Image of a man posing next to a wall with a thought bubble painted on it.

“thought bubble called confusion : san francisco (2011)” by torbakhopper is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Today, one of my students told me she was attending a seminar on commas and semicolons because she wanted to do everything in her power to improve her academic writing. I applauded her for being proactive and taking charge of her academic experience. However, I lamented the fact that she had subscribed to one of the most misguided beliefs about writing out there – that good writing is about good grammar.

Listen, I love semicolons as much as the next gal. Probably a little more. However, a semicolon can’t make a vague and uninteresting sentence better. What can make a vague and uninteresting sentence better? A good idea.

All good pieces of writing – academic or otherwise – start with good ideas. If you want to learn to write better, you have to learn to think better. You have to improve your critical thinking skills. If you change the way you think, you’ll see a dramatic improvement in your writing and (hopefully) your scores.

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