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Writing Effectively

At university you need to develop effective writing styles that engage your particular audience. Many students over complicate their writing using vocabulary they are unfamiliar with in the hope of sounding intelligent.

5 things you need to know...

According to Gunning (1952) the best writing informs and the worst confuses.  This view is supported by the late Steve Jobs of Apple© whose mantra was ‘focus and simplicity’.  To write effectively: clarity; structure; relevance; argument and precision all require development.

  • Clarity - This refers to your ability to write in a way that can be easily understood by the reader.  To write with clarity requires clear thinking and the ability to develop a logical structure for your work. This demands a firm understanding of the subject you are writing about.  Insufficient research can result in confusion and an inadequately developed argument.

  • Structure - Structured writing is logically organised and arranged to help the reader to understand the growth of your argument.  Your writing should be broken down into topics areas and then paragraphs each of which develops a theme.  You need to work in short bursts and take regular breaks and exercise to refresh your brain.

  • Relevance - As you are writing to a word count, your tutor wants depth in the subject you are addressing.  You need to prioritise topic areas that enable you to achieve the module learning outcomes for the assignment.  Everything you write should be based upon the evidence of professionals in the field.  Your job as an undergraduate is to challenge the experts and draw sensible conclusions.

  • Argument - You need to develop your criticality and ability to read for agreement and disagreement.  You should keep an open mind and be prepared to change your views in the light of evidence.  When authors agree this provides a weight of evidence for you to use.  When they disagree you need to judge which expert forwards the best argument and supporting evidence.

  • Precision - This is the ability to write in a way that is exact and accurate. Improving your skill in proofreading and rewriting sentences enhances this.  To be effective you need to give yourself time to read through your work a number of times for different purposes.  You also need to distance yourself from your writing for a period of time as this enables you to see your work from a new perspective.  Being skilled in time management helps you to achieve this.

Need to know more ...

Grix, J & Watkins, G (2010) Information Skills: Finding and Using the Right Resources.  Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan
Peck, J. & Coyle, M. (2012) Write it Right: The Secrets of Effective Writing. 2nd Ed. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan
Seely, J. (2005) Effective Writing and Speaking. 2nd Ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press


Introduction to Academic Writing - 3.07 minutes

Personalising your device and using assistive tools

There are many assistive technology tools which can help you choose how you want to access material and these can really improve your productivity.

The University has made some applications available on the student PCs within the library and IT Centres; others are free for you to download and use on your own devices (phone, tablet, laptop or computer) .  Find out more on our personalising standard software guide and our assistive tools and software guide.