Keep it simple
When you write, particularly when you are writing a finished product such as an essay, book report, or speech, etc., use the structures you know.
Remember the old adage, “Write about what you know.” Well, this works with technical aspects as well.
There is no need to artificially complicate your sentences just to seem more academic or “more intelligent.”
To be honest, when writers do this, they tend to reduce the quality of their writing rather than enhance it.
I have seen students who spend a great deal of time trying to “perfect” very weak arguments or assertions with complicated language and massive (and unreadable) sentences. This method does not work! But don’t worry, as you learn a wider variety of sentence structures and paragraph structures, you will be able to effectively incorporate them into your finished products.
In the meantime, write well with the tools you have.
Focus on the goal
Keep your mind on your goal.
What do you want the reader to gain from your article?
If it is an essay, you are arguing for a certain point of view or supporting your opinion.
If you are writing a speech, you might be informing the reader or trying to persuade him/her to take a certain action.
(Often written work can have more than one purpose, but there is generally a dominant one.)
If you need to write an essay or report for a grade – again, keeping your mind on the goal is important. Don’t worry about the grade. If your writing is well done and you have conveyed the message you intended, then the grade will follow.
Remember that the goal is the whole point of your writing! Don’t let it slip through the cracks. Your message is far more important than fancy language and complexity.
But how do you improve?
You might be asking this question, “How do I improve if I don’t try to write in a more complicated manner?”
There are multiple answers, but let’s start with the improvement bit.
With each new article, you can “stretch” yourself. While working on rough copies or drafts, you can experiment with longer sentences or new structures. Always read your work aloud to “hear” if it sounds right. You can also ask yourself this question: “If someone walked up to me and said this, would I know what he/she was talking about?” (If the answer is “no,” then you still have some work to do.)
Of course, reading to someone or having someone else read your efforts can be helpful. If the person has no idea what your sentence means, then it is generally the wrong way to write that sentence.
(I have read many students’ articles for courses or information that I have never studied myself. Of course, I might not understand very technical details of an obscure course; however, the sentences and language should still be understandable. Basically, anyone should be able to read your paper and gain some insight from it.)
Another great idea is to record yourself and then listen to your article with your eyes closed. Does everything make sense to you? Do the sentences move smoothly from one idea to the next? Is there a satisfying conclusion that leaves you feeling that your main point has been adequately explored?
Your journal writing is another awesome place to experiment. It isn’t so important if your sentences fall apart or if they lack the finesse of a finished product if the writing is just for yourself.
Reading back over old journal entries you can see how much you’ve improved but also how much you might still need to improve. I know people who have read their old writing and have no idea what a particular sentence means!
Of course, you can take courses that specifically address writing skills.
Ron – well, a slightly younger version! 🙂
You could hire a tutor to give you some specific direction and help along the way. A good tutor will assess your current abilities and then provide you with a program that will bring you the results you desire.
Here is a great place to start: Paragraph Writing Lessons
Video: Writing – Keep it simple!
Ronald J. Johnson
Director – L.T.L. Tutoring Central