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A Quick Tip to Improve Your Writing

Updated: Oct 25, 2021

By Isabelle Scott

Word counts and page length requirements are regular attributes that students have become so accustomed to in their daily assignment descriptions. These assignment qualities have been introduced since the beginning of student writing; however, these very requirements can be detrimental to the writing and growth of the writer themself.

In recent discussions I’ve been a part of with an English professor at USU, an issue with these word counts and page length requirements has come to light. I’ve learned that a major challenge many professors are facing is the struggle and dissatisfaction they feel with having students who are submitting overly wordy essays. This writing is boosted up with “filler stuff”—words, sentences, or whole paragraphs that are unnecessary and are clearly there simply to make the writing appear longer and therefore somehow “smarter”. This professor has pushed for student writing to be more coherent and succinct, rather than setting established word counts for her students to try to hit (or fill with meaningless fluff). Anyone who wants to be a better writer—whether that is in academic, creative, or any other form of writing—can improve their writing by learning how and when to eliminate the “filler stuff” and by choosing instead to be both coherent and succinct. Writing can be meaningful and intelligent, while also being concise.

But some may be skeptical—can “less” really be “more” in terms of writing? Can “good writing” exist, particularly in simplicity? Can someone still exude intelligence while keeping their writing short?

Yes, absolutely.

A fantastic example that illustrates this concept comes from the famous writer, Ernest Hemingway. Legend says that he was once challenged to create a story using only six words. He was determined to win the bet and wrote the following six-word story:

“For Sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

Hemingway uses only six words to craft this beautiful, heart-wrenching story. This renowned author shows each of us that it is possible for writing to be both short and meaningful.

My challenge is for you—whoever is reading this—to try this yourself. Try to go back and eliminate the unnecessary in your writing. Practicing the expression of your ideas in a way that is both meaningful and concise is a great starting place to improve your writing.

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