How Do I Make My Writing Sophisticated?

But, how do I make my writing sophisticated? 

I hear these kinds of questions, especially from high school or university students.  They feel that their writing should now “sound” more intelligent, so they add all kinds of words, clauses, and phrases that tend to do quite the opposite!

Here are better ways to improve the quality of your writing:

Make your writing clear. light-bulb-clear-bayonet-fitting-725x544

Make your writing concise.

Make your writing understandable

Provide support, detail, explanations, anecdotes, and so forth to help the reader understand your argument, point of view, or opinion. Spend time to fully understand your own thoughts and connections to the material so that you can write about the ideas intelligently.

These are far more important than complicating the issue.

When students, or any writers for that matter, force their writing – the quality becomes worse.  Making something “sound” more complicated than it really is does not help the reader (or the teacher ) in any way.

Your ideas can be original and attractive, but they don’t heed to be mired in arcane language or complicated sentence structures that lead the reader nowhere.

I have read students’ essays that aim to impress, but the writing is so convoluted that the meaning is lost.  When I ask them to explain, they often say, “I’m really not sure what I meant, but doesn’t it sound good?” Their hope is that the teacher or professor will find something in that mess to admire.  This is a very poor method!Ernest Hemmingway

Some of the best writers, in fact, make a concerted effort to ensure that their writing is as uncomplicated as possible. That does not mean “dumbing-down” (as one of my students said to me recently).  It means that you are doing your job to help the reader comprehend your intentions.

It is the ideas and thoughts that are important.  You want the reader to be impressed, or at least persuaded, by your argument, opinion, or description.

If the reader does not understand your work, he or she will not be impressed.  (Although I have heard people say, “He must be a great writer, I couldn’t understand a word of it!”)

Work on sentence structure and grammar.  Make sure you follow the basic rules and conventions of writing.  Don’t think of the rules as restrictive. Recognize that they actually free the rest of your mind to be creative in thought, networking ideas, and expounding upon your take on a particular topic.

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Brush up on the basics and apply them well, and you will see higher grades.  Better yet, the quality of your writing will continue to improve.

Of course, as you become more proficient, you might notice that your sentences are longer and more “sophisticated,” but they retain the clarity of purpose as well.

Most of all – keep writing!

As with any skill, you get better with practice, especially if you pay attention to the weak spots.  Try to take on constructive advice and make the necessary adjustments to keep reading-86070_1920improving.

For more information, lessons, and programs check out the website.


This week’s video:  “How Do I Make My Writing Sophisticated?”

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Topic Sentences – Location, Location, Location!

Topic Sentences – Location, Location, Location!

At the beginning.

In blogs, videos, and my courses, I have often mentioned that the topic sentence of a sunrise-1756274_640paragraph should be at the beginning of the paragraph – often the first sentence.

While this is true in many cases, it does not HAVE to be the first sentence of a paragraph.  When writing essays for grade school or secondary school, teachers generally expect the topic sentence of body paragraphs to come at the beginning. The concluding paragraph has a restated or modified thesis statement at the beginning, and this serves as its topic sentence. Of course, the introductory paragraph is a bit of an exception.  It often starts with a “grabber” and/or focus statement, and the thesis statement (serving as the overarching topic sentence) comes at the end of the paragraph.

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For most stand-alone paragraph writing exercises in school, the expectation is for a topic sentence at or near the very beginning of the paragraph as well.


Having said all that, topic sentences can come at any point within a paragraph – even in academic writing at times.

At the end.

You can place the central idea at the end after several supporting sentences that have end-812226_640made the case for your argument or point of view. This can be especially useful in argument paragraphs because it leads the reader to your conclusion drawing them in with your amazing proofs and supports.

You knew you were amazing, right?  Of course.

Placing the topic sentence at the end of your paragraph can be effective in expository paragraphs as well. Leaving the central idea until the end can have a dramatic effect that attracts the reader to keep reading.

Of course, even if your topic sentence or central idea is withheld until the end of the paragraph, you still need to ensure that you have unity and coherence.  All the supports that come before the topic sentence need to be relevant and transition from one to another in order for the whole package to have the desired impact on the reader.  Remember that you have to “lead” them to your central idea and convince them with your message.

Nowhere – and everywhere.

Even more bizarre!

