Find Your Writing Profile to Make Writing Easier

find your writing profile

While all writers are unique, we tend to fall into certain categories based on the way we naturally think and approach writing. Do you know your Writing Profile? If not, a few moments of reflection can lead to a lifetime of happier writing!

Once you identify your Writing Profile, you'll make better choices about how to gather your ideas and start writing. You'll spend less time fighting your way through fruitless exercises, and you'll spend more time in the writing "flow" zone, that place where your ideas are free to frolic because you've given them a framework they recognize and like.   

Are you better with details? Does the big picture jump out at you? Do you need to write in complete sentences to think through a problem? Do you gravitate toward short bullet-point lists?  If you're not sure which profile describes you, try out all of the different techniques listed until you find your best fit, and don't be afraid to mix and match!

Profile #1: The Logician

You like to get straight to the point. You can see the argument clearly and you're eager to state your ultimate conclusion. You may be very good at math, history, and science and find yourself impatient with writing because “good” writing seems arbitrary to you — only a matter of opinion.

Typical feedback on your writing:

  • "Say more!"
  • "Provide more background information."
  • "Expand — this is unclear." 

Put your skills to work for you:

Create a rigid outline that puts ideas of the same magnitude into the same kind of format. You might try one of the following:

  • a bullet-point list, indenting to show sub-categories, details, or examples
  • a classic Roman numeral outline
  • a graphic organizer or table that names the elements you're going to use, such as "Claim 1, Detail 1, Explanation 1," etc.

Create a goal for each body paragraph, for example, To prove that superior generals led to a Northern victory in the Civil War; or To prove that the use of an unreliable narrator creates suspense in "The Tell -Tale Heart."  These statements will help you develop your argument and will also lend themselves to clear topic sentences.  As you write your body paragraphs, check back with your “to prove” statements and evaluate whether you have clearly developed your arguments to support these statements.

Think of each piece of evidence as a mini lab experiment that must be explained, just as in a lab report. In order to evaluate your findings, your audience has to see your “experiment” explained step by step; you have to provide comprehensive analysis of how you know what you know, not just that you know it.

Profile #2: The Quiet Thinker

Ideas are buzzing around inside you. You love to think about topics that interest you, but you have a hard time generating thoughts about required topics. You may feel unsure of where to begin on an assignment.  Should you start with examples? How do you put your ideas into words or structured paragraphs?

Typical feedback on your writing:

  • "Re-do your outline."
  • "Narrow your topic."
  • "This idea isn't related to your argument."
  • "You're digressing from your main topic."

Put your skills to work for you:

Make a connection to the topic. Create a structured freewrite that responds to these questions:

  • What do I know about this topic already?
  • What questions do I have about this topic?
  • What does this topic remind me of? What connections am I already making to other topics I have learned about?
  • Why is this topic interesting to me? Which aspect am I most intrigued by, even if it’s not what everyone else is talking about? What question have I been meaning to ask in class?
  • What haven’t we talked about in class? What’s a new approach to this topic? What’s my unique perspective?

Once you have some ideas about why this topic could be interesting and how you can put your personal touch on it, you can start brainstorming ideas. Try both a bottom-up and a top-down approach and see which works best for you.

Bottom-Up Approach

Set a timer for two minutes and don’t stop writing until the timer stops. Without paying attention to order or arrangement, write out all of the people, places, events, battles, inventions, treaties, laws, speeches, weapons, characters, plot developments, lines of dialogue, actions — all the details about the topic — that you can think of. Once you have a list of these details, group them into categories using color-coding or physical rearrangement if on computer. Name the categories.

Top-Down Approach

Set a timer for two minutes and don’t stop writing until the timer stops. Write out all of the categories you can think of about this topic, for example, types of literary devices, different symbols, possible themes, etc. for response to literature. Or, for expository essays, think of categories such as politics, social equity, education, safety, health, ecology, scientific innovation, etc. Once you've done this, fill in as many details as you can for each category.

