Once you’ve been through English 101, it can be easy to figure out the “formula” for a grade-A academic paper: straightforward thesis, three main points, an impactful conclusion, etc. I have written dozens of analytical essays in my time as an English major, and I often fall into the same techniques and ingredients that I know professors are looking for. When I do this, however, I know that I am not developing as a writer. I have realized the importance of setting a personal standard for my writing so that it continues to improve in quality. Here are some tips I’ve adopted to challenge my writing in college.
We all have topics and themes that we could write about in our sleep. Picking these does make it easier and faster to get assignments done, but it also keeps us squarely in our comfort zone, until eventually we’re afraid to venture out. Try to seek out a topic about which you actually have to learn to write about it. Doing research and spending more brain power on the writing process will force you to expand your writing horizons.
Often students want nothing to do with their paper once it has been turned in and are only concerned with the grade they end up with. However, usually the professor takes time to leave helpful notes on your writing. If you pay attention to those suggestions, certain patterns and specific areas of improvement will become apparent. Even small notes like “poor choice of words” should spur you on to take care with diction in the future.
The best way to push your writing abilities is to actually allow time for reviewing and perfecting your work. Once you’ve decided what standards you want to set for your writing, strive to reach them as you revise. Small goals, like having perfect punctuation, crystal clear points, and better sources, can be met to give a larger sense of personal accomplishment as you tackle the same old academic paper.