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The IUP Journal of English Studies :
Techniques in Teaching Writing Skills
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Listening and writing are perhaps the two language skills not systematically taught from the school level to the university level. This paper explores a few ways in which the skill of writing could be taught at the undergraduate level. It has been observed that undergraduate students are expected to write long essays, but they are never taught how to write a paragraph efficiently. It needs to be explained to them that even a short paragraph has a structure—a beginning, a middle, and an end. Advanced students may be encouraged to select a topic of their choice and write exactly five sentences or seventy words, for example. This emphasizes the need for writing the first draft and then revising it by reducing or adding to it. This enhances their command over vocabulary and grammar. While teaching vocabulary, the aspects that need to be highlighted are collocations and appropriateness in terms of style and register. While teaching grammar, the aspects that need to be taught are inter-clausal relationships and the use of cohesive devices. Undergraduate students need to be given practice in creative thinking. They should be able to relate writing tasks to their own real-life situations so that the gap between academic tasks and the students’ real lives can be reduced. They should be taught the skill of editing and reviewing their own writing critically.

 
 
 

The skill of writing is often regarded as the last of the four language skills: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Listening and speaking skills are considered “fundamental” skills and reading and writing are “secondary” skills (Bloomfield, quoted in Crystal 2011, 186). However, as Crystal (2011, 187) observes, “Writing and speech are now seen as alternative, ‘equal’ systems of linguistic expression.” Since Indian universities prescribe English language and literature courses which require the students to pass the “written” examination, it is imperative that the writing skills are exclusively emphasized vis-à-vis other skills. Writing skills are the demand of the curriculum. Undergraduate students are required to write short answers and also long essays in the examinations to “pass” in the course/s. However, the reality is that the skill of writing is not systematically taught from the school level to the college level. According to a survey (Kirpal 2011, 62), not more than 10 percent students are good at writing. The fact that 90 percent of undergraduate students are weak in written English is a disturbing fact, which the teachers of English need to address. A cursory glance at their examination answer scripts reveals poor spelling, badly or wrongly constructed sentences, inappropriate or insufficient vocabulary, and lack of organization of paragraphs and long essays. A majority of the students, therefore, lack written language skills when they enter the job market, thus seriously affecting their career opportunities.

 
 
 

Techniques in Teaching Writing Skills