Profile #3: The Debater

You can see the exception to any rule. You're frustrated by broad, universal statements because they are incomplete. You may find that you aren't willing to follow a line of reasoning or argument all the way to the end because you discover flaws along the way. You enjoy thinking through the details of topics, but you dislike having to form a structure or framework for your thoughts — there are just too many possibilities!

Typical feedback on your writing:

  • "This statement contradicts your argument.” 
  • "You haven't proved your point."
  • "You need a clear thesis statement / topic sentence."
  • "This idea is off-topic."

Put your skills to work for you:

Since you are able to see the details that might unravel an argument, you will also be able to see which details will strengthen it. 

In persuasive writing, you can use those “but what about…” thoughts to develop a counter-argument and rebuttal paragraph.

In other types of expository writing, hold yourself to your own high standard and force yourself to state the circumstances that make a statement true.  Perhaps it’s not universally true that a guard dog is the best protection against intruders. But isn't it the best protection for the money and time investment, or for average people who are not under specific or severe threat?

When you're tempted to toss an idea because it's not unconditionally true, use your skills to define when it is true by asking these questions:

  • When is my my claim true?
  • Where in the world is my claim true?
  • What group of people does my claim most apply to?
  • What conditions make my claim true?
  • What is a specific example that contradicts my claim? Why does it do so? What traits does this example have?

You can also use this strategy in writing about literature. Perhaps the theme “What goes around comes around” is not true in every story. Why is it true in this story?  Which actions of the characters show their choices, and which outcomes demonstrate their wisdom or folly? Which specific words, phrases, and literary techniques does the author use to point readers toward the theme? 

 The Wordsmith

You love words. You can fill a whole page without breaking a sweat. You may use writing as a way to think, not knowing what you’re going to say until several pages in. You may love creative writing. You may love the drafting part of expository essays but dislike outlining or revising.

Typical feedback on your writing:

  • "Structure your ideas more carefully." 
  • "Be more concise."
  • "You need a clear thesis statement / topic sentence."
  • "I'm not following your argument."
  • "This draft needs to be revised and polished."

Put your skills to work for you:

Begin by freewriting on the topic. Allow yourself to just start right in and get into a good writing flow. Don’t worry about structure, grammar, spelling, or formatting! Write until all your ideas are out on the page. Do this either on the computer or on paper — wherever you feel most free and inspired. 

Next, read back over what you have and find related ideas. Look for statements about...

  • the same character 
  • the same theme or idea, e.g., losing one's innocence
  • the same motif, e.g., blood or the color red
  • the same category of life, e.g., education, health, safety, entertainment, or transportation
  • the same event, idea, innovation, or person
  • the same logical category, e.g., cause, effect, contrast, or similarity 

If you worked on paper, use colored pens or highlighters to mark related ideas. Make a legend so you can name your color categories. If you worked on the computer, you can use colors, fonts, or physical spacing to create categories. 

Now look back at the prompt and determine what would answer the question. Do your topics fit the bill?  If not, do another freewrite and focus on asking yourself questions related to the prompt. You can even write those questions into the freewrite so that your answers will be easier to locate once you’re finished.

Once you have the categories for all of your body paragraphs, write down what you will use as your evidence. You will probably have no problem finding what to say about each piece of evidence, but it’s important not to rely solely on your verbosity — you must have quotes or concrete details picked out!  These will help keep you centered so your writing doesn't run away with you.

Writing Profiles Evolve

It's not necessary (or recommended!) to take on one of these Writing Profiles as a rigid identity. The way you write will certainly change over time, and it may even change from one assignment to the next, or from one day to the next.

Instead, find yourself in these profiles whenever you sit down to write. Ask, "Who am I right now, for this topic? What style of writing would suit me and help me get into my writing flow?"

Remember the difference between writing as a process and writing as a product: yes, there is one standard form your finished writing should take; however, the way you get there is up to you. As long as you're working with yourself, you're doing it right! I like to use this little rhyme as a reminder:

Write in sync with the way you think! [Do you like that idea? Tweet it!]

Want to learn more about your writing profile? I offer writing coaching for both children and adults, helping them find the entry-points to writing that make the activity easier, lighter, and more in-tune with their natural learning styles. Find out more about writing coaching with me!

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