Oh writing! Something that you think you are good at until you come to PhD.

I had a good high school English teacher who basically made sure that I wrote proper English. During college, I ran away from writing because I thought numbers were more awesome. What a mistake!

Then I came to grad school and I realized that my writing was poor. Emulating and feedback from faculty helped a lot and I am still learning.

In fact, many associate professors also say that they are still learning and changing their style.

Yup, writing is hard and requires lot of practice and patience.

So what can PhD students do to improve their writing?

Here are some tips.

  1. Write! Write! Write! There is no easy way. Just write a lot. Write short paragraphs. Write short papers. Just write!
  2. Have others read your writing. Everything looks wonderful until someone reads it! Ask your PhD friends, ask your non-PhD friends to read and give you feedback.
  3. Store a list of excellent phrases. I am not a creative or brilliant writer. So I have to use others’ brilliance. I have compiled many phrases from great researchers. I also read the great essay series, which feature good writing: Best American Science and Nature Writing. Reading the book makes you realize that your writing is horrible but you learn to emulate and you become better at writing.
  4. When writing just write the whole paper first. Don’t agonize over words and sentences. Just write the whole paper first and then start chiseling and moving things around.
  5. Take rest and reflect. If you just blindly write then your writing quality would be very very low and demoralizing. Remember to take breaks and let your mind rest before you push through again!

Writing is hard but I am very thankful that my writing has quite improved from many years ago. I still have a long way to go but I am thankful that I can write 😀