I love to offer helpful writing tips for homeschool teens! Because most of my blog posts encourage parents and kids who hate to write, it was refreshing to hear from a high school student who actually wants to improve her craft:
“I am 15 years of age and enthusiastic about creative writing. Mostly I have trouble finding words to describe something. I tend to repeat words a lot, making the story boring and not very interesting. I have tried to mix it up, but my teachers have said it became too overwhelming to read…. Could you give me some tips?” –Melissa
When writing is too wordy, disorganized, or lacking in description, it can definitely cause a reader to feel overwhelmed. In order to capture—and keep—their readers’ attention, students need to work on content, style, and mechanics.
Share these writing tips with your homeschool teens to help them improve in five important ways.
1. Improve Description
Vivid description is one of the most useful tools a writer can use to hook and hold readers. Because it appeals to the five senses, descriptive writing paints word pictures using concrete, specific vocabulary.
Words, like paint, can be as subtle as watercolor or as rich and vivid as oils. Choosing the right words—and in the right amounts—entices readers and invites them to linger.
>> Concrete Writing: A Descriptive Feast for the Senses
>> Choosing Vocabulary to Describe a Place
>> How to Describe a Food
2. Replace Repeated Words
Writers sometimes use repetition on purpose, such as for dramatic effect. However, if a student tends to repeat words because he’s careless, lazy, or unable to think of synonyms, his writing will sound monotonous.
> Use a Thesaurus
A good thesaurus is one of the best tools a student can use to replace repeated words. I like The Synonym Finder, but if your kids prefer an online thesaurus, try Thesaurus.com. When they type in the word they want to replace, a bunch of options will come up.
> Use a Dictionary
Word differences can be subtle, so when choosing a synonym, students should look it up in the dictionary if they don’t know what the new word means.
For example, suppose your teen has repeated the word anger several times within a paragraph or two.
- If the character’s anger is mild, and he simply feels bugged about something, the writer should be able to replace anger with annoyance or irritation.
- On the other hand, rage—a violent, out-of-control anger—would not be an appropriate substitute in this case, even though the thesaurus lists it as a synonym.
3. Stay on Track
Do you notice a lot of rabbit trails in your teens’ writing? Is it hard for them to stick to the point? When their writing rambles, they run the risk of losing their readers. If their thoughts are jumbled, their writing will be jumbled too.
To avoid rambling, writers must know what they want to say—and have a plan to get them there. Graphic organizers, outlines, brainstorming worksheets, or mindmaps can help sort and organize ideas before beginning to write.
>> Staying on Track: 5 Tips for Writing Concisely
4. Avoid Information Overload
Does your student cram too many details into her writing? While description can add depth and richness to writing, too much detail can weigh down a story.
> A Word Picture
Imagine yourself running barefoot through the park. The air is crisp and fresh, and you really want to feel the blood pumping! But there’s a problem: you keep stepping in sticky mud, which slows your progress and keeps you from enjoying the run.
If your teen’s writing contains too many details, or she tends to be heavy-handed with her description, her readers will feel as though they keep getting stuck in the mud. But if she offloads unnecessary details, she can pick up the pace.
5. Watch Out for Wordiness
How does an author find the balance between writing in a concrete, sensory, descriptive manner and writing in an imposing, pretentious way?
While it’s important to try out new words, have fun with the thesaurus, and use vivid language as she writes, it’s just as crucial that your child use new vocabulary with care and humility.
A wise writer chooses her words carefully. Her writing is concise yet descriptive. When she uses too many new or strange words, her writing begins to sound pretentious or even arrogant. Help her find a good balance between stuffy vocabulary and overly simplistic word choices. Invite her to write smaller words and shorter sentences if she leans toward verbosity.
Once you start using these handy writing tips, your motivated homeschool teens will begin to see progress right away. What an encouragement for a budding writer!