How to write good*: Introduction

By: Henry Chow

There are two types of people reading this post at the moment.

– Motivated individuals who wish to improve their writing skills (you’ve come to the right place, as you probably overlooked the erroneous title).

– Prudish individuals who have caught the error in the title (stay awhile, as there may still be some components to this post that could interest your immense intellectuality).


Regardless of whichever category you’ve been deposited into, here’s a bit of basic advice I’ve offered towards many of my friends:

Know your Audience
General Expectations:
Often times, just going up to the person marking your paper/essay and asking them what their exact expectations or wants from you (the student) will glean you information which could potentially bump your letter grade up a few notches.

Say, a customer asks you for a steak. Just steak. No mention of the cut, rarity, etc… and so, you slap down a charred beef shank. Customer looks ready to eat your firstborn child.

Everybody wins if proper communication is established: the marker gets what he wants, you get a good grade.

In comparison to courses that require concrete answers (e.g. science), English courses tend to be subjective in nature- meaning that it’s up to the marker to determine if your writing is up to scratch.

Capturing the Audience

This involves putting yourself in the mind of the person who is reading your jumble of words on a piece of paper. Ask yourself: would I retain my sanity after reading the same sort of essays repeatedly over the course of a few days?

Your job is to slip in a piece of candy with the medicine that you’re feeding the audience. Not so much as to muddle your argument or make yourself seem unprofessional, but enough to set yourself apart.

This blog may be an [okay] example, if you were writing an informal essay as it includes a hook at the top which challenges the reader, as well as interspersed metaphors and references to keep the pace. Be advised, formal essays will require a different persuasive technique.

Cheeky references, jabs at the reader and other informal methods of writing may only serve to make your psychology professor’s face seem even more constipated than it was to begin with when reading your piece.

So, you may want to point out something that may interest the professor/marker, or whichever factor that demonstrates your mastery over the subject at hand.

Cheryl Kwan

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