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SalahSharief

Settling into university

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Settling into university can be a wonderful experience, but it can also be overwhelming. In fact, it’s one of the biggest changes that you’ll ever make.

For many new students, it’s a time where they have hundreds of questions floating through their heads. Questions like “Will I make friends?”, “Will I cope with the course?”, “What will my accommodation be like?” and so on. Don’t worry – it’s totally normal to feel nervous. Leaving behind your family and friends is a big step, and it may take a while to find your feet. In light of that, we’ve rounded up some common truths about settling into university life.

Getting to know your housemates is important

There are no two ways about it – moving in with a group of total strangers can be really scary. The important thing to remember is that everyone is new, and the chances are that your housemates are nervous too. You may not become soul-mates, but getting to know your new housemates will really help you to settle in. So, pluck up the courage to introduce yourself, and don’t forget to show an interest in the other person. For instance, simply asking how their day has gone or offering to make them a cuppa can be enough to get a conversation going.

Groups, clubs, and societies are a great way to meet people.

You might be an experienced rugby player, or want to try choral singing for the first time. Or perhaps you want to become an environmental campaigner. It could even be that you feel disconnected from university life because you’re living at home. Whatever the reason, joining a club or society is a great way to try new things and meet people who share your interests. Get involved in Fresher’s Week, this will give you the chance to find out about the range of activities and clubs that your university has on offer. And even if Fresher’s week is over, ask your student’s union to point you in the right direction.

Your room is your home-from-home

Your room is more than a place to sleep; it’s your private, personal space. So, don’t be afraid to decorate it with some personal items, such as photos, cushions, and travel souvenirs. Doing this will help your room feel like home, and help to ease any pangs of homesickness. In addition to these familiar items, you’ll need to buy a lot of new things to get you set up in your new life. When it comes to priority purchases, a comfy bed is a must. It’s long been said that a good night’s sleep cures many ills, so investing in good-quality bedding is DEFINITELY worth it! Finally, make sure you don’t take too much stuff – your new room might be smaller than your room at home, and if it gets too cluttered you might find it harder to study and relax. 

Everyone has times when they struggle.

Settling into university is a challenging thing to do, and even the most confident person will have moments when they struggle. Some people feel lonely or homesick, and some worry about money. Others experience “imposter syndrome” – questioning whether they are clever enough or good enough to be at university.

The important thing to remember is that everyone, even the most seemingly-confident person, has tough times. Don’t compare yourself to other people, and don’t be ashamed to admit when things are getting you down. Instead, reach out, whether it’s to a friend, a tutor, or even a counsellor – talking about your problems can often give you the reassurance that you need to move forwards. Lastly, check on people if you think they’re struggling. Asking someone if they’re ok may seem like a small thing, but it can make so much difference.

You need to schedule your time

Compared to the routine of home and school, the university environment is a lot less structured. This can be disorientating, and if you don’t get organised, it’s easy to miss things or let things get on top of you. To help with this, we recommend making yourself a weekly schedule. Include things like study sessions and lectures, but don’t forget to make time for socialising and doing your laundry. After all, study is important, but if you let your social and domestic life slide, your studies will suffer too. Keep your timetable realistic; it’s a marathon, not a sprint, and so consistency is key. If you’re still struggling, try to incorporate some familiar activities into your new routine. For instance, if you normally attend worship at a certain time, or swim first thing in the morning, try to maintain those routines at university.

Keep track of your money.

Many new students get worried about managing their money, and it’s easy to overspend if you don’t keep track of your outgoings. That’s why planning your budget is important. Keep a list of what money you have coming in, and what money you have going out. Whether you use a spreadsheet, and app, or a piece of paper, budgeting will put you in control of your finances. This way, you can make sure you have enough set aside to buy essential items like food and toiletries, and still treat to yourself every now and then.

And finally

Settling into university takes longer than 7 days, so give it time. Embrace the new opportunities that come your way, and try to make the most of your University experience.

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How to write a master’s personal statement.

