Writing for beginners is a big concern and a challenge because I once faced it. They worry about starting to put words together. The fear is not just about writing words in sentences but doing it in a way that creates some meaning. The inability to develop clarity and purpose discourages many, and it is little wonder that they never come back to writing again.
However, the bad news is this means only more difficulties because the written word is central to most forms of human activity now. Colleges, universities, banks, NGOs and countless other professional institutions require from its members, at least, some elementary knowledge and skills in writing. Act as small and simple as sending a phone text message, or an email demands basic literacy in writing.
So, instead of giving up on it, it is important to realize that there are solutions to this problem.
For the past decade, I have learned and practiced the following lessons and have greatly benefited from them. I hope some of these steps will help you kickstart your writing.
Learn and practice the following five lessons every day.
- Read Every Day
Reading is an essential first step to writing. Read as much as you can, and read every day. Or read at least a few pages a day. While reading, develop a keen mind. Observe the skills of other writers. Notice their use of words and construction of sentences. Pay attention to how they connect ideas and bring coherence and organization in them. Look at their paragraphs. What makes one section distinct from another? How does the transition take place from one thought to the other? What words do authors use for the transformation? The list of things to watch is endless. You may be curious about ideas of your interest, which is fine. However, be very attentive to these fundamental details. Imitate, not copy, these skills. Apply them to your writing, and always give credit to a writer when you quote them word for word or use their work as a reference.
- Master Basic Grammar Skills
Writing without the correct knowledge and use of grammar is like building a house without bricks. Surely, one can not but agree with E. B. White that “Writing is an act of faith, not a trick of grammar.” However, White’s quote is nonetheless a perfect example of the correct use of grammar. The rule is that you have to know the rules of grammar first to break them. The most essential and necessary skill in order is the parts of speech. They include the most commonly used verb, noun, pronoun, adjective, adverb, preposition, interjection and conjunction. I will leave the details for you to find out but start with the following two books, English Grammar in Use by Raymond Murphy and English Grammar and Composition by Wren and Martin, for high schoolers. Another most advised and a little-advanced book is The Elements of Style by William Strunk, E. B. White. Consult the first two before the third one.
- Write but Start with a Sentence First
All writing starts with the construction of a single sentence. Write your first sentence. Do not feel overwhelmed by the thought of long articles, long texts and thick volumes of books. They all started with a single sentence once. Of course, writing gets more and more complicated to handle when you write another sentence, the next and the next to that. Then you have many thoughts, and here is where writing for beginners becomes especially challenging because they lose focus on conveying their message with clarity and meaningfulness.
There is one trick that helped me get over this challenge when I was struggling with it. And here it is: If you know the goal you want to accomplish with a sentence, it is most likely that you will convey a better meaning than when you have little idea about what you want to do with the sentence. The same goes for connections between sentences. Also, this is precisely how you attain flow and coherence in your writing in general. Do not, likewise, forget that constructing sentences give you the excellent opportunity to practice word and grammar skills.
- After Sentence, Write a Paragraph
Once you learn sentence construction and can write clear and meaningful sentences, you are ready for paragraph writing. Think about a new paragraph, usually, as a new sentence with its distinct idea, words, intent and objective, but also remember that, just like between sentences, there is always some sort of connection between paragraphs. The reason for writing text in sections or paragraphs is to break down information to make it easier for the human mind to follow. We tend to feel overwhelmed by long texts with no empty spaces between them. Another reason for paragraph writing is introducing new ideas in new sections.
- Learn the Correct Use of Words
My English teacher in college once said, “worry over nothing but words.” But, many overlook this fact. The right use of words is essential for proper writing. Without knowing their precise meaning, the use of words ends up out of context only to distort the purpose of a sentence. For instance, there is a big difference between the words pursue and persuade. The former means to follow and the latter to encourage or convince. If you doubt the sense of a word, look up its definition in the dictionary. I use Oxford Advanced Learner’s dictionary for many reasons. It defines a word with its different meanings, enlists phrasal verbs associated with the word and gives examples of sentences. When you search a word, make sure you briefly go over its different connotations and read sentence examples.
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Author: Aslam is a writing Lecturer and Ph.D. student of Global Affairs at Rutgers University. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @aslam_Kakar