14 Ways to Write Better in High School

Write better essays, papers, reports and blogs

Typewriter
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Whether you're putting together a research paper for class, posting a blog, composing your SAT essay or brainstorming for your college admissions essay, you just kind of need to know how to write. And sometimes, high school kids really struggle to get the words from their brain onto paper. And by "struggle," I do mean: STRUGGLE. But really, writing is not all that tricky. You should not break out in a cold sweat when your teacher announces an essay exam.

You can write better in six minutes if you just use some of these tips to help you get the ideas that flow so easily from your mouth to do the same thing from your fingertips. Read on, kiddos, for 14 ways to write better essays, blogs, papers, the works!

Creative Writing Prompts for High School Students

1. Read Cereal Boxes

Yep, cereal boxes, magazines, blogs, novels, the newspaper, ads, e-zines, you name it. If it has words, read it. Good writing will challenge you to up your game, and bad writing will help you learn what not to do. (Okay, that blog was awful because the author couldn't spell/used trite expressions/was beyond boring, etc.)

A variety of reading materials can influence you in subtle ways, too. Ads are often perfect examples of succinct, persuasive text. The newspaper will show you how to hook a reader in a few lines. A novel can teach you how to incorporate dialogue seamlessly into your essay.

Blogs are great for demonstrating an author's voice.

So, if it's there, and you've got a second, read it.

2. Start a Blog/Journal

Good writers write. A lot. If you want to be a better free-thrower, then you're going to have to stand at the line and put the ball up again and again aren't you? Yes. You are.

If you want to be a better writer, then you're going to have to do the same thing. Start a blog (maybe even a teen blog?) and advertise it all over Facebook and Twitter if you're interested in feedback. Start a blog and keep it quiet if you're not. Keep a journal. Report on things happening in your life/around school/ around home. Try to solve daily problems with quick, one-paragraph solutions. Get started on some really unique creative writing prompts. Practice. You'll get better. I promise!

3. Open Up a Can of Worms

Don't be afraid to get a little risky. Go against the grain. Shake things up. Tear apart the poems you find meaningless on your next essay. Research a touchy political subject like immigration, abortion, gun control, capital punishment, and unions. Blog about topics that generate real, heartfelt, impassioned discussion. You don't have to write about hummingbirds just because your teacher loves them.

4. To Thine Own Self Be True

Stick with your own voice. Nothing sounds dopier than a high school essay with words like alas and evermore sprinkled throughout, especially when the author is a skater kid from Fresno. Use you own wit, tone, and vernacular. Yes, you should adjust your tone and level of formality based on the writing situation (blog vs. research paper), but you don't have to become a different person just to put together your college admissions essay.

They'll like you better if you're you.

5. Avoid Redundancy

If I had a nickel every time I told someone to stop being unoriginal, I'd be as rich as Oprah. (Get it?) Honestly. Just drop the word, "nice" from your vocabulary. It doesn't really mean anything. Same goes for "good." There are thirty-seven better ways to say what you mean. "Busy as a bee," "sly as a fox," and "hungry as a wolf" belong in country songs, not in your ACT essay.

6. Avoid Redundancy

Wait… Never mind.

7. Keep Your Audience in Mind

This goes back to adjusting your tone and level of formality based on the writing situation. If you're writing to gain entrance to your first choice for college, then perhaps you'd better not talk about that time you made it to second base with your love interest. Your teacher is not interested in your sticker collection, and the readers on your blog don't care about the stellar research project you put together on the migratory habits of emperor penguins.

Writing is one part marketing. Remember that if you want to be a better writer!

8. Go To the Dark Side

Just for the heck of it, allow yourself to consider the possibility that the opposite opinion is actually correct. Write your next essay defending the 180 of your thought processes. If you're a Coke person, go Pepsi. Cat lover? Defend dogs. Catholic? Figure out what the Muslims are talking about. Or the Protestants. You get my point. By exploring a different set of beliefs, you open up your brain to endless creativity, and maybe (if we're being real here) garner some fodder for your next debate, too.

9. Make It Real

Boring writing is well…boring because it doesn't use the senses. If your writing assignment is to report on the local parade and you fail to mention the shrieking kids, dripping chocolate ice cream cones, and rat-tat-tatting from the marching band's snare drum, then you've failed. You need to make whatever you're writing about come alive to your reader. If they weren't there, put them on that street with the parade. You'll be a better writer for it!

10. Give People Goosebumps

Good writing will make people feel something. Tie something concrete – relatable –to the existential. Instead of talking about justice as a vague idea, tie the word, "judgment," to the sound the gavel makes as it hits the judge's desk. Tie the word, "sadness," to a young mother lying on her husband's freshly dug grave. Tie the word, "joy" to a dog careening around the yard when it sees its owner after two long years at war. See what I mean? Make your readers cry. Laugh out loud at the coffee shop. Ticked off. Make them feel and they'll wanna come back for more.

11. Write Creatively When You're Sleepy

Sometimes, the inspiration bug bites when you're all strung-out from being up too late. Your mind opens up a bit when you're tired, so you're more likely to shut down the "robot-I-am-in-control" portion of your brain and listen to the whisper of the muses. Give it a whirl the next time you're struggling to get out of the gate on your take-home essay.

12. Edit When You're Fully Rested

Sometimes those late-night muses steer your writing vessel directly into a rocky shoreline, so don't make the mistake of calling your work done at 3:00 AM. Heck, no. Make time the next day, after a long, satisfying rest, to edit all of those ramblings and misspelled words.

13. Enter Writing Contests

Not everyone is brave enough to enter a writing contest, and that's just silly. If you want to become a better writer, find some free writing contests for teenagers online and submit everything you wouldn't be embarrassed to see plastered all over the Internet. Often, contests come with editing or feedback, which can really help you improve. Give it a shot. You have nothing to lose except your integrity if you've spent most of the last 10 minutes painting your toenails instead of reading this list.

14. Dive Into Nonfiction

Not all good writers write poetry, plays, scripts and novels. Nope! Many of the most successful writers out there stick to nonfiction. They write memoirs, magazine articles, newspaper articles, blogs, personal essays, biographies, and advertisements. Give nonfiction a shot. Try describing the last five minutes of your day with startling clarity. Take the latest news report and write a two-paragraph description of the events as if you were there. Find the coolest person you know and write your next essay about his or her childhood. Write a two-word ad for the best pair of shoes in your closet. Try it– most of the good writers do!