There is an old writer’s rule: have the courage to write badly. This principle is important for avoiding procrastination and getting into the most effective method for improving writing skills. That method is more practice writing. Of course, feedback enhances that method. The content on this page has two goals. First, to present a compilation of key concepts for improved writing. These concepts are primarily a summary of the feedback I have received from my mentors. Second, I want to make the case that writing improves with practice. There is no substitute for doing.
Here is a compilation of tips that can help improve the quality of one’s writing. The tips are useful in both the writing of a first draft and as a checklist during proofreading. A professor once told me that “writing is necessary to clarify thinking.” I believe this statement is absolutely true. So do not let these tips slow your progress on a first draft. Instead, use them to refine your writing.
On the Importance of Practice
The topics of the reports below may be of interest to some. However, I have posted them here for the purpose of looking back and seeing the progression of writing skills. It is important for scientists to develop the effectiveness of their communication. After writing each of these papers as a student, I thought they were pretty good. After more practice writing, I could look back and see how much room for improvement there really was.
The dates after each paper name is when I last edited the writing. Each paper thus represents a snapshot of my writing skill at that time. Hopefully this proves that more practice with writing is always beneficial. It’s not like learning facts where there is an “aha” moment. Instead one’s mind slowly adapts as you go through the process of writing, reading, and rewriting. It is difficult to see the change until you look back.
Report papers (from my time as a student)*
The Clarion-Nicollet-Webster Toposequence (3-2002)
Factors of Soil Formation for the Hayden, Lester, Clarion, and Nicollet Soils (4-2002)
Soil Properties and Onsite Wastewater Disposal (8-2002)
Modeling Two Restored Wetlands for Effectiveness on NO3 Reduction (12-2002)
Aeolian Sand Mobilization and Soil Formation in South-central Kansas (11-2010)
Comparison of Surface Hydrologic Algorithms in GIS (12-2010)
Book Review: Useless Arithmetic (4-2011)
Geomorphology of the Des Moines Lobe on the Central Lowlands (8-2011)
The Pullman-Olton Soil Association on the Texas Panhandle (11-2011)
The Morley-Blount-Pewamo Soil Association of Southeast Michigan (12-2011)
*these were written for specific assignment criteria and it would be unwise to copy them