Question Medha Art, Media & Literature

Developing Skills in Writing

What are some ways to improve writing skills, e.g. in preparation for an AP English Language course?

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Answer Internal Staff

The best way to improve skill in writing is through building up an extensive background of reading – this is encoded in Samuel Johnson’s claim that, “I never desire to converse with a man who has written more than he has read.” By reading, one gains greater and greater familiarity with the written language, and it should be noted that written English tends to incorporate a greater range of vocabulary and more complex sentencing strategies than spoken English – thus one is being exposed to the language at a particularly advanced level. This can remain true whatever the written material being read from is, whether factual accounts (e.g. journalistic writing in newspapers and magazines), or various genres of fiction.

If one intends to develop towards writing in an academic context, however, it is worthwhile to specifically seek out scholarly pieces, and read essays – particularly those from books by eminent publishers and peer-reviewed journals – in a number of subjects. One does not necessarily need to be learned in the specific academic discipline to learn from the academic written piece, both in terms of learning the facts and ideas it deals with, and learning more about academic written language, which constitutes one of the most advanced written styles, while also favouring precision and clarity. History is a useful example of an academic subject whose publications are widely read by amateurs as well as professionals. As one undertakes more and more reading, it is worthwhile to think about the precise words being used, the way ideas are presented, facts conveyed and stories narrated, and structuring strategies, and the impact all these variables create across different texts.

At some point along this process, it is certainly useful to practise writing oneself, applying whatever one is learning where relevant. One should write about whatever one is drawn to write about – again, whether producing factual accounts, arguing for certain ideas, philosophies or belief systems, or creating fiction. Many people with nonspecific interests have kept diaries or journals, and in the contemporary world blogs are a useful platform for producing any form of written content, and gaining skill in the very craft of writing.