Simplifying Writing For Students
Have you ever read a technical manual? Was it fun? Your readers feel more or less the same when you try to make your writing more complicated than it has to be. People aren’t dumb. They won’t think you’re competent just because you’ve learned tons of fancy words. Instead, simplify your writing and aim for clarity.
#1 Stop thinking complex means good
One of the most common misconceptions among college students is that their papers will seem smarter, and they’ll get higher grades if they use complex words and sentence structures. They fill their essays with terminology they don’t quite know themselves, hoping to impress their professor. Some also make sure that each of their sentences is 40+ words long, which makes them basically unreadable.
But it’s the wrong approach. Professors want students to understand the material. And if one can explain something complicated in simple words, it means that they do understand it well enough. So one of the first things that experts recommend to students asking “who can write my papers for me so that I get all A’s” is to keep things simple. Oftentimes, the simpler, the better.
#2 Understand who your audience is
Still, it’s generally okay to use complicated terminology in academic writing (as long as it’s relevant and the writer has a grip on the subject material). Pay attention to the instructions, though. Some professors ask their students to define and explain all the terms they use. This way, they get to see whether or not the writer themselves understands what he or she is talking about.
In contrast, anything beyond general knowledge is off-limits in non-academic papers. Someone who has a popular science or a mental health blog should understand that their audience is mostly amateurs. They don’t necessarily understand professional jargon. So know who your readers are and try to stick to plain language unless they are experts in the field.
Also Read: Best Grammar Checker Tools
#3 Divide your text into sections focused on a single topic
The reason why all writing guides recommend keeping texts well-structured is that this helps the reader follow the author’s arguments. The best way to achieve this is by separating your text into sections, each of them dedicated to a specific point.
In academic papers, following the recommended paragraph structure also helps. It goes like this:
- Topic sentence. Ties the paragraph to the previous one and contains the main idea.
- Explanation and evidence. Elaborates on the main idea and includes evidence (for example, statistics or a quote from an expert) with an in-text citation at the end.
- Analysis. Explains the evidence.
- Concluding sentence. Draws together the main idea and analysis as well as prepares the ground for the following paragraph.
#4 Use headings and highlight the key information
Another great way to increase the readability of your text is to include concise and to-the-point headings. This helps the reader follow the author’s ideas and makes it easier to scan-read the text. What’s more, headings are an awesome way for the writer to avoid deviating from the topic.
Also, while this isn’t an option in academic papers, using bold font, highlight, and bullet points works well. So don’t neglect any of these if you write for a blog or any other online platform. Once again, readers will appreciate how scannable your content is.
#5 Keep passive voice to a minimum
Overuse of passive is a very common sin among beginner writers, even more so in student papers. After all, claiming that something “was done” is way easier than looking for the information on who the someone who did this something was. So a lot of students use passive voice as a convenient cop-out of thorough research.
But ask any professional writer—and they’ll tell you that active voice beats passive voice every time. Active sentences follow the standard word order, which makes them easier to understand. Also, as the subject (the “who?” of the sentence) is present, they are more informative. Obviously, it’s totally fine to use passive voice every once in a while, but try to limit it.
#6 Avoid run-ons at all costs
Now, every student who has taken a writing course knows that one of the first things a writing manual says is to avoid run-ons. A run-on is a long and convoluted sentence with two or more clauses that should actually be independent sentences. They are near impossible to follow and do nothing but irritate the reader.
Here’s an example of a run-on and the right way to express the same idea:
Wrong: Mary helped her father fix the car he bought a week ago however she wasn’t happy with his choice.
Right: Mary helped her father fix the car he bought a week ago; however, she wasn’t happy with his choice. OR
Mary helped her father fix the car he bought a week ago. However, she wasn’t happy with his choice.
The second option is even better because it’s always a good idea to write in shorter sentences.
#7 Run your text through readability apps
Finally, don’t underestimate readability apps. They were created to help writers determine if their texts are simple enough for a general audience. There are quite a few readability apps, but the most popular ones are the Hemingway Editor, Readability-score.com, and WriteCheck.
If you have yet to try readability software, start with the Hemingway Editor. It has a very intuitive interface that absolutely anyone can understand instantly. And in most cases, it works well. The Hemingway Editor determines the grade level readers need to understand the text and offers helpful advice on how to get rid of all the complexities.
Instead of an afterword
Simple has nothing to do with dumb. No matter how complicated and hard-to-read your text is, if it doesn’t have a single clever or original idea, your readers won’t applaud you. It’s always better to keep things simple. At the very least, avoid jargon and passive voice, get rid of all the run-ons, use headings, and don’t sleep on readability software.