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Writing a convincing master’s personal statement is the key to a successful application. The personal statement is where you sell yourself. It’s also your chance to show the admissions tutors that you are the perfect candidate. In short, it’s one of the most important documents you will ever write. So read on for our guide to writing a personal statement that succeeds. 

Before you start writing

All institutions will provide guidelines for master’s applications. Read them carefully, and make sure that you meet the selection criteria. Don’t waste your time applying for a course that you aren’t eligible for. Take some time to read about the course and the institution. This will help you decide whether they are right for you. While you’re reading, make notes on how your skills, experience, and interests will benefit the university.

Finally, check the word limit. Some institutions set a limit of 500 words for master’s personal statements. Your application may be rejected if you exceed the limit, so write a plan. This will help you to structure your personal statement, and make sure you don’t miss out any important information.

Structure and content

When you write your personal statement, your thoughts should flow smoothly. To improve readability, make sure you link every paragraph. The word count will vary between courses, but keep things as short as possible. As a rough guide, aim to write 4-5 paragraphs for a personal statement of 500 words. We recommend sticking to the following structure:

Introduction

Writing the introduction to your master’s personal statement can be tough. Ironically, the more stressed you get about your introduction, the harder it can be to write. So if you get stuck, move on to another section. You can always come back to it later.

You need an opening paragraph that has impact, but avoids clichés. Institutions receive hundreds of applications per course, and admissions tutors have to read all of them. They much prefer introductions that get straight to the point.

Main Body

In this section you need to provide evidence of your skills and knowledge. You also get the chance to show why you are the right candidate for the course. As a general rule, admissions tutors will be looking for the following information:

  • Why you are applying for this course and this institution – Display some knowledge of the university and the department. Focus on their reputation, achievements, and area of expertise. Then, link these to your academic interests to show why the course appeals to you.
  • Your goals and aspirations – State your career goals. Then, describe how gaining a place on the course will help you reach them.
  • Your skills and experience – Highlight how your skills and knowledge will benefit the work of the department. To do this, try grouping your abilities into key areas., such as communication, leadership, organisation, critical thinking, and research. At this point, mention any awards you’ve received. And don’t forget to highlight any work placements and conferences you’ve attended. All of this will provide further evidence of your suitability for master’s study.
  • Why YOU deserve a place – Explain how your undergraduate experiences have prepared you for the realities of postgraduate life. You’ll need to demonstrate your passion for the subject. Then, you’ll need to prove that your skills, commitment, and enthusiasm make you a perfect fit for the course. And remember to mention your non-academic abilities and interests – these can be a great way to show why you will be an asset to the university.

Conclusion

The conclusion of your personal statement is just as important as the introduction. Again, keep things short and simple, summarising your strengths and key points. Your goal is to leave the admissions tutors with no room for doubt that you are the perfect candidate.

Some quick do’s and don’ts:

DO give yourself plenty of time to complete your master’s personal statement. DON’T leave it to the last minute.

DO write a memorable personal statement. DON’T use humour and over-used quotes.

DO be positive. DON’T be negative about other institutions.

DO mention relevant research and relate it to the subject. DON’T name-drop key authors without context.

DO explain any lower-than-expected grade, or gaps in your education. DON’T gloss over these.

DO sell yourself and your abilities. DON’T beg and plead.

DO use clear, short sentences. DON’T use overly-long phrases and sentences.

DO include relevant academic and personal information. DON’T repeat information, or include irrelevant details.

DO highlight your skills, knowledge and experience. DON’T lie or exaggerate.

DO write an original personal statement that is specific to the course and institution. DON’T use the same supporting statement for all the courses you apply to.

DO make sure that your spelling, grammar and punctuation are perfect. DON’T submit your master’s personal statement without proofreading it.

And Finally…

If you need help with your personal statement, contact us today. Wordsmiths can proofread and edit any of your application documents. To find out more, email us, chat direct via our website, or message us on Facebook and Instagram. Check out our July blog for more advice on completing your master’s application. And don’t forget to subscribe to our emails to receive our latest posts.

7 tips for completing a master’s application.

