2 October 2008 09:11 AM

Getting Into A Writing Habit

by Dr. Rick

There is an interesting survey from Pew Research and the College Board about teens’ and their parents’ thoughts about writing. Eighty percent of parents think writing is more important now than when they were in school. Eighty-six percent of the teens think writing skills are important for success after graduation. They even think they should be spending more class time writing.


I’m assuming they’re not talking about email, instant-messaging, or texting, each of which is a mere distant cousin of writing. They’re talking about writing to communicate with a larger audience and following some standard, time-tested, and universally accepted rules that make expressing our thoughts easier.


Creating writers begins early. Here are some tips that I’ve found helpful not only for myself but for the students in my classes and their parents.


  1. Read. Read a lot. Read the best writers, and pay attention to what they do, how they use words, and how they create sentences. Pay attention to the “mechanics” of what you read: the grammar, the punctuation, and the spelling. You’ll be amazed at how much you’ll absorb without even knowing it. (The books by Don and Jenny Killgallon are extremely useful in helping you write like the pros!) 
  2. Write as much as you can. Practice is the best thing you can do. The nice thing about writing is that you don’t need someone to “assign” it to you. On your own, keep a notebook to jot down interesting thoughts. Or, keep a journal to write down what’s important to you. (I’ve kept journals for years, writing about the things I’m grateful for, the memorable experiences I’ve had, the fulfilling – and the dumb – things I’ve done, the interesting places I’ve visited, the cool people I’ve met, and what I’ve learned from the many mistakes I make.) Just write.
  3. Revise. For writing what others are going to see, revise it to make it clear, interesting, and correct. Note how much better your later drafts are than your first ones. Improvements take time, so give yourself plenty of it when you’re writing for school.
  4. Respond. We write for one reason: to be read. Get feedback about your writing.  This is hard, but it’s necessary. Get some friends who are interested in writing, too, and then swap work with them. You’ll be a great help to each other.
  5. Have a writing ritual. Rituals are important. They’re important for homework, for studying, for preparing for long-term assignments, and they’re important for writing, too. Try to eliminate as many distractions as possible. You’re really not as good a multi-tasker as you think you are.
  6. You can’t start too early. Parents, be good role models for your kids. Let them see you writing. Encourage them to write about whatever appeals to them. With great interest, read what they write. Suggest topics for them. Help them develop study/homework/writing rituals. Make sure they have the tools and supplies they need.




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