Help, I have to write!

Where do I start?

Writing is work

Writing is work and quality writing always takes a lot of effort. It might not seem all that hard when you first look around the room and see everyone typing away. However, if you want to write something well, it takes effort and guts.

The most important thing in writing is the preparation work you do before you start writing. This is where good ideas appear. Forget about great ideas magically appearing as you go – it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get down to work. Here we go!

Blank Word-bakgrunn
Blank Word-bakgrunn

Read the instructions carefully!

Did you read the instructions carefully? Read them again, this time paying close attention to the verbs used for the assignment. You might see words like portray, describe, reflect, or explore. These words are important because they tell you what kind of text you should write. As an example, one set of instructions may ask you to reflect on a certain topic while another asks you to portray what it is like to be in love.

Check if the instructions say anything about the style and structure of the text. This could be a phrase telling you which genre the text should fit into, such as a short story, fairy tale, letter to the editor and so on. The instructions could also say that you need to write a creative or a reflective text. These words should give you some ideas on how to set up your paper and if you should use formal and/or informal language.

See if the assignment instructions say who you are writing to and why. Below are some examples identifying who to write to: 

  • Write a speech about homework for a young audience.
  • Write a creative text about friendship for children.
  • Write a persuasive letter to the editor about a route  too dangerous for kids to take to school.

If you have enough information about your audience, it will be easier to decide what kind of language to use and what to include in your paper. It won’t be a good idea to use many difficult words in your text if you are writing for young children. The opposite can be said for a persuasive article for a newspaper debate. The quality and how convincing you are will be lower if you use a lot of informal and slang words.

Once you have completed these steps, you will have three key pieces of information to help you get ready to write: 

  • Content: what the paper will be about,
  • Purpose: why you are writing the paper and to whom,
  • Strutcture: how the text should be put together. 

These are the key components of a basic outline or a writing triangle.

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Skrivetrekanten på engelsk i Word-format
Skrivetrekanten på engelsk i Word-format

Get your brain started!

Maybe you already have some ideas about what you want to write about? Or perhaps you still don’t know? Let’s start coming up with some ideas!

Take a blank piece of paper and something to write with, or open a new Word document on your computer. We are now going to do some free writing. First, set a timer for five minutes and then start writing. For the next five minutes, you should write down everything you think about your assignment. Try to write sentences that go together, but don’t worry about spelling, punctuation, or grammar. If you don’t know what more to write,  write: “I don’t know what to write…” and try to keep going. You can write this phrase more than once. Remember, there are no right or wrong answers at this point, all you are trying to do is get your brain working!

When the five minutes are up, finish the sentence you are on and stop writing. Read through what is on your paper and see if there are any keywords or sentences that you can use.

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What type of text am I writing?

There are several different directions you can go in with your writing depending on the type of assignment you have been given, and if you are asked to write a fictional or non-fictional text:

  • Fiction: narratives, short stories, and fairy tales
  • Non-fiction (fact): newsletters, letters to the editor, news and debate/persuasive articles
Word-bakgrunn med engelske stilarter
Word-bakgrunn med engelske stilarter


If you are going to write  fiction, you can start putting your ideas together using a mind map. On a blank piece of paper, draw a circle in the middle of the page and write what the task is. Next, draw nine circles surrounding the middle circle and write one of the following questions in each circle:

  • Who are the characters?
  • What is the story about?
  • Where does the story begin?
  • Where does the story take place?
  • When is the story set (what time/year)?
  • What is the big issue/problem in the story?
  • How is the problem solved?
  • What happens and why?
  • How does the story end?

Just write keywords for your answers to these questions but try to be as specific as possible.

Once you are done with the circles, you will have an outline for your text. Now, find a study partner and see if you can discuss ideas together. It is often very useful to talk through your ideas with someone else. You might even get some good feedback from your partner.

You are now ready to start writing. Some people like to write the last paragraph first, but most people like to start with the introduction. Don’t be too hard on yourself in the beginning. Feel free to play with both the content and language you use. It is always possible to go back and fix things later. Remember that it is also a good idea to go back and read the assignment instructions, just to be sure that you are still following all of the guidelines.

Here are a few links for more writing tips and ideas:

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Word-bakgrunn med sporsmal.
Word-bakgrunn med sporsmal.


If you are going to write non-fiction, e.g. a persuasive text, you can do things a little differently. The goal here is to inform or convince the reader about something. So, you must stay factual, clearer, and write shorter than you would for a work of fiction. Writing structure is very important, which is why many students prefer to write non-fiction texts. A good start is to organize your writing into a five-paragraph essay. The first paragraph is for the introduction, the next three are the main body, and the last paragraph is the conclusion. More paragraphs can of course be added if needed. Think of it like a burger: the buns are the introduction and conclusion, and the layers between are the other paragraphs.

