It doesn’t matter if you are in a traditional on-campus program, a hybrid program, or a 100% online program. You’re going to have to do your fair share of academic writing. Here are five tips I give my own comp students at the very beginning of the course to try to help them out when it comes to improving their grades.


1. Simpler is better. Don’t use “high falutin’” language or try to impress me (or other instructors) by writing in overly complex (too wordy) sentences with words you might not understand. Simple word choices and simple sentence structures eliminate misused words and run-on or incomprehensible sentences.

2. Watch for subject-verb agreement. Figure out what the subject of your sentence is, then make sure to match the verb to it. If it’s a singular subject, use the singular form of the verb, if it’s a plural subject, use the plural form of the verb. This is where the “simpler is better” sentence structure really comes in handy.

3. Discussion posts should still be written in an academic, well-thought-through manner. Just because it’s a forum (not a paper) or because it asks for your opinion doesn’t mean you can get sloppy with your writing. Approach writing your discussion posts as you would any other piece of academic writing. (And don’t forget to at least meet the minimum word count.)

4. Try to eliminate the use of First- and Second-Person pronouns in your writing. This means don’t use “I,” “my,” or “mine,” or “you” or “your.” Try to keep your writing in Third Person (he/she/they/it).

5. Commas, commas, commas! More than any other piece of punctuation, the little comma is the most abused/misused on the keyboard. You can learn more about using commas correctly here.

As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to ask in the comments section below.