Good writing skills are something that all of your instructors/classes are looking for, yet not something always easy to pick up. In this and the next post, I’ll share ten steps, or tips, that will help you take your writing to the next level.

1. Give yourself extra time.
Review all questions and instructions as soon as you receive them (as soon as the Unit opens) to determine the length of the answers/essay(s) you need to write. Plan time for outlining, researching, and writing a first draft so that your writing assignment is finished with plenty of time for final revisions well before deadline.

2. Plan what you want to say before you start writing.
This is called Outlining, but it doesn’t have to be a formal outline. You can make a list of important ideas or facts you want to include in any format that works for you. Be sure to write down the info for citing your resources in the final draft later. If you include the source information in your outline/list, that makes it easier to remember where the info came from and where you’ll need to include in-text citations. Plan your work, and work your plan.

3. Write more than one topic sentence until you find one you really like.
Sometimes, we get too locked in on one topic sentence that we may miss out on a more interesting or original way to introduce the points we want to make.

4. It’s okay to write a crappy first draft.
It’s not just okay, but it’s perfectly normal and helpful, if what you write the first time through isn’t perfect. This is why #1 (time) is so important. If you allow enough time, writing is so much less stressful because you know you will have time to go back and correct any mistakes you made or add any points you may have overlooked.

In other words, DON’T PLAGIARIZE. Everything you submit (discussion posts, complete sections, essays, research papers, etc.) needs to be written in your own words, even when you have to look up information for an answer. Whenever you want to include something that someone else said or wrote, you must put the words that are not your own in quotation marks and include an in-text citation and full reference citation at the end. If you include someone else’s words in your writing and do not put it in quotation marks, that is plagiarism, because you are not showing with the quotation marks that the words aren’t yours.

If you take someone else’s writings, thoughts, or ideas, and rewrite them into your own words, you do not need to use quotation marks, but you do still need to use an in-text citation to indicate where you found that idea, as well as the full reference citation at the end.

“Plagiarism in college writing” (Pearson Education, Inc.)
Be sure to click through ALL the pages, and try some of the exercises.

“Plagiarism FAQs” (