By | postgraduate advice, Student advice | No Comments

Completing your master’s application can be a daunting prospect. The application process is highly competitive, and you’ll need to sell yourself as the perfect candidate by showcasing your skills and experience. Having the right approach is crucial to a successful application – we’ve put together some tips to help you get started.

  1. Think carefully about your choice of course and university.

First choose your course. Decide whether you want to build on your undergraduate studies, or move into a new field. Next, find out which universities offer the best master’s courses in your chosen subject. You’ll need to consider whether their location will work with your other life commitments. If you need flexible/part time study options, check whether your chosen university offers these. Finally, think about whether you want to apply for several courses, or focus on just one.

  1. Consider your funding options.

Debt can be a major source of stress for postgraduate students, so consider how you’re going to fund your master’s studies. This includes your course fees and living expenses. It may be that you can save on travel and living costs by applying to a university that is closer to home. You may be eligible for financial assistance, so do some research to find out what loans and grants are available.

  1. Check the application requirements.

Check the application requirements for the course carefully – do you have the required grades and experience? If your grades are on the threshold, contact the university and ask if they will consider you. Don’t waste your precious time on an application that will be rejected immediately.

  1. Start your master’s application early.

Getting a head start has several advantages. For instance, some universities will stop accepting new applications once they have received sufficient interest in a course. If you haven’t completed your undergraduate degree yet, don’t panic. You can contact your university to get a predicted grade, and include this in your application. If you’re an international student, check whether you need to have an offer in place before applying for a visa. This is important, as any delay with your visa could prevent you from taking up your place on a course. Lastly, starting your application early means that you can beat the rush, and take your time to write your personal statement carefully.

  1. Make sure you have all the necessary information and documentation.

Most universities will ask you to provide academic transcripts, examples of your work, an up-to-date CV, two (or more) references, and the all-important personal statement. Some courses may also require you to submit a portfolio or a research proposal. Check the individual requirements for the course that you’re applying for.

  1. Think about your references

Academic staff expect to be named as referees, but it’s still good practice to ask your referee before naming them. Remember, academic staff get swamped with reference requests over the summer; starting your master’s application early gives them more time. It’s best to choose a referee who actually knows you and your work – don’t just go for the most senior/qualified individual. If you graduated a while ago and you’ve been working, you’ll need to provide a reference from your employer.

  1. Write an effective personal statement

The personal statement is the section of the master’s application where you need to sell yourself as the ideal candidate. It’s also the part that many people find hardest. Here are some ways to make sure that your personal statement stands out from the crowd.

Most master’s courses set a word limit for personal statements. Find out what the limit for your course is, and stick to it. It also helps to plan your personal statement before writing it. Careful planning will prevent you from repeating information, and make sure that you don’t miss out any important details.

Make sure your personal statement has a clear structure – introduction, body, and conclusion. Your introduction should be snappy and enthusiastic; your conclusion should be short, simple, and demonstrate how will be an asset to the university. In the body, explain how your qualities, skills, and experience make you the perfect candidate for the course. Many universities prefer well-rounded candidates, so don’t forget to mention your extra-curricular interests. Lastly, highlight your career goals, and explain how gaining a place on the course will help you to reach them.

Style is important. When you write, use a good standard of formal English, and employ any technical terms correctly. You should speak with certainty, avoiding vague phrases such as “I feel”. To improve the readability of your statement, use clear, short sentences – don’t showboat with overly-complicated phrases.

Last but not least, proofread your statement. Mistakes in spelling, grammar, and punctuation can be annoying to the reader. They will also leave admissions tutors with a poor impression of your ability to communicate in writing.

And finally…

If you need help with your master’s degree application, contact us today. Wordsmiths can proofread, edit, and paraphrase any of your application documents. To find out more, email us, chat direct via our website, or message us on Facebook and Instagram. Next month’s blog post will feature an in-depth discussion on writing personal statements for postgraduate applications. So, stay tuned, and subscribe to our emails to receive our latest posts.

How do I choose an editor (and what does an editor do?)

By | Deadlines, editing, Student advice | No Comments

Choosing an editor can be tricky. After all, you’re trusting them with your words and your hard-earned cash. You may be wondering if you even need an editor. People often ask us about what editors do, and how to choose one. So we want to answer those questions, and offer an insight into Wordsmiths’ editing service through the eyes of our customers.

