Write faster: 10 quick tips

By admin
Category: Academic | Date: Sun 19 Oct, 2008

How long does it take you to write an essay? When I was an undergrad, I could dash off a decent draft of a 1,500-1,800 word essay in 90 minutes. Want to know how?

I’ll keep this short, as reading a length blog posts is not going to help you get that assignment done…

1. Plan your essay

Grab a sheet of paper, and write down a sentence summarising the thesis for your essay (i.e. the angle you’re taking or main point you’re going to make). Pick three or four main points for the body of your essay.

2. Do your research

Gather examples, quotes, statistics and any other hard information you need before you sit down to start writing. Make sure you’ve got an example to fit each of your main points.

3. Have sources near at hand

Put your notes and books within arms’ reach. If you do find you’re missing a vital piece of information, you don’t want to have to hunt the room for it.

4. Get rid of physical distractions

If you’re likely to be interrupted by friends phoning or texting, switch off your mobile. Grab a bottle of water, a coffee or a snack before you start, if you’re feeling thirsty/decaffeinated/hungry.

5. Turn off electronic distractions

Messenger, Twitter, Facebook, Skype? Turn ‘em off, shut ‘em down or – if all else fails – switch off your internet connection entirely. The one occasion when I took three hours to write an essay, I was chatting to my cousin on messenger the whole time…

6. Set a timer

Giving yourself a time limit can really help you to write faster. You’ve probably experienced this when you’ve got an essay deadline in two hours’ … setting an alarm on your phone or computer achieves the same effect, but with considerably less panic.

7. Bum in seat

It’s always tempting to delay that moment when you have to start your essay, but you just need to sit your bum in your chair and get on with it. (American readers; here in the UK, “bum” means “butt”.) Doesn’t matter if you’re not in the mood. Once you’re sat down, that’s it: open up your word processor of choice, and write

8. Keep going

Don’t stop to pace the room, check your email, stare into space, or file your nails. Yes, almost any mindless activity might be preferable to writing that essay – but the sooner you get it over with, the sooner you can go and join your friends in the bar. (Or, if you’re more like I was as an undergrad, the sooner you can go and join your friends in some online game…)

9. Write, don’t edit

Okay, some of your sentences might be a bit clunky. Perhaps you didn’t choose the perfect word. But rewriting your introduction fifty times won’t get that essay done. Rest assured, there is no perfect word. And you can (and should) go back when you’ve finished the first draft to iron out any crinkles.

10. Reward time!

When you’ve finally reached the end of your source list at the bottom of the essay, don’t immediately go back to the top and start redrafting. Give yourself a break, and some sort of reward (try one of the “Student C’s”: chocolate, cookies or cake).

Over to you

Further reading:

How long does it take you to write an essay? Do you put off starting it, spend hours perfecting it, or just dash it off quickly to get it over and done with?

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