There are lots of reasons why we write and the purpose may determine the style and format that you choose to employ. College writing is done with the express aim of achieving a good grade, which we hope will contribute towards getting a qualification that will help us in our future career. To achieve this, there are several characteristics of college writing that differ from casual writing that you do for your own enjoyment.
College writing - essays and dissertations
Whether you are studying Law, English, History, Politics or an array of other degree courses, the chances are that your written assignments will take two main forms. The first is essays, which may need to be written under exam conditions or which you may be asked to go away and write in your own spare time. The second type of writing is a dissertation, which is a much longer piece on a specialist topic that normally forms part of your final year studies. While essays and dissertations are distinct forms of writing, the thing that is common between them is that you need to focus on getting a good grade rather than just aesthetic beauty.
Start, middle and an end
From school days, kids are taught about the importance of providing a start, middle and an end as part of their essays. Exam makers expect college students to adhere to this convention so don't disappoint them. In novel writing, on the other hand, authors quite often like to jump to the middle of a story and then gradually reveal the preceding events. When writing your college essay, the start should clearly signpost what you are writing about and the key strands that you intend to expand upon. The middle, then, contains the main body of the essay where you will present your key findings and supporting evidence. The end is all about drawing your thoughts to a neat and easy to understand conclusion.
Format is important
Essays need to be neatly split into manageable chunks, via paragraphs. The use of sub-headings is also often important to help the exam marker to understand when you are moving onto another key point or section. With dissertations, format is even more important and you will be expected to include (amongst other things) a title page, contents page, methodology, introduction, results, conclusions, appendices and bibliography. Another important difference between college writing and casual writing is that it will more frequently be acceptable and desirable with college writing to convey important information through bullet points.
Tailoring your writing to cover what the exam maker expects to see
The people who grade exam essays and dissertations often have large volumes of papers to grade and very limited time. It's perhaps unfortunate but this means that college papers are often graded at speed. The exam maker will therefore often scan the essay as they read it, looking for key facts and figures that they expect to see covered for the chosen essay title. This means that a vital skill for students to learn is what key points they are expected to include in a given topic and then making sure that those points are very clearly sign-posted within their submission. Casual writing doesn't contain this necessity to score points and therefore has more flexibility in terms of what you write and how you choose to format it.