Marine at Computer

3 Ways to Improve Your Writing Skills with DANTES

PROCRASTINATION VS. COMMUNICATION

Writing and procrastination… it’s no secret that they can go hand-in-hand. Most of us don’t like to write and wait to the very last minute before completing the task. However, the longer you wait to write that document, the more likely it will poorly communicate your message and you may even miss the deadline. This is why writing skills are so important. Good writing skills will save you time, eliminate stress and help you meet your deadlines.

The military requires its members to write all kinds of documents and there’s a specific format for each one in every service. If you don’t know the fundamentals of good writing and grammar, the likelihood of your document being returned for corrections over and over is pretty much a sure thing. Letters, talking papers, policies… they all have deadlines and they all require certain handling and format.  Having basic writing skills, following a few simple tips and using some of DANTES no-cost education tools can help you master your fear and/or disdain for writing.

WRITING TIPS

Five general rules to remember when beginning your writing task:

  • Save time and don’t reinvent the wheel; find an example to follow, but don’t plagiarize
  • Write to the point, clear and concise; shorter is usually better
  • Never use a big word when a simple one will do; think like your reader and write to the reader’s level of understanding
  • Vary your sentence length; a long sentence can usually be split in two for easier reading
  • Write the first draft, take a break, edit and edit again if necessary; a second set of eyes is always helpful

ACADEMIC SKILLS TRAINING

DANTES offers no-cost, online academic training courses, OASC and CPST, to help you evaluate your strengths and weaknesses in writing, reading comprehension, grammar and vocabulary. The training offers diagnostic tests to assess your skill level, lessons customized to your targeted areas of improvement and practice tests to see how much you have learned.

Tests and lesson times vary depending on skill level, but generally they take about 20-30 minutes to complete. The reading comprehension and verbal lessons include areas focused on reading and interpreting text, building vocabulary and understanding the main idea. The lessons include detailed answers, examples and quizzes to help reinforce your learning.

Some of the tools used in the lessons include drag-and-drop matching, video game-style multiple choice and interactive flash cards with audio to help build skills while you are engaged in the learning process. You can also mark what you’ve learned and print cards for offline reference. And it can all be done on your computer, laptop, tablet or other mobile device.

Go to http://www.nelnetsolutions.com/DantesNet/ for more information and to sign up at no cost.  Family members and DoD civilians are eligible to use the training too.

TUTOR SERVICES

Once you have a good understanding of the writing process and are ready to begin your first draft, remember that DANTES/DoD offer tutor services at no cost to service members and eligible K-12 family members. You can get help online, 24/7, from English tutors who are pros at writing, editing and proofreading. They can help you with all of your writing questions and you can get help right away – even if you’re on a deadline!

Go to http://military.tutor.com/home for more information and to sign up for free.  Some K-12 family members are eligible too, depending on the military service.

CREDIT-BY-EXAMINATION

Some of us are naturally gifted when it comes to writing. They can sit down and the words just flow onto the paper. If this applies to you, the rest of us are jealous. But this next program will certainly apply to you, as well as many others who use practice and training to get to a mastered level of writing.

After taking advantage of DANTES no-cost assistance and online training, when you are feeling good about your writing, you may even be skilled enough to use the DANTES Credit-by-Examination program and get some college credit. You can use what you have learned and mastered and take a CLEP or DSST exam in a variety of English, composition or writing subjects. CLEP offers exams with writing components in the Composition & Literature and Business sections at https://clep.collegeboard.org/exam. DSST offers exams with writing components in the Business, Technology, and Humanities sections at http://getcollegecredit.com/exam_fact_sheets.

When planning for promotion, your career and your future after the military, you’ll be hard-pressed to find many jobs that don’t require some type of writing. Good writing skills can set you apart from others and they are worth the time and effort to master. Once you learn the basics, your skills only get better with practice. Accept and volunteer for writing tasks with a positive attitude. Conquer writer’s block, embrace your writing skills and share your military story with service organizations and on your installation’s public affairs website. Your experiences, lessons learned and military tips can be valuable to your subordinates and those who serve behind you.

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Erin Roberts

Erin Roberts is a retired Air Force broadcast communication/public affairs specialist with a Masters in Communication and 30+ years in the field. She hails from Cape Cod, MA, and is a travel enthusiast eager to see as much of the world as possible.