Who uses your editing service?

In short, anyone who produces written content – from authors and charitable organisations, to students and website owners.

Why do your customers need an editor?

Some of our customers struggle with their word count or their deadlines.

“I had put so much work into my essay, but it was way over the word limit, and when I got ill, I knew I wouldn’t be able to edit it before the deadline. I was devastated because I’d worked so hard.” – Nadia, undergraduate law student.

“I had spent so much time on the designing of the book and the illustrations that I was in a rush to publish it. Customers were waiting eagerly to have the book.” – Shereen, author.

We also work with students who aren’t native English speakers. They are experts in their field, but their written English doesn’t always reflect their knowledge and expertise.

“I studied English for many years before I came here but when I write it is sometimes hard to explain my ideas in the best way. I wanted my research proposal to use the correct language” – Michael, postgraduate engineering student.

Our customers may need work on their writing style to make their content more effective. An external editor offers objectivity: writing is a creative process and it’s easier to edit effectively when you aren’t emotionally attached to the content.

“Our website looked great, the information was all there. But it didn’t really highlight our business philosophy and unique selling points. We needed a fresh set of eyes to re-vamp the written sections.” – Yusuf, small business owner.

What does an editor do?

Our editors comb through every aspect of written content. They consider overall structure, paragraph structure, content, clarity, style, and the use of citations.

Editors make improvements by:

  • Cutting out clutter.
  • Restructuring sentences and paragraphs.
  • Making words and sentences clearer, more precise, and more effective.
  • Proofreading to eliminate misspellings and mistakes in grammar and punctuation.

“The editor improved the language of my proposal, suggesting better words and phrases.” – Michael.

How do I choose an editor?

You understand what an editor does: now you need to find one. Here are some things to consider when choosing an editing service:

  • Website: A good editing service will have a professional-looking, well-written website. It should provide clear information on services and pricing, and give contact details.

“I didn’t know what editorial services other authors had used, so I did an online search and the one that caught my attention was Wordsmiths.” – Shereen.

  • Recommendations: There is no better endorsement than that of a satisfied customer. In fact, most of our first-time clients come to us via recommendations from previous customers.

“My colleague had used Wordsmiths and his experiences were very positive.” – Michael.

  • Customer service: A good editor will respond to your messages promptly. Communication matters – good editors are polite, approachable and professional, and happy to answer your questions fully.

“I got a fast response from Wordsmiths’ director. He was friendly, but thorough, and really took the time to understand what we needed. Once we placed our order, the work was returned to us on time, and we were really happy with it.” – Yusuf.

  • Transparency: Trustworthy editors will be happy to provide samples of their work. They should offer a free quote, making it clear what the quote includes (and what it doesn’t).

“We discussed my needs in detail via email, including my deadline. I got a free quote and I was happy with it.” – Nadia.

  • Qualifications and experience: The editor should be able to meet your individual needs, especially if your material covers a specialist subject, or has specific style requirements. After all, any competent editor can proofread, but not every editor has the skillset to edit a thesis on biotechnology. That’s why all Wordsmiths editors are graduates from UK universities. They have extensive knowledge and professional experience in fields such as law, healthcare, and finance. We allocate cases according to their specialism.

“Wordsmiths asked for details regarding my book content, and because it was an Islamic book, they directed me to a Muslim editor who worked on it.” – Shereen.

“In part of my essay I had used the wrong legal term. Because my editor was a law graduate, she noticed the mistake straight away…she didn’t just correct the problem, she explained it, and provided links to resources that helped me to better understand the terms” – Nadia.

How does your editing service benefit customers?

Editing helps clients to achieve their goals. Above all, we want to make our clients’ lives easier, allowing them to enjoy the success they deserve.

“Basically, the editing made us sound better!! The editing helped us to highlight our business philosophy and business identity which is a big part of what attracts our customers. I wasn’t sure if hiring an editor was worth the expense, but I now I know that the style of the words is just as important as the visuals.” – Yusuf.

