When you’re at elementary school a huge part of the day is taken up with developing your writing skills.
But if my memory serves me correctly, developing our writing skills grinds almost to a complete halt at high school.
I don’t know where in the world your teen goes to school, but at my high school, if you were naturally a good writer then yay for you, but if you struggled with English and stuff involving written words, you probably weren’t going to improve a whole lot…
And if your teen fits the latter description, then this ain’t good.
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 university and in whatever career your teen ends up pursuing.
From the essays I’ve read of the students I’ve tutored, often basic but crucial principles of writing are overlooked.
I’m not saying we should expect your teen to start churning out best-sellers like they’re Jodi Picoult, but I don’t think it’s too much to expect them to be able to produce a well-structured, well-expressed piece of writing.
Wouldn’t you agree?
If you think your teen’s writing skills are lacking, then it’s my hope that the 3 simple rules below will help transform them into a regular wordsmith.
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 the key. One point per sentence is a good rule to follow. As a guideline, a sentence shouldn’t have more than two commas in it. More than this and it inevitably becomes convoluted and confusing.
Help your teen keep their sentences short and to the point, and straight away their writing will read so much better.
Rule 2: Use the right 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, teens 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”. In fact sometimes when I read over things I’ve written I still use incorrect prepositions, which is why it’s so important to proof-read!
Rule 3: Cut Cut Chop Chop
As Miles Davis said, less is more. And even though this isn’t an article about jazz, it still sums up this third rule.
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.
Writing concisely is something your teen will develop overtime. Don’t expect them to nail it overnight.
They can start off simply – when they’re reviewing their work, 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?.
All of these things will take time to develop. But have a chat with your teen about these three rules, and go back to them next time your teen has to write something for school and see if they’ve taken them on board.
Image Credit: redcargurl on Flickr