Written Expression for Older Students and Adults

Written Expression – For Older Students and Adults

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  • Planning is the most important step in organising your writing. Few people can ‘start at the beginning and write to the end’ without planning their route.
  • Start work on assignments early – preferably as soon as you get them.
  • Spend time understanding what is required and planning before beginning to research and write. Underline or highlight key words in the topic to help you focus on what is required.
  • To reduce the possibility of straying from the topic, write it out simply and clearly, and place it above your computer or work desk so that you can easily refer to it.
  • Learn how to develop concept maps. As you research and read, you can alter the concept map.
  • Once you have a concept map, you can convert the parts of it to sections, paragraphs and even sentences in your essay. Mind mapping and bullet points are also useful strategies to assist with planning and essay structure.


  • Do not write long, complex sentences. It is easier to write grammatically and convey meaning clearly if your sentences are simple and well-structured.
  • If you have difficulty thinking, writing, spelling, and remembering all at once, try tape recording a sentence or paragraph onto a tape recorder or dictaphone, and then writing/typing it out.
  • Buy a basic grammar book, such as Grammar Magic, and revise the relevant rules. Look for a book which is not too complex, which explains rules clearly, and which provides helpful examples.
  • If your writing difficulties are severe, but your oral language skills are well-developed, consider using voice dictation software. Although this is easier for many students, it is still necessary to plan carefully, use formal academic language and adhere to word limits.


  • If you have difficulty detecting errors in your work, reading aloud may help you to identify them. If you have a tendency to read aloud what you think you’ve written, rather than what you actually wrote, try using read aloud screen reader software and listening to it instead.
  • Ask your teacher/lecturer, a family member, or friend to read through what you have written and explain your frequent errors to you. For example, you may have difficulties with punctuation, capitalisation, word usage, spelling, grammar or sentence structure.
  • Try to manage your time effectively and avoid always using time extensions for assignments. If you are late with one assignment the next one (and later ones) will almost inevitably be late too, and then you will be left with less time than others for exam preparation.

Assistive tools

Assistive tools/technologies can be very useful for assisting writing. Choosing the right set of tools important and will vary depending on what areas you find difficult. You can find more information regarding assistive technology here.

The above information and more can be found in the publication Understanding Learning Difficulties: A practical guide (DSF 2014)