“The editor asked questions about my proposal…I added new evidence and explained my method in more detail. My plan was much stronger.” – Michael.

“My essay got 65%…I just wouldn’t have been able to meet my deadline without hiring an editor. It removed all the stress I was feeling.” – Nadia.

How can I find out more?

If you want to know more about our editing services, or you have a specific piece of work that you’d like us to take a look at, we’re ready to help! You can contact us by email, chat direct via our website, or get in touch on our social media accounts at Facebook and Instagram.

 

How to write a disseratation

How to write a dissertation (and why it’s different from an essay)

By | Dissertations, Student advice, Writing tips | No Comments

How can you write a dissertation? If you’ve written plenty of essays, and done well, it’s tempting to approach your dissertation in much the same way. This is a common mistake among students, both undergrad and postgrad.

An essay is much shorter than a dissertation (around 2,000-5,000 words rather than 20,000). But dissertations are much more than simply long essays. Dissertations require a deeper level of understanding and original thought backed up by thorough evidence.

Planning

Planning is vital to learning how to write a successful dissertation. Some people find this comes naturally, others are more of the ‘sit down and write and see what comes of it’ school of thought. If you’re of the latter type, you’ll need to adjust your approach. Winging it might work for an essay of 2,000 words, but for a dissertation, you’ll quickly struggle if you don’t have a plan.

With an essay, you might be able to have a very simple plan – introduction, discussion, conclusion. With a dissertation, you’ll need to set out chapters and sub-sections too. You might choose to adjust these as you write but having them set out before you start to write gives your work vital purpose.

It’s important that the structure of your dissertation shows that you’ve carried out thorough research, you’ve thought through all aspects of the subject fully, and you’ve come up with an insightful conclusion that makes a contribution to the body of research in your subject. You should also be able to show that you recognise the limitations of your own work.

This means that you should consider a structure something like this:

Introduction – this should be a clear definition of your project; a demonstration that you have knowledge of other research in the area.

The research – you’ll need to set out the research you’ve done and describe any problems you had as well as the solutions you found.

The argument – this is where you begin to draw conclusions from the research. Break it down into subsections that each have their own focus. This is the part of the dissertation that it’s tempting to pack out with filler, but don’t. Every paragraph, and every sentence, should have a purpose.

The conclusion – you’ll need to summarise your findings and discuss what needs to be done next. If you plan to go on to a PhD, this can be an opportunity to set out an idea for your thesis.

Your writing style

Writing style is important. Writing habits that might just grate a little in a 2,000 word essay can become decidedly irritating to your tutor over the course of 10-20,000 words. It’s important to remember that good writing is not necessarily complex writing. Good writing achieves its purpose. A dissertation’s purpose is to put across a clear, focussed, persuasive argument, backed up by evidence.

Some general style principles to think about:

  • Short sentences are very often better sentences. While it’s good to vary the length to some degree, you should generally be looking to keep your sentences at 25 words or fewer. Stick to ‘one thought per sentence’ and you’ll find that this tends to happen automatically.
  • Each new point needs a new paragraph. If you’re changing subject, you need a new sub-section with its own headline.
  • Use plain English, while demonstrating your knowledge of relevant terms. Don’t use obscure words simply because you believe they’ll sound impressive. Simpler is nearly always better. At the same time, it’s important that you can show you understand the language of your subject and use whatever technical terms others writing in your field do.

Your argument

You need to take a strong, unambiguous position, backed up by your own research. It may help to imagine that you are not writing a dissertation, but an academic book. You’d only write a book that you believed in. Make sure you believe in your own argument when you write your dissertation.

Also anticipate counter-arguments. What do you think others would say? How can you counter their objections? Anticipating counter arguments demonstrates that you’ve looked at your subject from multiple standpoints and developed a really thorough understanding of it.

Need some more help with writing your dissertation? If you’ve got the basics right, our editors can help with the finishing touches.

