Online Guide to Writing and Research

Chapter 7: Assessing Your Writing

Using Assessment to Improve Your Writing

When you have successfully completed a writing assignment, you have begun to improve as a writer. When you choose to evaluate your writing, you have contracted with yourself to improve it. Even if you do not choose a career in professional writing, you will derive greater satisfaction from your academic and workplace writing if you continue to improve your writing skills.

By identifying your strengths and weaknesses and working on improving specific aspects of your writing using a list of criteria and a plan, you are using assessment to improve your writing. Every assignment is an opportunity for you to determine where you are in your writing progress and to set goals for the next step in your improvement plan.

Here’s how to continue improving your writing:

  • Learn from your mistakes. Watch for patterns of strengths and weaknesses in your writing. Consciously and methodically work on improving your weaknesses. Regularly use your strengths to keep them strong.

  • Analyze examples of good writing. By understanding how other writers have succeeded in writing effectively, you can improve your skills and strategies. Keep a notebook of writing samples that includes your notations about what works and what doesn’t.

  • Build your skills as you go along. Work methodically on your writing, focusing on specific skills each time you write a paper. Keep a journal or course notebook so you can practice writing in a specific discipline. Don’t wait until the last minute to work on your writing assignments.

  • Find opportunities for writing practice. Some courses require you to keep a journal or notebook with review and integrating questions, case study discussions, or laboratory notes. Use these opportunities to practice writing topic sentences, thesis statements, and major and minor supports. Practice writing effective sentences in a unified paragraph or practice freewriting. Use these shorter assignments as warm-ups for the longer research papers.

  • Look for writing opportunities in all your classes. When you participate in a group assignment, volunteer to take minutes or write summaries of group decisions. Produce written proceedings of oral presentations. Ask your teacher for extra credit for writing extra papers.

  • Take writing courses beyond your requirements. All writing courses, including creative writing, will help you improve your writing skills. Take a variety of writing courses to help you broaden your vocabulary, style, sentence structure, organization, and thinking.

  • Take writing seminars offered by professional organizations. Many professional organizations offer short writing courses to help you learn new skills or new kinds of writing. Other organizations offer Internet-based courses to teach new writing skills, review grammar, and build vocabulary.

  • Keep a journal or writing log. Keep tabs of your writing plan and your improvement. Set aside 10 or 15 minutes daily to review what you are focusing on and practicing; set aside another 10 or 15 minutes to practice it. Set goals to learn some new writing skill each week.

  • Write, write, write. You won’t learn to write by reading a book on writing if you don’t practice what you have learned. Learning to write is like learning to play an instrument: you get better only by setting your goals and practicing your lessons. Your writing will improve through your consistent and concerted effort to improve it.

  • Read, read, read. By reading good writing, you will be able to identify solid writing models and improve your sentence structure, spelling, punctuation, and vocabulary.