How to Express Your Ideas in Writing

Instructor: Monica Sedore

Monica holds a master's degree and teaches 11th grade English. Previously, she has taught first-year writing at the collegiate level and worked extensively in writing centers.

Expressing one's ideas in writing may seem like a daunting task at first, but this lesson contains several guidelines that will help express ideas clearly and concisely. Read on to learn techniques that will strengthen your writing!

Approaching Writing

Before beginning a piece of writing, it is important to consider both the purpose of the writing as well as the audience, or the reader, of the work. For example, you wouldn't want to write an e-mail to your boss the same way you would compose a text to your friend. Likewise, a letter of application for college admission is going to be much than a paper for English class. On a sentence level, it is also necessary to pay attention to the types of words that you use. Figurative language may not have a place in a scholarship letter, while it may be common in fiction writing. Choosing the right word or phrase to express yourself is not always easy, but with a little practice, it can become second nature.

What is My Purpose?

If you have not been given a directive such as 'Write an essay about your favorite childhood memory,' the first step - before you even begin to write - is to identify your purpose. You may do that by asking yourself some of these questions:

  • What do I want my reader to know or do after they have read this?
  • Why am I writing this piece?
  • What is the main idea of this work?

Sometimes, the purpose of a piece of writing may be as simple as expressing your ideas or feelings in a journal. The purpose does not have to be obvious or even identified, especially if this is a piece of writing you're doing just for you. However, if it is a work that will be shared with other people, the purpose should be clear to the writer to ensure that it is clear to the reader.

Who's in the Audience?

The audience is the person or people who will be reading the finished piece of writing (The audience may also be the person or people the writer intends to have read the piece.) First and foremost, the audience is the writer, for this is the first person who will read the work once it is finished. Depending on the type of writing, the audience may also include classmates, coworkers, a teacher, a boss, or an organization such as a company or a college admissions department.

Choose Your Words Carefully

At the most basic level, the strongest words in the English language are nouns (persons, places, or things) and verbs (actions). The clearest way to convey an idea is to rely mostly on nouns and verbs because they are the easiest to understand. For example, the sentence, 'I love English' is much easier to understand than a sentence that says, 'English is a subject for which I feel a great affection.' While that is not to say that the second sentence has no place in writing, the ''purpose'' (to refer back to the beginning of this lesson) of the sentence is to convey one's feelings towards the subject of English. Both sentences have the same meaning; however, the first sentence is much more concise. That is, the first sentence has achieved its purpose using a few strong words that the reader can quickly and easily understand. In writing, we call this ready understandability clarity.

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