1. Creating a meaningful text is hard work. If it's too easy, you probably aren't doing it right. Whether you are writing a class essay or a story for publication, the spontaneous creation of genius is pure myth. Even the Romantic Poets, such as Wordsworth and Coleridge, who claim to have written epic poems in a matter of days or hours weren't telling the truth. Writers who write well do so as a result of a concentrated, extended period of effort.
2. The best writing advice I ever received from a professor--play. Decide for yourself what that means to you.
3. A good writer knows the rules and follows them. A great writer knows the rules and disregards them. As a writer, you have to learn the rules before you break them.
4. Remember that your audience is reading words on the page and not your mind. Try to examine your work from your reader's perspective to ensure they will understand exactly what it is you are trying to relate.
5. Attempting to obfuscate the connotation of your sentences by utilizing an obtuse communication style is an absolute rookie maneuver. Instead, use simple, clear language whenever possible. Also, remember to cut unnecessary words from your text. Try not to waste your reader's time.
6. Reread number one again.
7. Avoid repetitive words, phrases and sentence rhythm whenever possible...or rather, when you can.
8. Having a good reader in your writing life is indispensable. I never work without mine and wouldn't have gotten far without one. As a matter of fact, this person will have read this several times before you do. Find a friend, parent, brother or sister, or anyone who is willing to read your work. A fresh set of eyes giving you feedback will help you gauge what the audience is or isn't getting from your text.
9. When editing your own work, try reading your work aloud. You will catch many mistakes you missed when reading silently. Reading your work in reverse is also helpful. Start reading the last sentence in your text, working your way backwards until you arrive at the opening sentence. This method forces you to consider each sentence individually as it is out of context, which will allow you to locate errors more effectively.
10. Know your audience.
11. Although you will be told to be objective in your writing, this too is misleading and following this adage too strongly can actually hamper your development as a thinker/writer. Write from your own perspective. Be biased. Use "I think" or "I argue that" when you are able. If "I" am not the person doing the thinking/writing in the essay, then who is? The third person, objective perspective is not an attainable position, in my opinion (unless you happen to be a god, in which case you probably wouldn't be reading this in the first place). Present the ideas you believe in. Get connected with what your subject matter and get fired up about it. Just remember to back your claims with reasonable evidence. Don't be afraid to stand on your soapbox, but be cautious as the footing can be slick and you might end up on your butt looking foolish. Again, use evidence to support your assertions.
12. Read. Numerous studies have shown that the most effective way to improve your writing is through reading. It doesn't have to be Shakespeare, either. The latest edition of "Bass Master" magazine will work too. Read what you like on your own time.