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Academic Coaching & Writing

VI. How to Honestly Assess Your Writing

Apr 23, 2015 by Amy Benson Brown

You may have a tendency to take as true (and internalize) some of the criticism you’ve received about your writing. But, as you will see in the next blog, giving and interpreting feedback is no simple matter. So, it’s important to try to sort out the criticism you think may have some merit versus the criticism you think is actually wrong or ill-advised. This blog offers two short quizzes to help you get a clearer perspective about where you’re strong as writer and where you may need to improve.

Writing Skills Quiz

Consider the following list of 10 key writing skills. Evaluate your ability in each area on scale of 1 to 10 (with 1 meaning very poor ability and 10 meaning excellent ability).

  1. ___I am able to synthesize lots of research and see the big picture.
  2. ___I write accurate summaries of research in clear, easy-to-follow prose.
  3. ___I critique research to see potential logical gaps or flaws in reasoning.
  4. ___I identify significant connections among things that are not usually linked.
  5. ___I write clear transition sentences between sections of my argument.
  6. ___I use transition words (like “however” or “in addition”) to show the relationship of ideas.
  7. ___I clearly articulate research questions or the problem statement.
  8. ___I vary sentence length, using short sentences as well as longer ones.
  9. ___I craft the introduction so the reader understands my topic and why it matters.
  10. ___I write in active voice rather than passive voice when it offers greater precision.

Now, tally up your overall score. On a scale of 100, how well did you do? Then, notice which individual items you rated as fairly high. Those point to your strengths. Also, notice the items you gave a lower score. Those point to areas where you have room for improvement.

Since having a sound process for developing manuscripts is also vital to the success of your writing, I invite you to take another quiz to help you assess the quality of your writing process.

Writing Process Quiz

Again, rate the following 10 items on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 meaning this item is never part of your writing process and 10 meaning it is almost always part of your process.

  1. ___I stop researching and begin writing, even if I don’t feel completely ready.
  2. ___I work on my writing project for 1 to 2 hours a day, generally 4 or 5 days each week.
  3. ___I arrange my schedule to write at the time of day when I am at my sharpest.
  4. ___I take frequent breaks when I write for a long period of time.
  5. ___ I don’t beat myself up if I miss a day of scheduled writing.
  6.  ___I give myself small rewards when I stick to my planned writing schedule.
  7. ___I spill out really rough drafts and don't try to perfect every paragraph before moving on,.
  8. ___I free write to generate ideas, particularly when I feel stuck.
  9. ___ I understand that producing a good manuscript requires revising and working through multiple drafts.
  10. ___I am comfortable sharing drafts with and getting feedback from a trusted colleague, editor, or coach.

Again, tally up your overall score, but also notice which items you gave a high rating and which ones you gave a low rating. The higher-rated items underscore the strengths in your writing process, while the lower rated items suggest behaviors to consider changing.

The final blog in this series explores another key element in assessing your writing fairly and seeing how to improve it—how to get and interpret useful feedback.

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