writing advice

In the comments section below, share with us one helpful piece of writing advice or instruction that you’ve received. Just one! And please explain why you’ve found this advice or instruction helpful.

28 Replies to “writing advice”

  1. “Show, don’t tell.” This is a piece of writing advice I received from an article that was given to us in Magazine Writing class by Professor Allison Williams. This piece of advice has been the most helpful for my writing both in my internship and when constructing personal essays and other pieces. It has allowed me to convey the sensory experience rather than trying to describe to the reader what is happening or the emotion being felt. Being able to share my written experiences with people by making them feel as though they are “in the room” or a part of the story has been deeply impactful for my personal success in writing. It has also helped me to tap into the creative aspects of my writing that can be applied throughout all types of mediums and projects.

  2. Vary your sentences! Having a combination of long, medium, and short sentences creates depth in your writing and keeps the reader interested. I got this piece of advice from one of the writing professors here at UCSB and it has done WONDERS for my writing. It keeps your writing fun. Engaging. Suspenseful. What’s she gonna say next? No one know.

  3. Watch your commas! A major problem that I have is using too many commas within a single sentence. This leads to the creation of long, lingering sentences which really should have been broken up into multiple. Something that has helped me is asking myself do I really need this comma here or will this sentence be easier to digest without it.

  4. The best writing advice I have ever received is about feedback. For me, writing has always been deeply personal- even if it’s purely academic. This has always made it harder when people have feedback, especially if it’s about suggesting change. So the best advice I have ever received is when my boss told me that when I get feedback it tells me more about the person giving the feedback than it does about me. This advice revolutionized the way that I receive feedback by allowing me to focus more on how I am connecting with this specific audience, rather than defaulting to “I am a terrible writer.”

  5. I think the best advice I was ever given is that with my education and experiences, I could never sound “stupid” in my writing. Now, even though I’m not always sure of that, my teacher was trying to tell me not to continually second-guess myself in terms of sharing my experiences or opinions (in class and in writing). This has always been immensely helpful advice to me because anytime that I am feeling particularly down on myself about my writing for a particular reason, I remember my teacher who believed in me and told me that I could never sound stupid. Of course we all say or write things that are not perfect, but it helped me to just write what I am thinking instead of struggling with writer’s block because I couldn’t think of the perfect sentence on the spot.

    1. I just wanted to chime in here that this advice really resonates with me. When I’m participating in meetings or at conferences presenting on something, I try to remind myself that I (often) know more about the topic than the people I’m talking to. Or if not, I know something, or something different than what they know. Not to put down the audience, but just to be confident that what I have to say is valuable.

  6. I think the best writing advice I have received is to keep a good balance between conciseness and detail. In my Writing for Public Relations course, Professor Mizrahi emphasized upholding clarity and conciseness in our writing. I learned that this will help me avoid adding too many unnecessary details that may confuse the reader or make the objective less clear. Being detailed will allow writers to express their voice and illustrate a full picture for the reader while paying attention to conciseness will ensure that the message is clear and easily understood.

  7. In my writing experience, I’ve learned to understand the importance of being concise in my writing. Concise writing eliminates room for confusion as readers can get a clear understanding of what is being said. Although details are important in writing, too many can create confusion for the readers as they usually read to understand a point. It can be difficult for readers to follow writing that focuses too much on describing the point rather than clearly stating the topic. This is also why the organization is an important factor in structuring your writing. If your writing calls for a lot of description, it can be helpful to have a clear and concise topic sentence to be able to elaborate in further detail later in the text. This will make your descriptions much easier to follow and give space for readers to understand the nuances of your topic.

