Writing good papers is a skill, and like any other skill, doing it well takes knowledge and practice. It is important to remember that it is not always effective to focus on the grade you receive for an individual paper. Instead, you should focus on the amount of progress or improvement you are able to make in your writing over a whole semester or even a whole year.
Keeping that in mind, here are a few things you can do to help improve your writing:
Read more. Reading more books or articles from well-edited sources (journals, magazines (in print or online) can help you internalize proper grammatical patterns (without having to spend hours talking about grammar), expand your vocabulary, improve your spelling, along with many other benefits (including decreasing your stress levels). The catch is that it has to be well-written, longer-form material, not some random’s Instagram feed or a Twitter thread, because as entertaining as these can be, they are probably full of the bad writing habits you are trying to break.
Read the feedback your instructor gives you and meet with your instructor to discuss the feedback. The best way to learn how to improve your future writing is to learn from the mistakes you have already made; otherwise, you will continue to make the same mistakes over and over again. Talk to your instructor to make sure you understand what their comments mean, then actually try to rewrite those sections of your paper to see if you can correct the errors (yes, even if the paper can’t be resubmitted for marks).
Visit the Writing Specialist. Bring the paper with your instructor’s feedback (and maybe your attempted rewrites) to your appointment, and the Writing Specialist can talk you through different ways to repair various writing mistakes or essay structure problems so that you won’t make the same mistakes on your next paper. By making baby-steps in writing improvement on each paper you submit, you can easily improve your writing over the course of a semester.
Writing college-level essays and assignments can be scary, especially if you have never written one before, have been out of school for a while, or are an international student unfamiliar with the expectations of Canadian institutions. Medicine Hat College offers free Writing Support Services to all students in any program or discipline. As the Writing Specialist, I am here to help you with practical advice at all stages of the writing process for a variety of assignments.
I am happy to help you with everything from understanding your assignment and brainstorming ideas to thesis development, essay structure, and self-editing. If you are struggling with grammar, punctuation, formatting, and citation and referencing (APA, MLA, and Chicago), stop by and I can give you advice and point you toward useful resources and tools.
It’s important to remember that the content of your papers is your responsibility. I can’t tell you what to write or edit your whole paper for you. But if you are stuck and need help understanding your assignment or figuring out the structure of your essay, if you want feedback on a draft or tips on how to improve your writing based on the feedback from a paper you got back from an instructor, make an appointment with me or drop by and I’ll do my best to answer any questions you have or talk through your concerns regarding an assignment.
The best place to find me is in Student Success Centre in the Vera Bracken Library for drop-ins or appointments (a sign-up sheet is on the cubicle wall) Monday through Thursday 10:00-12:00 and 1:00-3:00, and Friday 11:00-1:00. I also offer assistance through limited office-hour appointments (booked via email), online tutoring (via Blackboard), or small group tutorials. See the Writing Support webpage for contact information and more.
Becoming a better writer is a process that takes time and practice, and I’m here to help!