Word-bakgrunn med femavsnittsregelen
Word-bakgrunn med femavsnittsregelen


Go back to your free-writing paragraph from earlier. Can you find three keywords that could be relevant for your assignment? If, for example, you have to write a convincing text for a newspaper debate about a route that is too dangerous for children to take to school, your free-writing paragraph may look like this:

It is so scary having to walk to school because cars drive by really fast, and in the fall, it gets really dark and spooky. The days are a little lighter in the winter, but then you have to walk in the middle of the road because there is so much snow and there are snow berms everywhere. I don’t know what to write, there are a ton of cars where we walk to school, and almost all of my friends walk too. Some ride their bikes and have to either ride them on the road or where we walk. It’s hard to ride your bike to school because the sidewalks are so narrow, and we don’t have any bike lanes. I don’t know what to write, but I think that it sucks that some of us are scared of being run over on the way to school. Maybe that’s why there are so many that get rides. It’s also not that cool having to walk in all of the exhaust fumes. Also, even though a lot of people have electric cars, that’s a little scary too because they don’t make any noise.

Notice that several key words/phrases that you can use for your paper have been highlighted.

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Blank Word-bakgrunn

Topic sentences

The next step is to write three topic sentences using the words that you have highlighted. A topic sentence is a statement that makes a claim, like “cats are more intelligent than dogs” or states a fact, like “reflectors make it easier to be seen in traffic”. Your three topic sentences will be used to start each of the three body paragraphs in your essay. For the topic on dangerous routes to school, they would probably look something like this:

  • The school route is dark and has poor visibility.
  • We need a bike lane.
  • A lot of kids get rides to school because they are too scared to walk.


Supporting sentences

Now you need to explain, develop, and support each of these sentences. It is best with examples. This is what we call supporting sentences. The following is an example of a paragraph with examples of the topic sentence (in bold).

The school route is dark and has poor visibility.
If you have ever walked along the school route to Russell school early in the morning, you have probably noticed that there isn’t much light. There are a lot of streetlights missing along the way, and it gets especially dark in the fall. That means that there can be some pretty dark mornings even at the beginning of the new school year. This is scary for both the kids walking to school and the cars driving by. Even though a lot of children use reflectors, there are also many who don’t. These roads are used by both pedestrians and cyclists, and things can quickly become dangerous. While the days get a little lighter when there is snow, that just makes the roads even more dangerous. The snowplows create a lot of high snow berms, and this means that children often have to walk in the middle of the road to get to school.

Try to write at least four to five support sentences for each of your topic sentences. Once you have done this, you will have three full paragraphs for the body of your paper.

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Blank Word-bakgrunn

Starts and stops

Now it’s time to write the introduction and the conclusion. Good introductions will grab the reader’s interest. Think of it like a fishing hook. Your starting paragraph needs to present your topic, offer a little background on why you are writing this text, and end with a thesis statement (your focus) or key question like in the following example.


Research shows that it is healthy for kids to walk to school. It is good for both body and soul to move around and get some fresh air before starting the important job of learning. While this is true, these researchers probably didn’t have to walk along the same school route I have to take to Russell school. This route is both scary and dangerous for school children as well as for the cars driving by. When is city hall going to do something about it? Isn’t it a bit ridiculous to wait until something serious happens before steps are taken to make sure that children are safe on the way to school?

Conclusions are summaries where you shortly sum up the key points of your paper while making sure not to add any new information. This paragraph needs to match what you wrote in your introduction and give the answer to your original question(s).

As you can see, there are several good reasons why children should walk to school. It is good for both body and soul. At the same time, it isn’t something that you should have to risk your life for. If the school route isn’t safe, then it isn’t reasonable to let children walk to school. To ensure that children get the best start possible to their day, it is essential for city hall to make the route safe for pedestrians and cars. For the kids who attend Russell school, this means improving the lighting and sidewalks along the regular school route. Everyone agrees that children need to be able to walk to school safely, now it is up to city hall to actually do something about it!

There you have it, a complete persuasivetext. Now that you have written all five paragraphs, it would be a good idea to ask a friend or classmate to read through your paper to be sure that you have done everything that you were asked to do before turning it in. 

Remember to check spelling and punctuation before you hand it in. Don’t rely on the computer’s spellcheck to catch everything! It would be sad for a few sloppy mistakes to ruin your hard work. Lastly, make use of all of the help you have while you are writing, including sentence starters, planning tools, and a thesaurus.

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All done!

Writing can be difficult, but a lot of the actual work lies in the preparation: doing a good job of planning and following standard structure. Writing quality texts takes a little time, but you will see that it gets easier with practice. Have fun with your writing and find your own voice. You know that that is why you write, don’t you? Let your voice be heard!

Kul jente med laptop i fanget jubler over å egen innsats
Kul jente med laptop i fanget jubler over å egen innsats


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