Writing is an essential skill. It allows us to communicate, and to explore and comment on ideas.

In today’s digital world, texting, e-mail and other forms of written communication have further elevated the importance of this foundational skill.

The Main Idea

The ability to develop a main idea—an overarching theme—and understand that subordinate ideas must support, not digress from, that idea, is at the core of effective writing. For instance, the main idea of this article is to describe what “writing” means. Supportive ideas are introduced to reinforce that.

In most cases, the writer chooses the main idea before starting. Learning to structure a piece in a logical, clear, and sequential form is crucial to mastering the writing process.


Organization involves the arrangement of main and supporting ideas in an effective and logical order, to help readers best understand the text’s “argument”. In general, the opening section introduces the main idea, and establishes a framework for smooth transitions from that idea to others. Body paragraphs support the main idea with subordinate material, and the concluding section pulls things together, re-stating the main idea and bringing the argument to an end.

Subordinate material

Subordinate material supports the main idea with evidence, quotations, explanations, statistics, and examples. When used effectively, subordinate material supports the main idea’s premise, shaping and deepening it to convince the reader of its merits.

Point of view, expression, and word choice

In the words of Mark Twain, “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is…the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”  Point of view, expression, and word choice are crucial elements in establishing style and voice. The goal:  clear, unambiguous, and concise language, shorn of jargon and clichés.


Grammar, spelling, and punctuation

Syntax, subject/verb agreement, parallel construction, pronoun case, noun/pronoun agreement, verb tense, spelling, and punctuation are key to winning the reader’s trust.