 

 

 

 

 

Seven tips for studying during Ramadan

By | Student advice | No Comments

If you have exams and essay deadlines during Ramadan, you might be worried that studying while fasting will affect your performance. Don’t panic – we have some handy tips to help you adapt and re-structure your routine so you can study and fast successfully

1) Change your diet and routine BEFORE Ramadan starts

Effective preparation is the key to studying during Ramadan – you need to make changes before the holy month starts. Begin by reducing what you eat between dawn and sunset so that your body gradually adjusts to fasting. Cut down on tea, coffee, and sugar too, as you may experience withdrawal symptoms such as tiredness, anxiety, irritability, and poor concentration. These symptoms can last for over a week, affecting your ability to study while fasting, so it’s better to work through them before Ramadan starts. Finally, do a practice fast, so you can identify the times of day when you feel most alert and most tired. This will help you to plan your studies more effectively

2) Stay cool and conserve your energy levels

Warm weather increases the risk of mild dehydration, leading to headaches and tiredness. So chose cool, shaded areas to study in. Taking a cool bath will also help to bring your body temperature down. Avoid excessive physical activity, social events, and busy areas as these will sap your energy, making it harder for you to study while fasting. If possible, take a nap a couple of hours before sunset when your energy levels are at their lowest ebb.

3) Study when your energy levels are at their highest

Your energy levels will be highest after you eat and sleep, so these are the best times to study during Ramadan. Set a study plan that fits with your life. If you don’t have work or college in the day, you might find it easier to begin studying after Iftar and work through the night, maybe doing a short session after Suhoor before you go to sleep. If your responsibilities mean that you can’t stay up all night, you can still study after Iftar before going to sleep. You can then work a little when you wake up, and study after Suhoor until you need to leave the house. Getting your study time in early means that you can rest guilt-free later in the day when you start to feel tired.

4) Avoid temptations and distractions

Avoid studying or arranging to meet people in crowded places and settings that serve food. A group revision session in a crowded café won’t be a productive way to study during Ramadan. If you do have an unavoidable study or social commitment, try and pick a location that has as few distractions as possible.

5) Study for short periods and take regular breaks

Split your study into 20 minute periods, taking a short break in between each one. This is the most productive way to study even when you aren’t fasting. You could use your breaks to read, relax or complete some other jobs on your to-do list.

6) Set a study plan and stick to it

Set out a work plan for studying during Ramadan, so that you can work in an organised, efficient way and achieve your study goals. Complete any written work first, then do your reading tasks, as reading requires more concentration.

7) Eat and drink sensibly

During Iftar and Suhoor, drink plenty of plain water and eat fluid-rich foods such as soups, fruit and vegetables so you start the following day well-hydrated. Avoid caffeine and salt – these will make you more dehydrated. Choose nutritious foods that are easy to digest, and DON’T OVEREAT. It may be tempting to stuff yourself when you feel hungry, but this is the most counter-productive thing you can do. Over-eating will send you into a “food coma” – a state of extreme drowsiness. In fact, studying while fasting is easier than studying when you are too full.

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5 Ways to Improve Your Writing in a Week…and Smash That Deadline

By | Deadlines, Student advice, Writing tips | No Comments

You’ve got a deadline next week. Maybe you’ve written nothing, or maybe you’ve written plenty, but you know it’s not good enough. How can you improve your writing before that deadline hits?

Tempting as it is to pretend it’s not happening, the deadline’s not going anywhere. If you’ve got all the ideas and the arguments in your head, but know you need some help to put them into engaging, grammatically sound words, read on. Here are 5 ways to improve your writing quickly and make sure you ace that essay even when you’re short on time.

Keep a journal to improve your writing every day

Writing a journal is a fantastic way to improve your writing. Because you’re writing about your own life, writer’s block tends not to hit. Every evening, sit down for 15 minutes (or longer!) and write freely about the events of your day. Even if all you did was watch Netflix, write about it.

The idea is to get some words on the page, without pressure. This helps you improve your writing by getting you in a writing habit, giving you an easy way to analyse your work. Don’t worry about grammar or style while you’re writing, but when you’re done, look over your work and see how it could be improved. If there are particular things you know you struggle with, keep an eye out for them. You could also check your writing against your university’s style guide to see how it measures up.

