My third grade teacher was wrong about how to write (and I didn’t need a therapist to say that!)
Think about the first time you had to write a composition about what you did for your summer vacation.
How many pages of blue lined paper did you ball up after only a few words scrawled at the top of the page?
Do you still have writing demons you can trace back to elementary school that keep you from creating your best work?
If so, you’re not alone.
Despite good intentions, many teachers instill their students with writing habits that hold many of them back from communicating effectively.
Conquer these 5 Writing Misconceptions with the related help to take your writing to the next level.
5 Writing Misconceptions
Use the advice following these 5 writing misconceptions to overcome the bad habits your third grade teacher taught you.was wrong about.
1. Have a carefully detailed outline before you start
While outlines can guide your writing, sometimes they’re just too cumbersome. As a result, you spend more time creating the outline without getting a single word on the page. So don’t hold your writing captive to your outline!
Instead, can you see the major points of your argument in your mind’s eye?
Then, jot them down before they vaporize.
Shape your thoughts before you start in whatever way works best for you.
It’s important to know where your writing is headed so you don’t spend time on irrelevant detours.
2. Start at the beginning
This is notion causes people to keep writing and rewriting their first sentence.
Instead start writing where you have the energy for your writing.
Are you excited about the middle section?
Then start there!
In my experience, forcing yourself to write in the order that it’ll be read isn’t the most efficient way to write. Sometimes you just need to start writing and the rest will flow and fill in.
3. Get it right the first time
Nothing could be further from the truth!
Strong writing requires rigorous editing and rewriting.
If you’re on deadline, you might not have time to finely polish what you’ve written. That said, you can print it out, get a cup of coffee and go through it at least once to get rid of awkward sentences and extra words.
4. Use the biggest word you can find
You need the most descriptive word, not the fanciest. If you don’t know what adjective to use, think about the object you’re trying to describe and use those words. For example, instead of the light blue sky, use the faded denim sky.
Never use a ten-dollar word when a ten cent one will do.
Don’t write like my eleventh grade classmate who had to read his papers aloud in English class. Since the teacher couldn’t pronounce all the long, complicated words he stuffed into his work.
Plain simple words your audience understands are most effective. If your readers don’t understand the words, they’ll miss the meaning of your writing or skip it altogether.
5. Be neutral
Were you taught to strip any emotion from your writing like you were a machine?
Often this type of writing sounds stilted and boring.
Simple declarative sentences where there’s a clear subject (aka: person or thing) are the most effective. The more specific you are, the better.
If your writing is cleansed of anything sounding like a real person, it fails to engage readers. By being specific, your writing becomes more universal and accessible to your audience.
5 Writing Misconceptions Conclusion
To write effectively, it helps to have an idea to have some notes to about where your writing is going. Start writing wherever you find the energy takes you. It doesn’t have to be the first sentence of the piece.
Next, use simple, descriptive words that your audience understands. This will get your points across. In fact, the shorter, the better. Add your point of view and emotion in the form of specificity.
Lastly, edit, edit, edit.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on November 5, 2011. It was updated on August 12, 2021.
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