John Maguire is a famous American writer and journalist who teaches students to write better. In his interview to University of California MOOC teacher Barbara Oakley, he shares his experience on how to make any kind of writing - be it fiction, journal article or academic work - significantly better. If you’re interested in detailed interview, go to the course page and find it in the last week, and here we will mention the most important points.
. This at first may seem counter-intuitive, as we tend to think of good writing as of writing filled with ideas, not objects. The thing is, all ideas can be expressed in terms of objects, and a good writer will try to find physical, tangible things to express his ideas with. Try to avoid words finishing with “-ion” and “-tion” like nation, communication, contemplation. It’s not to say that you need to avoid them completely. However, overuse of such words may make your writing over-abstract and more difficult for a reader to understand. John Maguire teaches a trick called “ladder of abstractions”. On the top of this ladder are abstract ideas like “nutrition”. On the bottom are actual things like oranges, eggs, tomatoes, etc. Any idea that you want to communicate can be expressed via objects. Try to incorporate more objects into your writing.
Write in style. Writing well is a matter of choosing a good style. And style depends on the kind of words that you put into your writing piece. Try to use words that express your ideas as clearly as possible. For example, besides putting in more objects, put in active verbs. Make some action on your page. Put people, and name them. If you’re writing academic article, put names of researchers or important people that proposed certain ideas, solutions, conducted research, etc. Try to make your writing personal and engaging.
. In English, we don’t use long words or sentences to show that we’re smart. Smart writer will communicate his ideas in a way that they are understood by his reader. Therefore, use short words instead of long ones, and use short sentences. So, as John puts it, stop trying to be impressive and start trying to be clear. Once you’re clear, you will be impressive. It requires a lot of mastery to write clearly on complex matters. You might have noticed that the best teachers are those that have the skill to convey elaborate ideas in simple words and images, so that even beginner could understand them. That’s exactly what you need to do if you want to be a good writer.
To become a good writer, you need to be immersed in a kind of writing style that you want to adopt. Pay attention to those people whose writing you admire and try to learn from them. Pay attention to how they word their ideas. Pay attention to their vocabulary, structure of sentences, stylistic features. Try to imagine that you’re that writer. How would he or she write about things that you need to write on? What words would he or she use? Be immersed in a good writing to become a better writer.
Draw mind-maps, diagrams, make lists of objects, write down random ideas. Don’t get too tensed trying to squeeze out words. Stop and take a break. Take a walk, shift your focus of attention. Go to Wikipedia and browse on your topic. Research, read. Then, stop trying to write something important and write something clear. Your job is to convey your thoughts to the reader, and not to confuse the reader with repetitions or inappropriate information.
Who will be reading your paper? A person who will be reading your paper will look for information or answers to their questions. Try to present them as clearly and simply as possible.
What do you like to write about? How about writing a short 100-word piece about what’s on your mind? Remember, you ain’t gonna become a great writer unless you actually write.
And of course, if you need advise or support from our academic writers, contact us for essay writing help.