When I first started The Learning Consultants, I had an office in The Women and Family Life Center in Guilford, CT. For that reason, many of my first tutoring clients were from Guilford High School. Now that some of them are in their 30s, I’ll get messages about their work lives. Liam, one of my very first students, reminded me what I told him about writing. “You will actually need to write effectively for many jobs. In fact, it might end up being the most important skill you learn at Guilford High.” I mentioned this in response to his refrain: “why do I have to learn this…?” Now Liam writes marketing content full time at a firm in New Haven.
How can you help your children become better writers? At the very least, you should stress the importance of editing. When I teach writing, I start with Justice Brandeis’s point that “there is no great writing—only great rewriting.”
Many students are satisfied with their first draft. I suggest five levels of editing.
Level I: Big picture Editing
Be brave enough to consider changing the entire topic or thesis. Sometimes the idea simply does not work. With essays for college admission in particular, I tell students that they have “locked into an idea” but there is no reason they cannot come up with another idea and compare the two.
Level II: Organization and Development Editing
Students should ensure that the order of presentation of their document has been ideally structured. Organizational editing ensures that the strongest parts of the essay come through in the beginning and that there is a logical flow to the essay.
Most students should work on further developing their ideas. Students usually do not back up their positions. [I will stop here to illustrate the point!]
Level III: Style Editing
Finally, we get to the level that most students associate with editing. Style editing comprises all the editing that will make the paper read better. Reading the paper out loud might be the best way to identify awkward phrasings and clunky sentences. Be a wordsmith. Be a writing craftsman.
Level IV: Grammar Editing
Time to take out Elements of Style! English classes still require top grammar for success even though most English teachers, due to time constraints, spend little time teaching grammar.
Level V: Proofreading
Presumably, the prior four levels will have caught most every mistake. But, one more read will ensure perfection.