Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Improving Your Writing

If you ask most English teachers and professors, they will tell you - the more you read habitually, the better a writer you will become. Your reading experiences and habits are more linked to how good a writer you are than your knowledge of grammar. I know this to be true from personal experience.

When I was in elementary school, I had many lessons in grammar. They were very focused on grammar at my school. However, I was not a good writer back then, despite normally getting A’s in my English (grammar) tests. Evidently, knowing your grammar is not all that it takes to become a good writer (as I've learned early on.)

Lets fast forward to my high school years. During those years, I didn’t really care that much for the books they assigned in school, although I did read them and performed well on the tests. However, I was still not a good writer - until I began reading a lot on my own. I did not read on my own for the sake of improving my writing or reading. I didn't even read the books English teachers recommended. However, I did begin the habit of reading on my own because I wanted to learn more about the things of which I was interested, such as nutrition, fitness, health, martial arts, and spirituality. After establishing a habit of reading books and magazines on these topics, I (as well as my teachers) noticed that my writing was drastically improving. I was no Shakespeare, but I became a writer with a lot of interesting things to say and a lot of knowledge to convey to my readers, because I was reading and learning so much. I also picked up on the different ways and different styles of professional writers in informing the readers while captivating their interests. At some point, I started writing my papers as if I was writing for readers of a magazine, instead of thinking of it as writing to obtain a desired grade from the teacher. This paradigm shift, or shift in thinking, played a huge role in improving my writing. (As with many areas of life, a paradigm shift or change of approach can make a huge difference.)

Whether you want to improve your writing to perform well on the CAT Writing test or get good grades on papers for various classes, you should get into the habit of reading things you want to learn. You should especially do this on summer breaks or Christmas breaks. Gradually, your interest will expand to other subjects and you will find yourself sitting at bookstores and libraries for hours at a time. Eventually, you will naturally become a good writer of your own style.