In theory, students around the country learn many of the skills needed for success in college during their high school years, including the ability to express themselves in the written word. In reality, thousands of students descend upon college campuses in need of remedial courses. According to a New York Times article published several years ago entitled “At 2-Year Colleges, Students Eager But Unprepared,” only twenty-one percent of ACT exam takers applying to traditional four-year undergraduate institutions were ready for college work, a conclusion based on their scores in writing, reading, biology, and math.
If you’re having trouble with your writing, there are simple steps you can take that can improve your essays.
By the time your introduction is over, whether it’s one paragraph or two pages, the reader should know exactly what your paper is going to be about – the rest of the essay should include supporting facts and more detail, but the question should be answered in your thesis. Also keep in mind that the thesis can be longer than one sentence, should your essay require it. The body of the paper should be in the general format of claim, evidence, claim, evidence, to keep things clear.
The claim is the point you want to make, e.g. “the business was failing.” The evidences are the supporting research that proves the point, statements like “the profits were falling, investors were losing interest, and employees were seeking other employment.” If you can, avoid passive sentences: rather than stating “the ball was thrown,” use active verbs with clear subjects – “Mike threw the ball.”
Your conclusion should actually conclude your essay, with a quick restatement of the basic answer to the question and any relevant final thoughts you wish to share.
Keep in mind that this article is by no means exhaustive. If you’re serious about changing the way you commit your thoughts to the page, seek help. If your school has academic services that include writing tutorials, take advantage of them. Visit your professors during office hours and see what tips they are able to offer you. If you have to, e-mail other professors from writing-intensive departments like History and English – you might be able to find one who is willing to sit down with you for an afternoon and help you improve. However you go about it, in the majority of fields for which a college degree is required, the inability to write is a deal-breaker, so start fixing that problem today.