How to improve your writing

You’ll find your writing skills will improve as you get further through your studies, but at first having to do assignments and write using academic English can be a challenge.

As well as ensuring you understand your topic, plan your assignment and understand your learning material, ensuring your writing flows well, and uses good paragraphs and sentence structures is important.

How to make your writing flow

Good writing reads well or has flow. This is when the ideas that are being presented move smoothly from one to the other, and make sense to the reader. If you aren’t sure if your writing flows well, one test is to read it aloud. Does it sound OK? Does it make sense? Does one idea connect well to the next?

To ensure your writing flows well you need to plan the structure of your assignment. Think about:

  • What will you start with?
  • What are the key ideas you need to get across?
  • How could these ideas be grouped, or linked together to create a narrative?
  • How will you end?

As you start writing follow the plan, but don’t be afraid to move things around so that your ideas follow on from each other in a logical way.

Using transitions and linking words

To help make your writing flow, use transition and linking words or phrases. These can:

  • Connect words, sentences and paragraphs.
  • Show the relationship between ideas.
  • Indicate the order of things and their relative importance.
  • Indicate when something new is coming.
  • Signal to readers how an idea fits in and where it's going.
  • Introduce a summary or a conclusion.
More about flow

Essay flow - Massey University Online Writing and Learning Link website (opens in new window)

Five ways to create flow in your writing - Walden University Writing Center website (opens in new window)

Transitions - The Writing Center, University of North Carolina website (opens in new window)

Paragraphs

Good paragraphs are another important part of good academic writing. A good paragraph:

  • Contains a single idea or topic. If you start a new topic start a new paragraph.
  • Includes a topic sentence, which usually starts the paragraph. The rest of the paragraph tells the reader more about the topic and develops the idea by adding information, explanations, and/or examples.
  • Builds on the previous paragraph and leads on to the next (if relevant).

A paragraph also needs to be clear, logical and easy to understand. This means it needs to flow well. Each sentence should link to the sentence before, and lead on to the next sentence or idea.

Topic sentences

The key to writing a good paragraph is to write a good topic sentence. Good topic sentences:

  • tell the reader what the paragraph is about (the main idea or topic)
  • help to answer the assignment question by referring directly or indirectly to it. This focusses the essay and keeps it on track.
More about paragraphs

Paragraphs - The Writing Center, University of North Carolina website (opens in new window)

Paragraphs and paragraphing - Purdue Online Writing Lab website (opens in new window)

Sentences

Correct sentences tend to follow certain basic conventions. The most basic sentence includes a subject (who or what is doing the action) and a verb (the action).

More about sentences

Sentence patterns – The Writing Center, University of North Carolina website (opens in new window)

Improving sentence clarity - Purdue Online Writing Lab website (opens in new window)

 

Punctuation and grammar

Correct punctuation is important because it helps ensure that your meaning is clear and your writing reads well.

The sentence below is an example of a sentence where the meaning changes depending on how it is punctuated. A group of students were asked to punctuate the words: A woman without her man is nothing. 

  • Most men wrote: ‘A woman, without her man, is nothing.’
  • Most women wrote: ‘A woman: without her, man is nothing.’ 

When you are writing and aren’t sure if you have the punctuation right, try reading the sentence aloud to see how it sounds. This can help you work out if you have things in the right place.

Along with punctuation, grammar is an important part of ensuring your writing makes sense. Grammar refers to:

  • The way in which a language works.
  • The correct way to use a language.
  • How words fit together to form sentences and paragraphs.
  • How a language is used.
More about punctuation and grammar

How to improve your punctuation - Mondofacto website (opens in new window)

Brief overview of punctuation - Purdue Online Writing Lab website (opens in new window)

Dodge the grammar traps - Quality Web Content website (opens in new window)

Grammar Handbook - The Center for Writing Studies website (opens in new window)

 

Related information

 

 

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