Some paragraphs don’t have the central idea explicitly stated at all! nowhere

This is often the case with narrative writing (relating a sequence of events) and sometimes descriptive writing.  This is especially true in fiction writing where many academic rules are “stretched” or broken.  You can imply the central idea with descriptions, action, dialogue, and so on. This is not to say that you never use topic sentences in fiction, but one topic sentence might serve several paragraphs rather than just one.  The continuity is important and, frankly, trying to generate a new topic sentence in the midst of a “flow” of description does not always make sense.

There you have it.  Topic sentences are not as stable as you thought.  They can move around from place to place.  Sometimes there are a couple of introductory sentences before a topic sentence as well.  Generally, I wouldn’t say the topic sentence comes in the middle of a paragraph, but it can be within it.

Still, for most academic writing, I recommend sticking to having the topic sentence at the beginning of most paragraphs.  It will serve you well.

When writing fiction, you have more freedom – but keep in mind that you still need to help the reader find your central idea using whatever techniques you choose.

Do you want to write more?  Do you want to improve your writing? Contact me, and I will set up a personal program for you. reading-86070_1920


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Don’t Hate Math!

Many students say they hate math.

Don’t hate math!

Math can be your friend.


For one thing, math always works, if you work it well.

A.   1 + 1 always = 2

B.   5 + 8 – 3(9) – 6 x 4 always equals -38

If you “plug in” the right numbers and do the right operations, you will win!plug-1459663_640

That is a great comfort.

It means that you can get 100% on a math quiz or test.  Yes – YOU!

Try to do that on an essay.  It’s tough.

Numbers don’t lie That is why they can be your friend.  They are reliable.  (Of course, people can use numbers to help them lie.  I realize that.)

Build a foundation.

Math skills are built one upon another, so starting with a strong foundation will always help you. 

Trying to multiply fractions will give you a headache if you don’t know how to emotions-2167461_640multiply whole numbers.

Trying to complete question B above will give you grief if you did not learn about order of operations.

Yes, it does take some time to strengthen the foundation and work your way toward the more complex questions.  Unfortunately, students often find themselves in a grade that they cannot handle, and this is the frustration.  They feel like they are banging their heads against the wall, working harder and harder and falling further behind.  Until they have the opportunity to step back (perhaps more than a few steps) and establish that base, they will never truly grasp math.  Worse, they will continue to hate it for the rest of their lives perhaps!

What a shame because…

You can conquer math.  The following tips are taken from my Student Survival Guide.  This free booklet is available for registering on the website.  Just click on the title above.

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Strategies to help you get started on your LOVE of math

Read all explanations, directions, and examples carefully. 

Take a piece of scrap paper and write out a couple of the example questions, write out each step, write out the conclusion following the example in the book.  This procedure ensures that you really do know each step. 

Use scrap paper to do many rough calculations

You can always transfer your work to “show your work” once the question has been roughed out.

(If you are using a calculator, record each step on a piece of scrap as well, so you don’t lose your place within a longer question.)

Whenever possible connect new material to tasks already learned.

Monitor frequently.

Keep monitoring yourself to make sure you are understanding the passages or directions and examples you just read.

Stop, re-read, self-test – as often as necessary to grasp the concepts.

Frequent reviews, while important for all academic courses, are especially important for math.

Do not skip over entire sections you don’t understand

Mathematics tends to be cumulative (one skill built upon another), leaving out one of these building blocks will inevitably bring your entire construction down. 

In other words, you will be lost when it comes to more complex math later this term or next year. 

Get help if you need it.

(Watch for Discount Coupon below!) 

If you are unable to “work out” the math problem using your notes and textbook, ask someone, a teacher is best. 

Teachers know how they want you to approach certain tasks, so they are the best   teacher-2985521_640          resource for explaining the procedure. 

However, if the teacher is not available, a parent, another knowledgeable student, or a tutor may be able to help you. 

Don’t be afraid to tell someone that you don’t understand.

Having said this, don’t give up right away.  Make sure you have honestly tried to figure out the procedure.  The best way to truly learn mathematics is to work with it. 

Nobody simply looks at numbers and immediately grasps the concepts of algebra or geometry.  You must learn to be patient and spend time with the procedures, rules, and steps.

Many students think math is boring.  They think it is boring because they are trying to memorize everything rather than work with the numbers and concepts, understanding mathematics more holistically.

Try to get comfortable with math; bring it closer to you – it won’t bite.  Once you see how stable and reliable it is, you might find yourself falling in love with math after all. 

Next week, I will be writing Steps to Working Out a Math Problem

As always, I am here to help.  Check out the website and feel free to e-mail, ask questions, or leave a comment. 

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This week’s video:  Don’t Hate Math!

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