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How to write concisely (and say more with fewer words)

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Have you ever wondered how to write concisely? The answer is probably yes – especially if you have assignments with a word limit. However, the benefits of concise writing extend beyond university. For example, writing concisely helps you create more effective business letters, project reports, and emails. Beyond this, making your point clearly and promptly gives your readers easy access to key information. This keeps them engaged. So, read on, and we’ll explain how you can say more with fewer words.

What is concise writing?

The word concise is an adjective. It means giving a lot of information clearly and in a few words”. Or, to be concise, “brief and comprehensive”. In a nutshell, concise writing is the art of conveying your ideas using the fewest possible words.

Why is it important?

Long-winded sentences can be overwhelming and confusing. If your key message is buried in reams of sprawling prose, your readers will become confused and disengaged. Essentially, concise writing is clear writing, and clear writing has two benefits. Firstly, it engages your readers, secondly, it explains your ideas in a way that they can understand. This will make your writing more persuasive, more memorable, and ultimately more successful.

So, how do I write concisely?

Here are a few ways to make your point using fewer words.

3  Eliminate repetitive filler words

Sometimes, writers will use repetitive words to boost their word limit. However, this only serves to make your writing harder to read. Consider the following sentences:

Mother will be home after a period of 10 days.

Mother will return in 10 days.

They both have the same meaning, but the latter is more direct. If you’re stuck for material, research your topic further: there may be some relevant points or arguments that you haven’t included.

2    Be specific – replace phrases with words

It can be tempting to use more complex phrases, especially in academic writing. Yet often, using a single word will make your point more effectively:

The report emphasised the negative economic situation experienced by working families.

The report emphasised poverty amongst working families.

3      Avoid using the passive voice

Using the passive voice (where the object comes before the subject) can make your sentences needlessly unclear. Consider these two examples:

After the family had finished their meal, father paid the bill

Father paid the bill after the meal.

The second sentence has greater clarity. It’s also four words shorter. That may not sound like much, but imagine how easy sticking to your word limit would be if you could remove four words from every sentence!

4.      Remove unnecessary intensifiers and qualifiers

Intensifiers and qualifiers are used with adverbs or adjectives to add meaning to descriptions. However, as the following example shows, sentences can be equally effective without them:

Her conclusions, though bluntly stated, were entirely accurate.

Her conclusions, though bluntly stated, were accurate.

5.    Remove unnecessary “to be” verbs:

Look out for sentences and clauses beginning with “it is”, “this is”, or “there are” – these can often be shortened without altering the meaning:

There is a large crowd which is gathering outside the council building.

A large crowd is gathering outside the council building.

6.   Avoid negative constructions

Writers often use negative constructions in the belief that it makes their writing sound more sophisticated:

His contribution to the campaign was not insignificant.

His contribution to the campaign was significant.

Yet, as we can see, using the positive construction adds clarity to the sentence.

 7.  Re-read and revise your work

When considering how to write concisely, revising your work is vital. So once you’ve finished your first draft, read every sentence carefully to see what you can delete without losing meaning. Every word, sentence, and paragraph should have a purpose – if they don’t, remove them.  Remember, you may find that reading your work aloud makes this process easier.

8.   Think about your argument

As you revise, ask yourself – what is the purpose of your writing? Also, in academic writing, each section of your work should support your argument. So, when you revise the first draft, review each paragraph critically and objectively. If it doesn’t support your argument, remove it. Deleting sections that you’ve worked hard on is tough, but your work will be stronger for it.

9.  Think about your audience

When you write, think about your readers and consider what they need to know. For university assignments, imagine that your audience is composed of educated readers who are not experts on your subject. For example, you won’t need to explain what a literature review is, but you will need to explain the key findings from the literature. Similarly, your CV should include information that will help potential employers to evaluate your application.

And finally…

Hopefully, this post has helped you understand how to write concisely. However, if you’re struggling with your word limit, contact Wordsmiths. Our professional editing service will streamline your written work, giving your message clarity and impact. If you want to see more posts from us, follow Wordsmiths on Instagram and Facebook.  Or, subscribe via email to receive our latest news and blogs first.

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Why the student vote matters (and how to register to vote).

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The student vote matters. Yet with less than four weeks until the general election, many students still aren’t registered to vote. Some students simply don’t know how voter registration works. However, others are unclear about why their vote is so important. For students in particular, the question of voting can get complicated, especially if they split their lives between two constituencies – home and university. Does this sound like you? if so – then read on. Wordsmiths can’t tell you who to vote for, but we can explain why it’s important for students to vote. We’ll also explain how students can register to vote.

