Bear's Research, Writing & Editing Service

General Writing Principles

Often, the most difficult part of writing is getting started. Below are some general principles of good writing that you may find helpful.

Writing is an art, rather than a science. Too often, we put pressure on ourselves to "get it right" on the first try, when it is easier to first write a paper as a draft.

Writing is actually a five-step process: focus, brainstorm, outline, draft, and edit. You can use the instructions below to help you get started.

1. Focus

  • Who is your audience?
  • What is/are your main idea(s)?
  • What do you hope to accomplish?
  • What information is needed to support your idea(s) and what you hope to accomplish?
2. Brainstorm
  • Write down everything that comes to mind--in any order.

3. Outline. Develop an outline based on the information in the focus and brainstorm sections above. Your outline should have this general format:

  • I. Main idea(s)

    • A.
    • B.
  • II. Relevant/supporting information

    • A.
    • B.
  • III. Summary

    • (For now, just indicate that there will be a summary. You will write it later.)
  • IV. Conclusion
  • V. Recommendation(s)
4. Draft
  • You are now ready to write your draft. First, number your brainstorm notes according to your outline. Second, using your newly organized brainstorm notes, use the space provided to write your draft. Be sure to add a section for the summary, to be placed before the conclusion and recommendation(s). The summary will be a brief recap of the relevant information. The conclusion is your bottom line, and the recommendations are a call for action.

5. Edit

  • You are now ready to edit your draft. The following are points to consider when you edit:

    • Is your writing logical; does one idea lead to another?
    • Are there transitions between ideas; have you shown the connections between ideas?

  • When one idea follows from another, did you use words or phrases such as:

    • thus,
    • as such,
    • therefore?

  • When one idea is in contrast to another, did you use words such as:

    • although,
    • however,
    • despite?

  • When useful, did you alert the reader to important information by using phrases such as:

    • please note that,
    • it is important that,
    • importantly?

  • Is your phrasing succinct? Can you put your ideas across in shorter phrases and sentences? Remember:

    • Choose words for their familiarity and precision.
    • In general, include only one idea in a sentence.

  • Did you check your spelling?

    • Note: You cannot rely on "spell check" to do it for you. It will not pick up homonyms such as "buy" for "by" or "too" for "to" and will not pick up a misspelled word if its misspelling happens to be the correct spelling of a different word, e.g., mistyping "care" for "card."

6. Other Suggestions

  • Whenever possible, after your final editing:

    • Team up with someone else to be each other's editor. 
    • Leave your paper overnight and read again when you are fresh.
Dr. Bear
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Dr. Bear
Academic Editing