It’s worth staying in the journal-writing habit even after your deadline’s passed, as it’s a great way to improve your writing, year after year.

Improve your writing by being leaner…learn the art of cutting down

When you’re struggling to make a word count, it’s tempting to add in lots of filler words just to make your essay longer. Don’t do this. Good writing is about saying what you need to without using unnecessary words. Take a look at your last essay and see where you have could cut words without losing meaning.

Cutting words out that you don’t need actually helps convey more meaning, as the extra words tend to get in the way of your argument. It’s one of the easiest ways there is to improve your writing. Phrases like ‘on the other hand’ and ‘in addition’ are usually unnecessary, so take them out. In academic writing (and writing in general), adjectives and adverbs aren’t often needed. To improve your writing, take them all out, and then work through, one by one, to see which (if any) you want to put back.

Critique with a friend to improve your writing, and theirs

Good writers know how to take and give constructive criticism. Improve your writing by finding a friend you trust and spend some time together critiquing each other’s work. You don’t need to get bogged down in technical grammar points – look instead at whether your friend understands the arguments you’re making and whether they think the work flows well.

They don’t have to be studying the same subject as you – in some ways, it might be better if they aren’t. If someone with no knowledge of your subject can understand your writing, it’s probably pretty good.

Set yourself a creative challenge to improve your essay writing

Improve your writing by making writing fun. Indulge in a bit of creative writing of some kind – whether a short story, or poetry, or creative non-fiction. If you’re stuck for ideas, you could be inspired by a novel you love, or scan the news websites for an interesting story that could be rewritten as fiction. Whatever you do, make sure you enjoy it. Don’t spend time analysing it – just enjoy playing around with words and building your confidence to improve your writing.

Improve your writing by learning to proofread

Writing is only half the battle. Learning how to proofread effectively is the other half of the work you’ll need to do to improve your writing. Many students forget to build in time for proofreading and hand in essays full of errors as a result. This makes you look careless and could lose you marks.

Don’t allow this to happen. If you’re not a confident proofreader, either see if you can find a friend to help or think about using our proofreading service. But, however you do it, make sure it happens if you really want to improve your writing.

 

 

 

7 Ways to Improve Your Essay Writing

By | Student advice, Writing tips | No Comments

Every student needs good essay writing skills. Essays are your opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge, passion, and skill to your tutors.

Turning out several thousand well-crafted words on a regular basis isn’t easy, especially if you feel you’re not a natural writer. But here’s the thing: people who appear to be ‘natural’ writers rarely are. The difference between them and you is simply that they’ve spent time learning about language and essay-writing.

Doesn’t sound appealing? Remember: whatever career you end up in, you’ll use the essay writing skills you develop now, even if you never write another university essay. Essay writing isn’t just about ticking boxes to get a grade. It’s about being able to research well, draw conclusions, and communicate them to your audience. Those are skills you’ll need in pretty much any professional career.

Don’t Skimp on Essay Writing Research

Students often have a tendency to think of the essay writing as the main event, and the research as just a little bit of prep. Don’t do this. Your research should take up much more time than writing, so put plenty of time for it in your diary.

You’ll find that writing is far easier if you read widely and gain a thorough understanding of your subject before you start. It’s also obvious to your tutors who knows their stuff and who’s trying to wing it.

Have a Clear Goal

When you write an essay, you’re answering a question. Before you write anything else, write your answer to the question being posed in a sentence or two. Use as few words as possible.

This might be difficult – but it’s important. If you can’t do it, you need to spend more time clarifying your thoughts (and answering the question) before you go any further.

Make a Plan

Don’t just start writing. Make a detailed outline plan of your essay, including the introduction, main body, and the conclusion. The main body is where you present your arguments, using the evidence you’ve found during your research. It should lead naturally to the conclusion. The conclusion should never be a surprise. If it is, you need to go back and re-plan.

Read for Pleasure

Good writers read. And they don’t just read the things they have to read. As well as academic books and articles related to your essay, read newspapers, novels, poetry, and texts from other subjects. Reading anything and everything you can will mean you absorb knowledge about style, improve your vocabulary, and understand more about language and the way it works.