How General Elections work in the UK

The country is divided into 650 constituencies, and each constituency elects one MP to represent them in the Westminster Parliament. The party with the most MPs forms a government, and their party leader becomes the Prime Minister. They can either govern alone (if they have an overall majority), or in a coalition with another party. Unlike the 2018 European Parliament elections, the elections for the Westminster Parliament use a “first past the post” system. In this system, the candidate with the most votes in each constituency wins the seat. Therefore, votes for other candidates are effectively disregarded. This is why re-counts sometimes happen in constituencies where the result is extremely close.

Why the student vote matters

For many people aged under 21, December will mark their first chance to vote in a general election. In fact, those in the 18-25 age group have seen a big increase in voter registrations – with more than 200,000 joining the electoral register since the upcoming election was announced.

Now, cynics may say that political parties view the student vote merely as an untapped resource for boosting their numbers. Certainly, rates of voter registration and turnout amongst young people have been historically poor. Nonetheless, the newly-elected government will shape the way that our economy and society functions for the next five years. And remember – today’s young voters are the workforce of the future – some have already entered the workplace since the last election. Student voters will go on to run businesses, pay taxes, buy houses, and raise families. So clearly, even though many of the issues discussed in the election campaign may not feel relevant to you now, they will be in the future. This, ultimately, is why the student vote matters.

 Why students should vote

Fundamentally, voting gives students and young people the chance to have their say on the issues that matter to them. These might be local issues, or wider issues such as Brexit, student debt, or the environment. Elections are a keystone of democracy, and they enable the public to choose who will represent their community on the national stage.

There are are also other, less obvious reasons why students should vote. For example, registering to vote means that you are entered onto the electoral roll (or register) – which can help improve your credit score. How does that work? Well – banks and other lenders use the full electoral roll to run background checks when they calculate your credit score. Clearly, registering to vote can make it easier to borrow money, or qualify for a mortgage. It could also mean you get a better repayment rate. This will definitely be important once you leave university, so think ahead.

However, a recent study by the Electoral Commission showed that only 71% of people aged 18-34 are correctly registered to vote. Students and recent graduates – who may have frequent or recent changes of address, are especially vulnerable to being incorrectly registered. If you can’t vote, you can’t have your say. So, read on for our handy guide on how to register to vote.

When is the General Election?

The general election is on Thursday 12th December 2019.

When is the deadline for voting registration?

The deadline for voter registration is 26th November 2019. If you want to vote by post, you must apply by 5pm on 26 November to receive your voting pack (see below).

Where do I register to vote?

You can register to vote on the Gov.UK website. The process takes about five minutes. You’ll need your National Insurance (NI) number, date of birth, and address. The process takes about five minutes. You can also register by post.  Don’t worry – you can still register without your NI number – you just need to explain why you don’t have it and provide a different form of ID.

You can be registered to vote at more than one address. This means you can register to vote at your university address even if you’ve previously registered to vote at your parent’s address, and vice versa. Despite this, it’s illegal to vote more than once, so you need to decide where to vote: home or university.

How can I check if I’m already registered?

Contact your local electoral registration office (ERO) to check if you’re already registered to vote. They hold the electoral register listing the names and addresses of eligible voters in the area. The contact details for your ERO can be found on the Electoral Commission’s website.

 

And finally…

Don’t forget to vote.

Registration is not the same as actually voting. Your vote won’t count if you don’t cast it, so make time to vote on 12th December!! You can vote in person on 12th December at your local polling station – this will be named on your poll card. Most polling stations are open from 7am until 10pm. You can also vote by post, or by proxy (under certain conditions).

 

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How can students deal with stress?

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University can be a stressful experience. Whether you’re a new undergraduate or a seasoned postgrad, it’s likely that you’ll experience stress at some point in your studies. That’s the bad news. Fortunately, a little stress can be helpful, and besides this, there are plenty of ways to help students manage stress. Dealing with stress early can prevent it becoming a bigger problem that affects your grades. So, read on to find out what stress is, how it affects students, and what to do about it.

What exactly is stress?

Put simply, stress is a natural reaction that helps us to manage challenging situations. These situations stimulate our bodies to produce stress hormones that trigger a “fight or flight” reaction: this helps us to respond to danger more quickly. Sometimes, this stress reaction can be useful for students – for example, it could help you to perform better in exams. However, repeated or prolonged stress reactions can affect your physical health and leave you struggling to cope with your studies.

