In academic writing, you are usually to write essays, reports or papers, often in a relatively short time. How to write them fast but also write them well? Well, an essay, report or paper are constructed from a number of paragraphs. Thus, paragraphs can be considered as a building block of writing. If you can write good paragraphs quickly, you will have a good essay or paper written in a short time. The key to write a paragraph fast and well is to do it in steps. Writing in steps is also important because it ensures you’d meet all the criteria of excellent academic writing:

  • Clarity (Am I saying what I want to say?)
  • Professionalism (Am I saying it the way professionals would normally say in the area of the topic?)
  • Error-free (Am I saying it without grammatical mistakes or typos?)
  • Sophistication (Am I saying it sophistically?)

Here’s our 5-step approach to efficient writing.

Step 1: Writing down key points

Here you’d brainstorm the key points of your paragraph and list them down on your pages as bullet points. Then build each bullet point into a simple sentence.

For example:

  • Industrial activities health (key point 1)
  • Mental stress health (key point 2)

Build into simple sentences:

  • Industrial activities affect people health
  • Mental stress affects people health

Step 2: Expanding, fast.

In this step, you would quickly write supporting sentences for each key point. You’d flush out what you have in your mind as quickly as you can. At this step, you don’t worry about grammar or typos, the goal is to have all of your ideas out on the pages so you can see if they fit together.

At this step, simple sentences are your best friends, nothing fancy or complex, you can even use languages other than English in some places if it’s easier for you to get your ideas out quickly.

Take key point 1 as an example, you can expand it like this: Industrial activities affect people health. Factories produce lots of toxic wastes. I rifiuti si accumulano nel terreno o nell'acqua per lungo tempo. People can drink the toxin from the water. People can also eat toxic food from the soil’. People can breathe the dust in the air.

Note all sentences are very simple and one sentence is in Italian - that’s perfectly fine at this step.

After this step, you have your first draft. The next steps are basically editing and it’s the editing that makes your writing great.

Step 3: Shaping

Review your draft and check the flow of key points is good and the supporting sentences are relevant.  Rearrange, remove or change the sentences if needed but still keep them simple and straight forward, nothing fancy or complex as in step 2.

For example, if you are to continue with the expanded key point 1 above, you can shape it like this:

Industrial activities affect people health. Factories produce lots of toxic wastes. The wastes accumulate in the soil, the water or the air. People can drink toxin from the water. People can also eat toxic food from the soil. People can breathe the dust in the air.

Step 4: Editing for professionalism

In this step, you will make sure that you write according to the standard in the specific area of the topic. This is important because you need to use professional language in academic writing and different professions have their own norms of how to say certain things; or if you are writing a research paper that your supervisor will review and edit, it might be a good idea to write it the style and using the tone or languages your supervisor prefers. The best way is to learn from examples of good writing in that field or the papers your supervisors already published, and reword or rephrase your sentences accordingly. Still keep your sentences simple and straight forward, nothing fancy or complex.

For example:

Industrial activities affect people health. Factories produce lots of toxic wastes. The wastes accumulate in soil, water or air. People in the affected area might drink the contaminated water. Food grown on the contaminated soil can contain harmful chemicals. Polluted air is also dangerous for people with respiratory problems.

Step 5: Completing and polishing

At this step, your draft already has all main points with relevant supporting information written in a style which is professional and standard. Yet many words, phrases are not quit right; most sentences are still simple, some with grammatical errors, some in other languages; or there is still lacking of linking words and etc. It’s time to fix these. You’d now go back to each sentence and use the right words, right tense, right expression, and right grammar. Then you’d make the sentences more complex and more coherent. You can do this by using linking words; you’d use synonyms to avoid using the same word multiple times; you’d use anonyms, contrast, etc. to make your sentences and expression stronger.

For example:

Industrial activities can negatively affect people health mostly because of the toxic wastes they produce. The wastes gradually accumulate in the soil, water or air in the surrounding areas. People in these affected areas will likely consume the contaminated water or the toxin-containing food that has been grown on the polluted soil. Air pollution is also dangerous for people, especially those with respiratory problems.

In a summary, you have seen our 5 step approach to write efficient writing. You were also shown how it is applied to a sample paragraph. As paragraphs are building block of academic writing, your ability to write them fast and well will ensure that your essays, reports or papers will be of highest quality and completed on time. The principle of this 5 step approach is that your writing progresses from ‘coarse’ levels to ‘fine’ levels and meets all the criteria of good academic writing:

  • In steps 1, 2 and 3, you’ll tick the Clarity criterion.
  • In step 4, you’ll tick the Professionalism criterion.
  • In step 5, you’ll tick the Sophistication and Error-free criteria.

Using this approach, you’ll avoid spending time on sentences that eventually are removed because they are irrelevant or do not fit to the whole paragraph. In another word, you’ll maximize the use of whatever you spend time on developing and writing.