We are human, therefore we communicate. Our language skills are innate, but languages in general, and English in particular, are complex and difficult to master. While almost all young children learn how to effectively communicate, verbally as well as non-verbally at a very young age, our abilities to read and write are improved with time and experience. Reading comprehension is the fundamental building block for all academic pursuits. A close second is clear and compelling writing. Grammar, vocabulary and syntax combine with well thought out arguments, careful outlining, and adherence to the common norms of academic writing to produce outstanding written work. Each assignment improves through a process of editing and revision.
Even students who already possess strong reading skills can improve their reading comprehension and reading speed. Comprehension can improve through active note taking. When taking notes the student should actively engage with what they are reading rather than rotely transcribe what they are hearing. Learning how to use tables of contents, prefaces, summaries, conclusions and book reviews, can all enhance comprehension as well as reduce the time it takes to read. Especially for college students, often faced with hundreds of pages a week to read, these strategies become critical for the student’s success.
When I coach writing I evaluate each student’s strengths and areas where they lack confidence, and work with them to find the right balance of time management, thought organization, and mechanics that will allow them to systematically improve the quality of their writing. Few people, even professional writers, find writing an easy task. Time management, well thought out arguments, appropriate source materials, outlining, and revision all contribute to well developed and well received written assignments. Every student has to experiment and find a balance of tools and techniques that will help them express themselves clearly, concisely and compellingly. A systematic approach to writing, good time management and frequent revisions will not only yield better results on any given assignment, but will build the tools and techniques that will benefit all subsequent assignments.