Dissertation Writing Tips: How to Improve and Strengthen Your Writing
July 27, 2018
Nathaniel Hawthorne once said “Easy reading is damn hard writing.” He was right, of course. Good writing takes time and practice, and even if you have a natural inclination toward writing, it’s still not easy. Academic writing, creative writing, scientific writing – none of it comes effortlessly, but there are ways to strengthen your writing, no matter what kind of writing you do.
- Read, read, read. Read books, papers, and articles in your field and in other subjects or genres. A good writer is almost always an avid reader as well. The more you read good writing, the more you’ll learn about tone, style, syntax, and what works and what doesn’t.
- This might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised. Write as if your life depended on it. Olympic athletes practice for hours a day; writers write A LOT. Even if you’re writing a dissertation, why not break up the monotony and try your hand at a personal essay or short story? What about writing a journal article about the most fascinating part of your research? Free-write, journal, write criticism – just put pen to paper (or fingers to keys).
- Build up your tool box. Pick up a dictionary, thesaurus, and the required style guide that you need. If you can, Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style is also a great writing book. If funds allow for other books, here are some that we would recommend as well. To write well, you need to be prepared. These are always handy to have at your side.
- Many of our clients say that they’re lost, or don’t know how to start or where to go with their papers; or they’ve gotten feedback from their professors that the writing is “all over the place.” Outlines can be hugely helpful with this. It can be a structured traditional outline, jotted down notes – anything that will help guide you with your ideas and flow.
- Read your writing out loud. Read others’ writing out loud. If you’re working on a book, pick a favorite book in that subject area or genre, and read it out loud, noticing the cadence, the sentence structure and words, and the way it flows. If you’re working on a dissertation, try to get a dissertation from your department, and read it out loud. How do the paragraphs sound? What do you notice – is it wordy and complicated, or easy to rattle off? Now read your writing. Does it sound right? Did it roll off your tongue? Did it sound awkward, too formal, or too colloquial? Sometimes we don’t realize how things read until they’re read out loud.
- Be clear. Get rid of filler words, break down complex ideas into easily accessible language, minimize use of prepositions, and cut to the chase. Make every word count.
- Hire an editor! You knew we would say that, right? No, but seriously – a good editor has saved many a writer. Having friends read over your paper and make comments is well and good, but a professional editor brings a trained eye, objective perspective, and years of experience. A good editor will not rewrite your paper or change your ideas; rather, they will help shape your writing and provide you with feedback so that you can revise your writing and polish it to make it even better.
If you’re ready to take the next step with your writing, contact us today. Our team of editors has the expertise to help take your writing to the next level. We’re always happy to look over your project and talk with you to see how we can best help you.