  8. Some writing advice that I have found to be extremely helpful is making sure you have a good flow in your writing. When trying to start writing, I find myself throwing a bunch of thoughts on a page that don’t necessarily flow well when trying to read it all together in the end. This can be good for an initial draft when you’re trying to figure out what you want to say but for a final draft it can be confusing and difficult to read through. Sometimes sentences will make sense on their own but once they’re thrown in a paragraph they don’t fit as well. I try to read through my writing as a whole periodically as I’m working on it to make sure it all makes sense together. If I throw in an idea in the middle of my writing I make sure to read it again as a whole to see if it fits as well as I thought it would. Something that helps is finding a good way to transition from one idea to the next in a way that feels natural and goes unnoticed when reading through it. Reading my work out loud also helps me catch errors or things that could be worded better. The goal for me is to have my writing work well as a whole and not have any awkward or unusual sentences that ruin the flow of ideas that are being drawn out.

  9. Clarity is paramount to good writing and I never truly realized that until I took Writing 105G (Grammar Stylistics). The trick is to let nouns and verbs do most of the “work”, rather than to fluff up writing with adjectives and adverbs. It is easy to think that the more you layer “fancy” vocabulary words into your writing the better it is, however this often only makes your writing wordy or redundant. Specifically, when letting nouns and verbs carry your writing, leaning towards a predominantly verbal style procures a smoother read. Examine the following two excerpts:

    Excerpt A: “Birds make adaptations to changes in seasons through migration. Migration is the movement of some species form one location to another.” (93 Burch)

    Excerpt B: “Birds adapt to seasonal changes by migrating. when birds migrate, they move from one location to another. ” (93 Burch)

    Excerpt B is less choppy because it uses more verbs.

    1. Excellent advice, Eileen. Another strategy to achieve this kind of clarity and make your sentences more energetic is to reduce your use of the “to be” verb in favor of active verbs, like in the second sentence of the example above.

  10. To echo what some others have said, the best advice I’ve been given is to be concise! I can oftentimes by very long-winded in my descriptions with the intention of improving clarity, when in reality the writing comes across as fluffy and too wordy. In my high school journalism class, the editors were most harsh on pieces that were overly fluffy or descriptive (of course, this is also specific to journalism writing), and I’ve taken this with me ever since! This doesn’t necessarily mean having a shorter word count, but taking out unnecessary words and parts of sentences that don’t add much significance or clarity.

  11. Make your writing really personal to you! Use some of those key words that we drafted up earlier this quarter as inspiration and allow your own voice to shine through. When I was reading through the BSG examples from pervious years, I really enjoyed the ones that has really personal writing that you could tell resonated straight with the author.

    In a discussion with my group, Lia brought up word choice as well. I personally think that it is okay to use words such as “fun” or “funky” to describe our BSG if that is truly what it means to you, even if the words aren’t super professional – maybe your BSG itself isn’t super professional! I would love to hear some other thoughts on this as well!

  12. My writing advice would be to be selective about the words you choose. Often when writing, we write as if we were talking, using our stream of consciousness. While this type of writing is acceptable in some contexts I believe for the BSG the writing needs to be polished and professional. To do this, be meticulous about your words. Remove filler words and be colorful when describing. Instead of using a word like “fun,” try exciting or invigorating. I think my best tip is to simply reread your paragraphs and edit them to be the simplest, but most articulate.

  13. I agree with Anna that “show don’t tell” is the best and also most applicable writing advice I’ve received as a student and as an intern. Last quarter I took magazine writing and journalism writing, which were both very different from the typical, academic 5-paragraph essay format I’ve been used to all my life. The two classes encouraged me to show and not just tell my audience about the news and event I was covering – whether that be the SB Women’s March that occurred early October or the 6-hour Facebook crash that same month. Therefore, my writing was directed toward the public with the goal to make the reader feel as if they attended and experienced the event through sensory writing such as what was seen and heard. Additionally, my internship supervisor reminds me that my writing/pitches should be an “experience” and encourages me to utilize those sensory descriptions working in food and beverage (i.e. taste) and hospitality.

  14. I agree with many others that the best advice I’ve received is to think about conciseness and clarity. I often write with too much fluff, detracting from the strength of my points. Writing concisely but still weaving in enough context and detail is a constant struggle, but it is one that improves my writing every time.

