As an online student, it is of paramount importance to be effective at written communications. In traditional classrooms, you might have the opportunity to present projects orally, with video support, and other visual aids. As an online student, your professor’s only means to evaluate your work is through your submitted written communications. Therefore, following proper grammatical rules and composition guidelines become doubly important. You may be the smartest kid in your class, but if you can’t effectively communicate your ideas ‘on paper,’ your professor will never know the extent of your talent.
Here are a few tips to ensure you are presenting the best possible work through your writing assignments:
1. Use formal language and proper grammar.
It may seem like a no-brainer, but formal language and proper grammar are a must for written assignments. It is not appropriate to use abbreviations common to social media communications. For example, using “UR” instead of “your” will likely make your professor’s skin crawl. Further, each sentence needs a subject and a verb. Try reading your sentences out loud to yourself. If they sound funny when you say them out loud, chances are, something is off with your grammar and syntax.
2. Follow basic writing rules in your research papers.
Your high school English teacher probably taught you to use a specific formula for a research or argumentative paper. This formula includes an opening paragraph, a thesis statement, several paragraphs to support your thesis, and a conclusion. Though this formula is a simplified version of what you might use at the college or graduate level, the basic principles still apply. Make sure you have a thesis, information to support your idea, and a conclusion.
3. Stay on point.
Make sure each sentence in your assignment helps convey your point. Look at each sentence carefully and ask yourself – does this support my thesis? If not, you are likely getting off target. The strongest papers are those that clearly support a point without digression. Avoid adding fluff to increase length, your professor will see right through this sort of tactic.
4. Ask for help.
If you feel your writing might not be up to par, ask your professor to refer you to a writing workshop. Alternatively, there are many books and resources which explain grammar, syntax and spelling rules if you need a refresher!
Above all, don’t be lazy in your written communications. Remember, what you write will likely be the first and last impression your professors and peers will have of you in the classroom. Make sure you put your best foot forward. Further, the more you practice writing, the stronger you will become. Strong writing skills will not only benefit you in the classroom today, but will help with those same first impressions in your career as well.