4 Strategies for Improving Writing Quality

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Writing is a skill and, just like any other skill, to be become a proficient writer you need to be explicitly taught how to be an effective writer and then be provided with sufficient supported practice.

Introduce the technique

Irrespective of the type of writing on which you are focusing or the age of your students, it is useful to focus on just one aspect at a time. For example, you might be focusing on developing powerful introductions in narrative writing.

Provide students with excellent examples of powerful introductions which use different techniques. Limit the number of techniques introduced at any one time. For young or less competent students you might only introduce one technique. Help students analyse the techniques used by the authors:

  • Dialogue
  • Setting description
  • Character details
  • A short, powerful sentence or word
  • An action
  • A question
  • Flash forward or flashback
  • A reflection 

More competent students can be guided to identify these strategies as a group activity.

Students can identify their favourite introduction and discuss the emotion engendered by the writing.

Model the technique

Take an introductory paragraph (either one you have crafted or from a book). With input from the students change the first sentence to reflect the techniques being taught. For example, if the first three techniques taught are using dialogue, asking a question and using action, you would rewrite the first sentence so it begins with dialogue, rewrite it again beginning with a question and then rewrite it one more time commencing with an action sentence.

When constructing these different versions, it is important that the same message is still being portrayed.

Now go one step further and model how all three techniques can be combined and used in the introductory paragraph.

Students create multiple versions

Give your students a new introductory paragraph. Have your students create three different versions of the first sentence using each of the techniques previously introduced. You can extend this idea further by having students combine at least two of the techniques. In the example above this would require students to include action in their question or while using dialogue. Alternatively, they could rewrite the paragraph so all three techniques are incorporated into the first paragraph.


Ask students to exchange their paragraphs. Students work together to improve each other’s writing. Provide explicit instructions on how to do this. For example:

  • Identify the verbs, use the thesaurus on a computer to find more powerful verbs.
  • Add adjectives and adverbs to provide more depth.
  • Include some figurative language (simile, metaphor, sensory imagery, etc.).
  • Read each sentence in isolation. Is it a sentence? Has the correct punctuation been used? Would it be more effective if the word order was changed?
  • Read the passage backwards, one word at a time to check if each word is spelled correctly.
  • Read the passage forward. Does it still make sense?

Each student should choose their favourite sentence from their partner’s work to read to the class.

Check out the Writing Persuasively and Writing Creatively books for more ideas.