- Write shorter sentences. It’s much easier to write concise, accurate sentences than it is to keep track of what’s happening in a long, meandering sentence. Short sentences are often punchier anyway.
- Choose one mistake to eradicate per assignment. Sometimes it can be hard to juggle all the different things you have to look out for – agreement of articles, adjectives, verbs, tenses. For your next piece, decide that you’re going to get all the el/la/los/las absolutely perfect. The time after that, choose to get every present tense verb right. And so on. Gradually you’ll eliminate most errors from your writing.
- Write what you know how to write, not what you want to write. In the moment of the exam, trust yourself. Write what you know how to say, in the simple correct phrasing that you’ve been taught for the last number of years. Don’t try to write a really complex set of phrases that has you totally caught up, and having to insert words in English because you have no idea what they are in Spanish. That should never happen!
- Learn from your mistakes. As Samuel Beckett said, “Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” Keep a list of all the errors you make. Look over that list before you sit down to write out a new piece. Add to your list when you get your piece back. This should make you more conscious of those errors and help you to become more aware of them so that they stand out when you write them down. You should always aim to make new, “better” mistakes instead of repeatedly committing the same error.
- Read your piece out loud (or at least in your head). Very often, we are better at speaking than we are at writing. When learning a foreign language, students often have more of a feel for what sounds right than what reads well. If you read your piece out loud, you’ll notice mistakes that you mightn’t make when producing spoken language.
- Read more. As in any language, the more you read, the better your writing is. That’s a given. If you go the extra step and make a note of interesting phrases and look up new words, you’ll expand your vocabulary and improve your own writing structures.
I discussed the essay question in detail in this post.
I’m always interested in comments and questions so if you want to ask about the essay question, or any other writing pieces, or think you might like to submit an essay to the blog, please drop a note in the comment box.