5 writing principles your third-grade teacher botched

Forget what your teacher told you about long outlines, big words, and editing. She was wrong.

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My third-grade teacher was wrong about how to write—and I didn’t need a therapist to say that. Think about the first time you had to write a composition about what you did over summer vacation. How many pages of blue, lined paper did you ball up after scrawling only a few words at the top of the page?

If you still face demons from elementary school that keep you from writing, you’re not alone. Many teachers, despite good intentions, teach their students writing habits that prevent many of them from communicating effectively.

Here are five writing principles your third-grade teacher was wrong about, and how to overcome them to take your writing to the next level.

1. “You must have a carefully detailed outline before you start.”

Though an outline can guide your writing, you could spend all your time creating it without writing a single word. Don’t hold your writing captive to your outline. Can you see the major points of your argument in your mind’s eye? Jot them down before they vaporize.

Shape your thoughts in whatever way works best for you. It’s important to know where your writing is headed so you don’t spend time on irrelevant detours.

2. “You must start at the beginning.”

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