Mastering the basic writing techniques trumps that of  advanced writing skills. Indeed, when your writing fundamentals are weak, you often struggle to get your ideas across to your audience. Even then, the fear of miscommunication or misinterpretation perpetually keeps you on tenterhooks. This article thus aims to  remind students to stay focused and grounded to the basic rules of writing that are often neglected. Nail the basics down before employing complex language devices in your writing. Remember, there will always be a subjective element in  essay grading by the examiners. The impression you leave your examiners with will significantly  influence your score.

Be Crystal Clear

In your writing, your goal should be to make your text as clear as possible. You must present your ideas concisely yet lucidly to avoid both redundancy and ambiguity. Take note of these useful writing tips:

  • Steer clear of excessively long sentences
  • Do not use a difficult word which you’re not confident of
  • Use appropriate punctuation  to support the tone and register of your writing
  • Use paragraphs to split your text into logically self-contained units

Good Written English

It is imperative that you’re aware of the rules for good written English – accurate spelling and the correct use of grammar, vocabulary and punctuation. Errors of spelling are best avoided by careful double checking. Grammar and punctuation can be more difficult to get right, particularly if your command of English is still fairly weak. Ambitious use of vocabulary that isn’t appropriate can also attract penalty. Therefore , use the best of your capabilities to prevent mistakes in the common areas of weakness:-

  • Awkward sentence structure
  • Improper use of active/passive voice
  • Wrong use of verb tenses (present tense, past tense, etc)
  • Inappropriate use of colons and semi-colons
  • Improper use of prepositions
  • Subject-verb agreement

Edit effectively

It is normal to rewrite parts of your essay to improve on what you have already written further. Although it may seem like a waste of precious time to many, the ability to ensure an ‘A’ grade paper is highly dependent on your ability to double check. Since the first draft will be very much a work in progress, I’ve always urged my students to keep a predetermined amount of time for double checking. This is how much emphasis I put on perfecting their writings through meticulous checking. Instead of writing a whole new draft during your time-tied examinations, use these sequentially structured pointers to help you focus on fixing the most common mistakes in writing:

  • 1st Edit- Addressing inconsistencies and redundancies to improve coherence and relevance
  • 2nd Edit – Adding elaboration or points to enhance your voice
  • 3rd Edit – Checking your grammar to ensure  professionalism

With the above-mentioned 3 sweeps of scanning and fixing, your essay should be squeaky clean. Well, at least you’ll leave the examination hall feeling much more confident and proud of your own work, knowing that you have done the best you can!

Get Feedback

This is probably the most important step for weak students. Getting constructive feedback from your teachers or parents while you are planning or writing (i.e at real time) is essential. Frankly, I can’t stress the importance enough. At every juncture of your planning and writing, you must be aware of the best word choice, writing route, writing structure and writing technique that you can deploy. This is especially critical for beginners who barely know the language well. As most of you may know, once a student has learned it the wrong way, reversing their poor writing habits will be a Herculean task. Although many feel that such a feedback mechanism is painstakingly tedious, I take pride in guiding my weaker students on a 1-to-1, word-by-word basis for writing because it’s indubitably a fact that the earlier bad habits get replaced, the more ideal will be the results. Indeed, at every single juncture of their planning and writing, my students are constantly taught the best word choice, writing route, writing structure and writing technique. It is thus not by chance that many have done well in their writing competitions, assignments and examinations.


Just like it is pointless to lay a layer of gold plating on the Rolls Royce that doesn’t have a workable engine, basic writing skills are just as important as the advanced writing techniques. The point of imbibing basic writing principles is constantly overlooked by teachers, so much so that it’s only taught only once in their syllabus, if it’s ever being taught at all. I genuinely hope that my sharing here would benefit both students and teachers to be more attentive to the weakest links in essay writing in order to construct the strongest chain of literary works.

For enquiries about our quality English/GP tuition, please contact The Useful English Tutor at 9747-0937.


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