When you’re at elementary school an enormous amount of time and effort is dedicated to developing your writing skills.
But if our high school experience is anything to go by, developing our writing skills grinds almost to a complete halt at high school.
It’s probably fair to say that, if you are a naturally good writer then that’s great, but if you struggle with English and your other subjects that are language-heavy, then you might find yourself on struggle street when it comes to writing essays, and that there’s not a whole lot of help available.
If your teen fits the latter description, then this is a problem, because being able to write well is SUCH an important skill.
Not just for the purpose of passing exams, but for everything. Being able to communicate clearly and concisely is an essential skill to have at college / university, and in whatever career your teen ends up pursuing.
There may be good news though — it is often basic (but crucial) principles of writing that are overlooked.
This means, we shouldn’t expect your teen to start churning out best-sellers like they’re Jodi Picoult, but we think — with the right tools — any teen is capable of learning to produce a well-structured, well-expressed piece of writing.
If you think your teen’s writing skills are lacking, it’s our hope that the 3 simple rules below will, at the very least, help them to write essays that are structurally sound and easy to follow.
Rule 1: 1 point per sentence
This might sound ridiculously simple, but teens seem to get it in their head that shoving as many points as possible into one sentence makes them sound smart, when sadly only the opposite is true.
Simplicity is in fact the key when it comes to clarity. One point per sentence is a good rule to follow. As a guideline, your teen’s essay sentences probably shouldn’t have more than two commas in them. More than this and the sentence is likely to become convoluted and confusing.
Help your teen keep their sentences short and to the point, and immediately their writing should evince greater clarity.
Rule 2: Use correct prepositions
Prepositions are linking words. Things like since, for, by, with, between, despite, onto, of, until, etc. They’re words we never think about. We take them for granted. But unfortunately, we often use them incorrectly.
You might see you teen writing something like “he was told off from [instead of by] his parents”, or, “the girl took pride of [instead of in] her achievement”. (Confession time: When we read over things we’ve written we still use incorrect prepositions, which is why it’s so important to proof-read!)
This can make an otherwise acceptable sentence confusing and clunky, and leave the reader with the impression that the writing isn’t up to scratch.
Rule 3: Less is more
I love this quote from Miles Davis (others have probably said it too!), and even though this isn’t an article about jazz, it still sums up this third rule perfectly.
Verbose writing is not fun to read. It screams at the reader that you don’t really understand what you’re writing about so you’re going to take five sentences to explain it instead of two.
Whereas, being able to convey or explain an idea in as fewer words as possible (but still thoroughly) is one of the hallmarks of something well-written.
Learning how to write more concisely is something your teen can develop overtime. Don’t expect them to produce beautifully written pros overnight.
It’s probably best if they start off simply — when they’re reviewing their work (a draft essay, perhaps), get them to ask themselves — is there a better way to word that sentence? or, is there a way I can make this point using fewer words?
Implementing these three rules and developing better writing habits will take time, but as you can see, they’re quite tangible and straightforward skills, so we have no doubt your teen is up to the task.
Have a chat with them about these three rules, and revisit them next time your teen has to write something for school to see if they’ve taken them on board.
Image Credit: redcargurl on Flickr