how to write essay

How To Write to Write Exceptional Papers for College

Ever since I was in fourth grade, I’ve gotten a strange satisfaction from correcting people’s writing.

Now, this isn’t to say I don’t make my own mistakes, but there’s just something about writing and editing that gives me an odd sense of joy. Grammar and spelling errors stand out to me, typically prompting shouts of “die, die, die!”

I’m a microbiology major and I’m one of only a few STEM majors who work at ASAP Writers. When I first started as a columnist at the beginning of the semester, I didn’t expect to like writing so much.

After all, science is my strong suit. However, this semester has been very eye-opening. So eye-opening, in fact, that I’m considering changing my major to journalism or communication.

College has helped me realize how important writing is to me. It’s always been a big part of my life, but it took writing columns here to make me realize it.

If college encouraged my love of writing, why does it seem to do the opposite for so many of my peers? What is it about writing that college students collectively hate?

The obvious answer is 20-page papers. Very few of us (myself included) enjoy sitting down and writing page after page about whatever topic a professor feels is relevant.

Plus, the pain of writing a long essay increases exponentially the longer it is procrastinated. Whether you choose to admit it or not, many of us are guilty of this writing faux pas and it makes essays all the more horrendous.

Unfortunately, writing assignments can’t really be avoided. If you are in one of the few majors where you don’t have to regularly write long essays, I commend you on your choice.

Given that you will inevitably have to write essays, what else do people find so repulsive about writing? Stringing words together on paper to sound pretty shouldn’t be so difficult, but for so many people the mere thought is dreadful.

Many students may have an aversion to writing because they associate it with punishment, said Brooklyn Walter, coordinator of WSU’s Writing Center.

“We used to have a lot of students in the Writing Center who were writing essays for Student Conduct about what they did wrong when they plagiarized,” she said.

When teachers leave seemingly mean comments on students’ papers, this too makes students fearful of writing their thoughts for someone else to read, she said. Seeing comments on a paper that have been line-edited for spelling and punctuation can leave students believing they are horrible writers.

“A lot of students are also traumatized by negative comments on their writing,” Walter said.

If you aren’t sure how to properly put your thoughts into “academic written English,” it can feel like putting together a well-written paper is impossible. Getting stuck on phrasing prevents many students from wanting to write because they feel incapable of communicating their ideas.

“We have so many obstacles in front of our ideas and most of them are self-imposed,” Walter said.

Getting past those obstacles is simply a matter of knowing tricks that can help make writing more manageable.

The most important tip is to avoid procrastination and get started early.

“If [students] don’t like to just sit down and write … use other modes to get going,” Walter said.

Taking photos of main ideas, sketching out important points, organizing with sticky notes and recording yourself talking about essay content are all good ways to begin the writing process if you have trouble getting started.

Color-coding can help students be more strategic about the structure of their essays. Highlighting main points or areas where the prompt is addressed throughout the body of an essay can make it easier to rearrange ideas later for logical flow, Walter said. The Writing Center can help with this process.

“[It’s] like a dress rehearsal for your paper,” Walter said.

Having someone else read a paper before you turn it in can help you catch mistakes and make you feel more confident in the writing you have produced.

Read your essays out loud when you are editing them, Writing Center Consultant Heather Schilling said.

Using Google Translate or another text-to-voice program to read your essay back to you can be particularly useful when your eyes have glossed over from reading the same thing repeatedly.

Writing can admittedly be painful. Find tricks to make it more bearable for you and don’t be afraid to ask for help, whether it be from a friend, professor or consultant at the Writing Center. Lastly, don’t hold yourself to an unreasonably high standard because that can prevent you from writing anything at all.

“There’s an assumption that a written document needs to be perfect, grammatically, which is nonsense,” Walter said.

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