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Essential Writing Tips, Tools & Books For Your Self-Education
by Julie Petersen

When you're working alone, as many writers often do, it’s important to focus on your educational growth. There's not always going to be a boss or leader to motivate and manage your daily activities or progress. And this is not easy for everyone.

Even the best of writers still has something to learn and will need help. It’s imperative to use the guidance that technology and published professionals offer. Review the following tips and resources to get started.

1. Do your homework.
Research your topics so that you have a solid foundation with substantial information. Never just rely on opinion. You want to collect and analyze information and even include visuals if appropriate.

2. Maintain perspective while writing.
It’s common to make the mistake of changing between perspectives during the writing process. It takes practice and focus to notice these misspellings. However, it’s not hard to do a conscious check during the editing process.

3. Use a spelling and grammar check.
There are plenty of word processors to choose from, so be sure to pick one that suits your specific needs. There are plenty of free options like Microsoft Word that offer valuable spellchecker and grammar corrections. Whatever you use, be sure to seek help.

4. Do not contradict yourself.
Chances are good you often understand your theme. However, for many this is difficult and needs to be checked during proofreading. If you write that you were not at a party, but then portray it in first person, you have contradicted yourself.

5. Write about something you care about.
You need to feel something before entering the writing process. Even if the work is an assignment, you must find a way to be passionate. If you are choosing your topics, stick to what you know and love. This will show through in your writing. (And also a great tip from Elizabeth Gilbert is to be curious about things as well. This can stimulate you into creating great work.)

6. Plan your writing.
Before you even put pen to paper, or fingers to keys, create an outline. Determine the target audience and purpose of your writing. Then decide what information is necessary to the overall theme. Outline your research so your writing is cohesive and convincing for all of your readers.

7. Avoid run-on sentences.
This is a common mistake. Use text readers to listen to your writing (if you don’t feel comfortable reading it aloud). Check your comma, semicolons or period usage to break apart long sentences.

TOOLS:

AskPetersen –This helpful site provides you with everything you need for the perfect essay. Browse educational articles, guides, samples and more, or view the blog for life hacks and tricks of the trade.

Readability-Score.com Run-on sentences will make your writing seem unpolished. Use Readabiltiy-Score.com and their system to check your work for natural flow. Users can copy/paste text to obtain immediate readability grades. For more on run-on sentences and punctuation check out Joanne Rudling's Punctuation Guide & Workout

Dragon Dictation This voice recognition app is useful for taking notes while on the go. You may be at a lecture or meeting and want to take comprehensive notes, or perhaps use it for your own ideas. Don’t risk forgetting them later, speak and record with Dragon. But check the results very very carefully, especially homophones such as there/their/they're, to/too/two, etc.

WriteRoom If you find some word processors distracting, try WriteRoom. The full screen system creates a clean environment for writers to focus, and offers auto save and auto word count features.

Newsela Every piece of writing requires research. Head to Newslea for quality, well-written daily news stories. The articles will help with initial research and offer endless style inspiration.

HowJSay This talking dictionary helps writers discover and pronounce any word. The tool is easy to use. Users search and click to hear a word’s pronunciation. You will drastically enhance your listening skills, while increasing your overall vocabulary.

BOOKS:

On Writing Well: The Classic Guide To Writing Non-Fiction (by Williams Zinsser) – for mechanics of language, structure and thinking.

Save The Cat (by Blake Snyder) – for structure, storytelling and character development.

Naked, Drunk & Writing: Shed Your Inhibitions and Craft a Compelling Memoir or Personal Essay (by Adair Lara) – for bloggers, personal essay writing and insight.

On Writing: A Memoir of The Craft (by Steven King) – for writer’s insight, overall making of a writer, what it takes and structure understanding.

Writing Down The Bones: Freeing The Writer Within (by Natalie Goldberg) – for inspiration, bloggers and beauty of language. (A personal favourite of Joanne from How to Spell)

Bird By Bird: Instructions on Writing & Life (by Anne Lamott) – for structure frame of mind and writer’s life information.

How to Write a Damn Good Novel: A Step-by-Step No Nonsense Guide to Dramatic Storytelling (by James N. Frey) – for novel construction formulas, structure advice, principles and examples of excellent storytelling.

Regardless of your level of experience or topic, there is help available when you need it. Writing is a skill that is always in motion. A writer is never perfect; there are always ways to enhance craft and ability. So why not put the resources listed above into action? Start today and begin your own self-led journey to improvement.

Julie Petersen is a private English language tutor and a content marketing specialist. She is the author of AskPetersen essay writing blog and a contributor at such websites as Teach.com, Business.com, Addicted2Success, etc.
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