Build Your Language Skills

This is particularly important if you’re not a native English speaker. Even if you are, there is always room to improve. Better vocabulary means you have more words in your arsenal to get your point across. Better grammar knowledge means being able to get your point across more clearly.

If you’re following point 4 and reading lots, you’ll find that your knowledge improves naturally, but there’s a lot you can do to help it along even further. As you read, look up any words you’re not sure of. Notice how other writers use grammar and again, look up anything you’re unsure of.

Invest in a good quality paper dictionary and thesaurus, or an online subscription rather than relying on free online resources. Free resources can be useful, but they simply won’t give you the depth of knowledge you need to really improve.

Think About Tone of Voice

The way you write is just as vital to communication as the words you use. Think about how you’d speak to your tutor if you were trying to explain something and try and use similar language as you write.

Academic writing usually needs to be relatively formal but should not be overly complicated or fussy. Use clear, plain English and avoid using more words than you need to (even if you’re trying to get your essay up to a certain word count!).

Use the active rather than the passive voice. So, use ‘the government passed the law’ not ‘the law was passed by the government’.

Write with Confidence

The point of an essay is to answer a question. So, answer it. Be very clear about what you’re saying. If you’re not, your writing will inevitably become fuzzy and hard to understand and it’ll be obvious you don’t really believe your own answer.

Most tutors want to see an essay that provides a clear answer, even if they disagree it. They’d rather that than an essay that is closer to their own opinion that fails to answer the question being asked.

 

 

How to Beat Writer’s Block

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You’re sitting at your desk, staring at a flashing cursor and a blank, white page. You’ve no idea how you’ll fill it and the longer you sit there, the more difficult writing becomes. Sound familiar? The struggle to beat writer’s block is something almost everyone who writes experiences. Even Hemingway suffered, saying:

“Sometimes when I was starting a new story and I could not get it going, I would…stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, ‘Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now.’” (Source: inc.com)

Now, we don’t all have Paris roofs to look out over. But we can all beat writer’s block. Here’s how.

Write anything

When you’re sick of staring at a blank page, fill that page. But forget about filling it with perfectly crafted words. Fill it with anything you can. Allow yourself to write freely without worrying about the finished product. Once you have the words on the page, you can edit them without the pressure of all that white space. No-one’s ever heard of editor’s block, after all.

Make a plan

When writing anything doesn’t work, try the opposite: make a strict plan and stick to it. This is especially true of longer projects, where the end can seem so far away as to be impossible to reach. By planning out your work, detailing what you’ll write in each section and giving yourself a clear beginning, middle, and end, you’ll have done half the job before you’ve written a word.

Don’t worry about being restricted by having a plan. The plan can change as often as you like, but if you don’t have one at all, you’ll struggle to focus on where you’re going.

Do something different

When writing’s not happening, do something else. You might want to head out to a café to indulge in coffee and cake for half an hour, take a few hours to meet friends, or just get on with some housework.

With the pressure of a deadline looming, it’s difficult to allow yourself time to do anything other than write. But if not allowing yourself that time means you end up blocked, take a break.

Write something different

Taking a break from your writing works to beat writer’s block for some, but others find that stopping writing simply leads to more distraction and procrastination. If that’s you, keep writing, but write something other than the work you’re struggling with. If you’re working on an essay, indulge yourself with some creative writing. If you’re struggling writing a report for work, write a post for your personal blog. Remind yourself that writing can be fun, engaging, and easy.

Learn to live with self-doubt

Writer’s block happens when self-doubt takes over. If you believe that you’re a capable writer who’ll produce a quality piece of work, you’re much less likely to face writer’s block than if you doubt your ability to do so.

But even the most self-assured writers have some self-doubt. What can you do about it? Embrace it. Understand that it’s natural and normal. While too much self-doubt is negative, controlled self-doubt is healthy and positive. It keeps you asking questions, seeking clarity and looking for opportunities to improve.

Don’t allow self-doubt to take over, but don’t fight it so hard you can’t focus on anything else.

 

Liked this? Look out for another writing blog from us next month.