The most enjoyable way to improve your writing skills

A communications professor has an easy breezy secret for writers—too bad some of her students don’t want to follow her advice.

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My best student writers are avid readers.

I first made the connection when a student said she read Jane Austen with her mom at age 5. That student was a strong writer. Subliminally, I had probably known this reading/writing connection for a while, but that student, that class, and that biographical detail brought me to an “ah-ha” moment.

Figuring out the formula for being a good writer—and how to teach the formula to the next generation—has become my passion.

To make this connection, I created a “Favorite Authors” presentation so students could share their favorite works with one another, thereby reinforcing the value of reading. More than a few brag that they “don’t read many books.”

I’ve heard reports on everyone from J.K. Rowling to F. Scott Fitzgerald to Dr. Seuss. But over the years I’ve noticed two things: The broad-ranging readers are also the strongest writers, and most students hate this exercise. What does pleasure reading have to do with writing a news release? They ask.

Recently, a student commented on his experience with my class, asking for “less busy work,” specifically Favorite Authors. I bristled at the feedback.

No surprise, that student struggled with good, clear, clean prose.

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