Writing tips for anyone who puts pen to paper or fingers to keyboard

December 8, 2014 | Posted in: Early Learners, Elementary, High School, Middle Years | with 0 Comments

In our electronic world, everyone can be a writer.

From blogs to Facebook posts to tweets, there’s a place for everyone who has access to the internet to publicly express themselves.

But does everyone do it well? No, hardly.

Chances are you’ve cringed at a Facebook post or email riddled with spelling and grammatical errors. There are times, no doubt, when the errors stand out more than the message. And when someone has something important to say, the memorable part should be the message – not their inadvertent mistakes.

The reality is that stringing words together is the easy part. Saying it well, and correctly, is a different story.

We started thinking about all this when a colleague sent us an email that included a link to a story titled, “40 Incorrectly Used Words That Can Make You Look Dumb.” The article is directed at people who write for business and referenced some fairly common errors, such as “affect” vs. “effect,” and “farther” vs. “further.” But it’s helpful guidance for anyone who puts pen to paper or fingers to keyboard.

We shared the 40-words list with our children, because we want to give them every opportunity to avoid looking dumb. We also wanted to remind them that people’s perceptions of them can be influenced by their writing. Also, their writing can be a reflection of their individuality, both inside and out of school.

Writing is a craft, and good writing is an art. As with any other skill we want to learn, practice makes perfect. Or at least better.

There is no magic wand that you can wave to improve writing overnight, but encouraging children to practice is certain to help them improve. There’s far more to good writing than knowing which word to use when, and which ones when used incorrectly can make you look dumb.

Here are a few tips to help you help your teens develop their writing skills:

Encourage your kids to write.

The best way to improve writing is to do it often, and in any form. An email to a grandparent, a Facebook post about an activity or a blog post on something that interests them can help teens see how everyday life provides opportunities to practice writing.

Let your teenager see you write, and share your writing!

Ask for input on how you could make an email clearer, for example. If you don’t have some of your own writing, share examples of good writing you come across in the course of a day – in a newspaper article, a magazine story or a book your reading.

Help your child understand how writing can guide thinking.

Writing can help us figure things out, whether it’s an outline to give direction to a paper, a problem with a friend or a question about something she’d like to learn more about. Journaling is a great way to work through some of these issues, either on paper or electronically.

Encourage reading.

While writing improves writing, so does reading. Reading can increase vocabulary, improve critical thinking and expand knowledge, among other benefits. It can even help you remember which words to use to convey specific meanings, and which ones just sound like them.

And finally, we share “10 Steps to Becoming a Better Writer” from British playwright and television writer Brian Clark:

“Write.

Write more.

Write even more.

Write even more than that.

Write when you don’t want to.

Write when you do.

Write when you have something to say.

Write when you don’t.

Write every day.

Keep writing.”

That’s good advice for someone who wants to get writing right.

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