email me @ This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.