What causes stress in students?

Students can experience stress for a variety of reasons. Some of those reasons are directly related to studying – such as a heavy workload, deadlines, pressure to perform, and difficult subject material. Certain courses bring extra pressures, especially those that require you to study abroad, and clinical subjects that involve shift-based placements. As well as this, the wider experience of student life can throw up a number of stressful situations – leaving home, meeting new people, and building up debt are just some of these. Clearly, exposure to stress is unavoidable for students. So how can you tell when you’re becoming stressed?

What are the effects of stress?

Stress affects students in a variety of ways, and recognising the sign of stress can help you to act as soon as possible. The problems caused by stress can be split into three categories: Physical, Psychological/Emotional, and Behavioural.

The physical effects of stress include sweating, breathlessness, rapid heart rate, a dry mouth, and a churning stomach. The psychological effects of stress may involve feeling depressed or anxious. This could lead to problems with your cognitive functioning – such as poor concentration, or difficulties with learning and remembering. Finally, stress can affect your behaviour, making you withdrawn, prone to irritable outbursts, over (or under) eating, and disturbed sleep. Your friends may notice these behavioural effects before you do, so if they raise a concern with you – listen. Don’t become defensive. Their observations may be an early warning sign that helps you to tackle stress head-on before it becomes a long-term problem.

How to manage stress

If you (or someone else) has noticed that you’re showing signs of stress, the most important thing is to identify the cause. This could be something obvious, like an impending deadline or exam. It could be something else – like money worries or relationship problems. Identifying the cause of your stress will help you to resolve it. As well as this, there are several things you can do to help manage your stress levels before they affect your health and academic performance.

  • Eat healthy

Having a good diet with regular, balanced meals will help stabilise your blood pressure and blood sugar levels. This in turn will limit the damaging physical effects of stress. Also – and we can’t emphasise this enough – stay hydrated. Dehydration will affect every aspect of your physical and mental functioning, so make sure you drink enough water. Along with this, eat plenty of fruit and vegetables, and avoid sugary and salty foods – they will only dehydrate you. Finally, limit your caffeine intake. Even if you think coffee helps you to study better, too much caffeine will make you jittery, and less able to concentrate.

  • Take a break

You can’t study every minute of every day, and trying to do so will just make you more stressed. So, don’t be afraid to take a little bit of time out. Visit a café, watch a film, spend time with friends, or even get some chores done. Stepping outside of your own thoughts for a short while is healthy, and it can help you to regain some objectivity.

  • Get some exercise

Be active. Beyond the obvious health benefits of exercise, physical activity releases hormones that help to lift your mood. Choose an activity that fits with your interests and abilities, whether that be swimming, lifting weights or simply taking a walk. You’ll be surprised by how mentally refreshing exercise can be.

  • Plan your workload

Don’t leave things till the last minute. Exam dates and deadlines are set well in advance, so plan your workload and revision timetable accordingly. Doing this puts you in control, and will help reduce your stress levels. Also, if an unexpected situation occurs which will could seriously disrupt your work plan, you’ll be able to let your tutors know earlier rather than later.

  • Seek help

Lastly, and most importantly, seek help. Stress is nothing to be ashamed of, and it’s ok to admit that you’re struggling. Sometimes, just chatting things through with a friend or family member can help to clear your thoughts. However, if your stress levels need more than a chat over a cuppa, you may need to talk to a professional. You may be able to access counselling through your university, and you can contact your GP to discuss prescribing options and referrals to psychological services. Also, and this is vital, make your tutors aware of what is happening. You won’t be the first, or last, student to struggle with stress. Your tutor may be able to reduce your workload, or extend your deadlines to help reduce the amount of pressure you’re under.

And finally…

Your health and wellbeing are the most important things, so don’t be afraid to make YOU the priority. If the demands of academic writing are causing you stress, why not speak to Wordsmiths? Maybe you’re worried about the grammar in your essay or the structure of your dissertation. Perhaps you want an experienced set of eyes to give your article a final professional check before you submit it for publishing. Whatever your needs are, Wordsmiths’ specialist academic editing service is here to help. To find out more, email us, chat direct via our website, or message us on Facebook and Instagram. If you’ve enjoyed this article and want to see more from Wordsmiths, don’t forget to subscribe to our emails to receive our latest news and blogs first.

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.

If you’ve enjoyed reading this article and want to see more from Wordsmiths, there are many ways to follow us. You can find us on Instagram and Facebook, or subscribe to our emails to receive our latest news and blogs first.

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.