11 Point Plan to Achieve Clarity in Academic Writing

Nothing is a bigger enemy of good writing than fuzzy thinking. Nothing can quite replace putting appropriate time and thought into your writing to make your points and word choice clear and concise! Take the following steps.

Picture your audience. Name a member of your audience. Give him an age, name, and face if necessary. Think of him as you write. Think about how your writing will interest him and help him achieve what you want him to accomplish after reading your work.

Review your assignment. If you see your audience and know what you want the end consumer to get out of it, then the next step is to examine the requirements to get across your message. Have all requirements squared away from the beginning: word count, purpose, goal, technique, etc. Leave nothing to chance.

Set up your document. Create your word processing file. Set up your document preferences: proper margins, font, font size, tabs, and other settings so that you don’t have to go back and redo anything.

Write a thesis statement or hypothesis. Keep that statement in focus for your entire research. If a statement does not help you get across your thesis, or help evaluate your hypothesis, then delete it.

Outline your argument and the steps you will take. Have a plan for your writing and provide this sketch before you fill in the details. This will help you, especially if you are a writer who typically starts writing first and shaping later.

Ask at least 3 people to read your writing. The more eyes you have on your writing, the more problems you are likely to catch on the front end. Be willing to take the critique of others. Allow people to correct everything from the details (like grammar and punctuation) to the big picture ideas and assumptions you make (to keep from incorrect assumptions and faulty logic).

Write your first draft. Write it freely. You can self-edit as you go if you wish. Sometimes it’s great just to get the ideas out. After you have your first draft, let it sit for at least a day. Leaving this time after your first draft will help you gain some perspective and help your read it fresh.

Read it again. Look at it from a big picture point of view, seeing if it makes sense or if anything needs more attention.

Do a final edit. Read it, editing all the details. Trim to the word count and cut out unnecessary words and phrases.

Run spell and grammar check. This can help your writing more than you know. Spell check finds those nasty misspelled words. Grammar check can find any pesky subject-verb agreement issues or help you find that easy-to-miss passive voice that may sound correct to your ear.

Ask one other person you trust to read it again. You can never get too much feedback. Sometimes your professor will offer to do this for you if you can finish your writing early.

Turn it in and reward yourself!