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Additional Writing Tips

Becoming a Good Writer

Creativity and Brainstorming

Perhaps the greatest source of nervousness in the opinion portions of the test is not being able to think of something to say. Improve your brainstorming skills with practice. Explore the different methods until you find the one that works for you.

Are you a linear thinker?

  • Create a simple list of the 5Ws and How.
  • Word association – write down the main word and then whatever other words come to mind in association with it.

Are you an intuitive thinker? A non-traditional method of generating ideas may work better.

  • Sketch pictures that come to mind as you consider the question. Relax and allow your mind to associate new words with those pictures. Write down the first word that comes to mind for each image, symbol, scribble, line or structure. Organize the words into clusters of similar or related ideas.

Be well read

One of the roads to good writing is reading. Read the kind of writing that you would like to produce. Some ideas include:

  • Subscribe to a well-written blog.
  • Go to the library and read articles about science, economics, psychology or political science.
  • Switch between reading different genres. You'll learn new words and new ways of perceiving the world. Try historical novels, mysteries, biographies or science fiction.

Practice writing

Practice makes perfect! You wouldn't go into a sports competition without training, would you? Write often to get used to the process.

  • Summarize articles from your favorite magazine.
  • Keep a journal or publish a blog about your hobby.
  • Write down your opinions about the headlines in the news.

Learn how to edit your own writing.

Develop a strategy for quickly editing your work. You may even memorize this list.

  • Have I answered the question?
  • Is there a thesis statement?
  • Do the topic sentences of each paragraph develop the thesis logically?
  • Are the transition words appropriate?
  • Does the conclusion summarize my message?


Every essay should have the following organizational structure:

Body (paragraphs or sentences to explain, prove, illustrate, etc.)

Transition words should be chosen carefully so that they are true guideposts for the reader. Do not use "first, second, third" unless you are describing steps in a process or explaining events chronologically!

To indicate that an example or an illustration follows:

chiefly, especially, for instance, in particular, namely, particularly, including, specifically, such as, as an example, in this case

To show how one action is similar to another action:

comparatively, likewise, similar to, moreover, together with

To contrast ideas:

although, however, instead, on the other hand, in contrast, but

To emphasize one point:

above all, chiefly, with attention to, especially, particularly, singularly

To show the structure or organization of the essay:

first, let's begin with, next, now, furthermore, in addition

To summarize or conclude:

all in all, all things considered, briefly, in brief, in conclusion, on the whole, in short, in summary, in the final analysis, in the long run, to sum up, to summarize, finally

Strengthen your writing.

Connect it to a larger issue such as a cultural belief, a current headline catching the nation's attention, or a theoretical question many people face.

Appeal to authority by quoting an expert in the field or relating an anecdote which illustrates how that authority handled the situation.

Avoid redundancy.

Stay on track. Digression is distracting.

Vary basic and complex sentence structures.

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