Quick Tips for Improving Writing at the Level of Sentences

This term in my course I am having my students write short reflective pieces in response to a writing prompt. As they have gained experience in completing these assignments, the writing pieces have become more reflective, and are usually interesting and engaging. There are a few common problems that I continue to see as the term has progressed and these issues are found at the level of individual sentences. These include typos, switching between tenses, plural vs. possessive words and the correct use of apostrophes, and awkward sentence structure. I’ve been sharing a few tricks with my students in order to help them improve their writing at the level of the sentences in their work. I’ve listed these quick tips below:

1) Most word processing programs contain a spelling and grammar check function. This is an easy way to find out if you have made a basic writing error and to fix it.

2) After I’ve read something a few times on a computer monitor, I often can’t see my mistakes. Print out your assignment on a sheet of paper and go through it line by line with a pen in your hand. Correct your mistakes on this hard copy and then make the corrections in your electronic version.

3) Read your assignment out loud. If you have difficulty reading a sentence, it means that it is not written well. If the sentence sounds odd or is confusing, rewrite it. If a sentence doesn’t make sense to you, it will certainly not make sense to your target audience.


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