The Six Biggies in Writing

There are six key strategies I teach students as they improve their basic writing skills. As a writer, it’s interesting to me how well these six elements still translate to improving my work at a professional level. When you’re paying attention to these areas of your work, you’ll start to see ways to tweak your work to make it more readable. Learning more about how you write also lets you improve your writing in different areas. I’m not talking about tricks for web writing or for copywriting – this is Writing 101 – perfect for those looking to improve English skills in written work.

When you’re writing there are six areas to keep an eye on. Of course, in specific styles of writing like copywriting there are different rules – I’m speaking generally here. We’ll go into these in more depth over the course of the next couple of months, so consider this the overview.

Ideas

Ideas are the starting point for writing anything. Sometimes you’re confined on ideas, if you’re writing a technical manual, for example, but getting creative doesn’t have to mean getting chatty through a blog or being outlandish. Often a good idea is just a different take on something. Unique makes it interesting, even if the topic has been covered many times before. In this case unique doesn’t mean switch every third word around for Copyscape. It means find a novel way of presenting facts or ideas – wow us with your creativity.

Organization

Your work must be organized. Can you just write flowing journal-like entries politely called stream of consciousness? Sure. Will anyone read them? Who knows. We do know when your work is organized, the reader can follow your words and ideas more closely. The five paragraph essay is an excellent way to organize, but it’s certainly not the only way, so don’t feel limited here.

Before you start writing, make a quick outline or list off to the side. Brainstorm a bit. Even if you don’t write anything down, take five or ten seconds to list the important elements in your head so that you have a blue print for what you’re writing. Organization is often improved when you revise your work as well.

Word Choice

Words make all the difference. Your word choice shows that you have a strong grasp of the English language and that you can use effective words to convey an idea. Word choice can be as simple as avoiding the use of certain words over and over again, or it can be more complex as you expand your vocabulary to find precise language to avoid clichés or subjective language.

Sentence Fluency

If words are the building blocks of writing, you use them to make strong sentences. Sentences are the framework of your piece. Fluid sentences include natural phrases and diversity to make them easy to read and engaging to follow.

Voice

The hardest element to understand, voice is your personality coming through your work. Your words, the images you create, the tone you use as you write all contribute to your authentic voice. In some cases, such as technical writing and reporting, voice is discouraged. However, in feature articles, blogging and some website content, voice is the key to making your work personable and engaging for the reader.

Conventions

Finally, the conventions are assessed. Only when you’ve put everything else together do you start checking on your conventions. Conventions are the spelling and grammar of your piece. Your punctuation and phrasing are part of conventions as well. It’s rare to get a piece exactly right on the first try, and you can argue easily that’s its actually impossible. There will always be something that can be improved to make your work cleaner and more precise. Checking conventions is your way of being sure you’ve done all you can to polish your work.

Profile image for Rebecca Garland
Rebecca is a full-time everything. She teaches English and reading to her much loved, if challenging, high school students during the day and is a freelance education writer in the evenings. With almost ten years in the classroom and advanced degrees in business and information science, Rebecca specializes in materials that inform, educate and entertain. Rebecca indulges herself by pretending to have spare time and writing about the ups and downs of being a freelancing mama whenever she gets a chance.

2 thoughts on “The Six Biggies in Writing”

  1. These are great reminders; “convention” being the biggest challenge for me. But one of the most important if we want others to understand our writing. Thanks.

    Reply
  2. I love it! I’ve been told my voice is my strong suit. I’ve been lacking in word choice lately- I swear I’ll sit here looking for a word for the longest time……. must be my age. 3s you know, they’re killer haha:)

    Reply

Leave a Comment