I'm not a good writer but I am required to take English! How do I do well?


I am much more of a math-science-business mind and I don’t read a lot of book. We have to take NCEA Level 2 English and I don’t enjoy writing and I know I am not going to do as well as I would like. What should I do?


First off, know that it’s possible for you to do well in Level 2 English despite having a math-science-business type brain. Particularly in NCEA, there is a structure to English just as there is a structure to chemistry or calculus. You need to unlock and understand that structure. The best advice I can give is:

  1. Work closely with your teacher. They are in the best position to help you with each of the points below.

  2. Outline the step-by-step process for an excellence-level essay. Trust me that it is a simple formula. Once you crack it, it’ll be the same as you doing calculus. You’ll actually enjoy it too.

  3. Review, edit and revise your essays. Write less and edit more. If you’re anything like me when I was doing Level 2, the best thing you can do is go over your essay with your teacher and have them show you each point that you missed and each way that you can improve. If you’re writing an essay that isn’t any better than the last, you’re not improving.

  4. Practice. I’m unashamed of my cliché because it’s true. NCEA Level 2 English is not as difficult as you probably think it is - just put the work in. There is a very limited number of techniques that you actually need to master.

  5. Writing is an incredibly important skill. This point serves as motivation rather than assistance but I want you to know how valuable being a good writer is. At school, writing was my biggest academic downfall. I avoided it whenever I could and I regret that. I’ve become incredibly aware of how necessary and beneficial it is to be a good writer. Good writers are persuasive, clear, concise and likable. More often than not a successful writer is a successful person.

  6. Read more. Reading will expose you to great writing form (if the author is good). This will stick with you. Of course it’s not always possible to find the time to read extensively, but remember that reading is good.

  7. Elements of Style by Strunk and White is a great book to help you improve your writing ability. It’ll teach you grammar rules, structure and help you convey your voice through writing without all the clutter.

I hope that helps. The underlying message here is that you are totally capable of getting straight excellences - anyone is. You just have to put in the work to overcome the threshold before you start producing great writing.