  15. Read your writing out loud!

    I often get carried away in my overthinking and unnecessarily overcomplicate my writing. However, sometimes I find it hard to recognize this within my work. So, I always read my work aloud. If I find myself stumbling over my words or sounding awkward, I know that what I have written needs to be cut down and simplified!

    1. I agree Romy! Whenever I’m not sure about my writing or whether I wrote down my thoughts correctly, I read my writing out loud to see if everything flows correctly.

  16. Write from the heart is the advice I got. I always want to stay true to my writing style and write how I feel even though I get told to challenge myself in my writing, which I try my best, I still like to put my emotions in my writing.

    Two other important advices that I got in writing that I still follow to this day is before you start writing, have a plan/stay organized. Write down all of your thoughts that you want to convey into writing on a piece of paper. And the other advice I got is to make sure to proofread your work. I always read through my writing twice before submitting.

  17. My piece of advice is to use tangible examples. When I was writing my initial moldboard post, I used tangible things that I have, that describe my personality (funky green sweaters). This example shows how its fun, quirky, playful, and you can get these adjectives without even saying them. Also, by using these real life examples, you are using words that come from yourself. I like authors who use verbiage that sounds like themselves in person, its unique, and not boring.

  18. My advice is to always read your writing out loud, or have someone read it to you. It’s super simple, but, whenever I do this, I always notice something I need to change. I think when we read our writing in our head, it is easy to gloss over the diction and syntax.

  19. Advice I’ve gathered through a variety of writing experiences is to be concise! You can still deliver your point eloquently while staying brief. I would recommend reading news articles, press releases or other journalistic/ PR pieces because it can exemplify writing that gets straight to the point. Proofreading and getting a second opinion on your writing can help you figure out how to cut things down and stay concise.

  20. The best piece of writing advice I’ve gotten is to write out all of my thoughts first as a stream of consciousness without worrying about polishing the writing, then go back and revise/edit. I find this extremely helpful because I’m able to visualize the merit of my ideas without worrying about verbiage/style. For someone who struggles to streamline my thoughts, it cleans up my final product.

  21. The best piece of writing advice I’ve received is to be concise. It’s easy to beat around the bush and add extra fluff to writing to make it seem more elegant or professional, but at the end of the day, being concise is the most important part. It helps grab and maintain the readers’ attention, prevents confusion, and ensures that the writing is memorable.

  22. A piece of writing advice I found to be really helpful is to use active voice when presenting information. With the active voice, the subject is doing something, which is more exciting than the passive voice, in which something is being done to the subject. I find this advice to be helpful because it makes your sentences more direct and concise, which is inherently a more powerful way to get information across to the reader.

  23. Similar to what others have said, the best piece of writing advice I’ve ever received is to prioritize clarity. I think in high school and the beginning of my journey as a writer I prioritized sentences sounding highfalutin rather than striving for clarity. I likely had sentences that sounded pretty or intelligent but really meant absolutely nothing. You want your reader to understand what you’re saying and you want to keep them engaged. Throwing jargon and fancy words at them will only confuse them and force them to spend more time deciphering your passages than actually reading them.

  24. The best piece of writing advice I’ve received is to read my writing aloud, especially when I’m editing. I’ve found that doing this helps me better organize and flush out my ideas, as well as catch inconsistencies, grammar mistakes, and awkward sentence structures that can be easy to miss when reading in my head.

  25. Some of the best writing advice I’ve received is that you don’t become a gifted writer over night. It takes a great deal of time and practice to work on your writing style. On top of this, I learned that creating a thorough outline is the best way to approach writing anything. This way you have a direction for your paper and you thought about everything you can add. Without this, I feel like it’s harder to write out a paper because you don’t have a sense of direction. Then finally, the last thing I found to be useful is to continually revise drafts until you feel like there’s nothing else to edit.

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