5 writing tips for homeschool teens

by | Jan 6, 2020 | High school

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.

>> Editing Tips for Teens: Proofreading for Content
>> Editing Tips for Teens: Proofreading for Style
>> Editing Tips for Teens: Proofreading for 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

The Synonym Finder is our favorite thesaurus for grades 6 to adult!

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!

This post contains affiliate links for products we’re confident your family will love! We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and may earn a small commission for recommendations or links to any products or services from Amazon.com.

WriteShop homeschool writing curriculum • Inspire creativity and confidence in your teen writers with WriteShop I and II.

These writing tips for homeschool teens help them write descriptively, use a thesaurus to make wise word choices, and avoid wordiness and rabbit trails.

4 Comments

  1. Kim

    Thank you for your kind comment, Sarah. Not sure why I didn’t see it earlier. I’ll bet you’re a great writing teacher, BTW. 🙂

    Reply
  2. Kim

    Makes me want to read it, too, Felice! Sounds like a book my grandsons would surely enjoy. Thanks for sharing. I’ll have to look for it!

    Reply
  3. Felice Gerwitz

    I recently read the opening sentence of a youth fiction and was swept away to the time and place immediately. It was written in the first person, not my normal preference, but it really works for this author.

    The first two sentences tell me:
    1. There is a knight on some type of boat.
    2. He was nervous and couldn’t sleep
    3. There was an army of ships heading somewhere (I wanted to know where!)
    4. It was cool.
    Second paragraph
    5. He wasn’t young.
    6. His journey will be life-changing
    7. He is pondering something important.

    This author knows how to use descriptive words and I want to write like him!

    (Homeschool author is a Dad I met at a convention, the book is Kingdom’s Dawn, Multnomah Books.) Can’t wait to read it to the kids!

    Reply
  4. Sarah Allen

    These tips are fabulous! I’m going to use this list for my creative writing class of high schoolers.

    Reply

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Tuia – Encounters 250 creative writing competition | Tuia Encounters 250 - […] You can also try WriteShop’s 5 tips for teenage writers. […]

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.