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How Kids and Adults Can Use Copywork to Improve Writing, Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar Skills

Copywork is a method both kids and adults can use to improve their writing skills. Many schools don't put enough emphasis on correcting writing mistakes, which makes it easy for children to build bad habits. It's important to fix these mistakes early, otherwise, kids may take poor writing skills into high school or college, where teachers and professors have less tolerance for badly written work.

Copywork is also beneficial for adults. If writing is an important part of your job, copying the work of those skilled in the same field is a great way to improve your own skills. Aspiring technical writers, fiction writers, and nonfiction writers can all benefit from copying the works of experts. Language learners (ELA) can also use copy work to learn and improve their understanding of the English language.

Copywork can improve grammar, spelling and punctuation skills

Copywork can improve grammar, spelling and punctuation skills

What is Copywork?

Copywork is writing something out by hand. It involves copying letters, words, sentences, or paragraphs. Copywork is a method that was strongly advocated by Charlotte Mason, a 19th-century educator. She believed that copywork provided penmanship exercise and exposed children to a wide variety of writing styles. Allowing spelling and grammar mistakes reinforced bad writing habits, since a child may not recognize when words are spelled correctly or not. Children would also develop the habit of using bad grammar.

Copywork exposes children to correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Charlotte Mason believed that copywork assignments should be short, approximately 5 to 10 minutes a day. Children progress from letters and words to whole sentences. Then they move on to whole paragraphs and eventually a whole page. It is important that children use neat handwriting during copywork exercises.

Copywork for Kids

In some schools, little attention is placed on teaching correct spelling and grammar. Some teachers want to instill a love of writing in children and worry that enforcing correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation will stifle their expression. In many schools, teachers don't always correct children's writing because they have so much work to correct. Invented spelling is also becoming more common as schools start to focus on creative writing as early as kindergarten.

Many students are graduating from high school and even college with poor writing skills as a result. Copywork is one method of writing practice that parents can use with their children to improve their writing skills. Copywork can easily be used in a homeschool environment. If you feel your child's public or private school isn't doing enough to promote correct spelling and grammar, add five to fifteen minutes of copywork to their homework.

Use poetry, quotes, and paragraphs from great books as copywork exercises. Copywork can also be used to teach subjects like science and social studies. Writing out sentences from a science or history book can reinforce important concepts. This is especially good for 2nd grade and up when most kids are competent writers. You can also get a workbook called Writing With Ease that provides both copy and narration exercises.

Make sure your child is writing neatly during copywork exercises. For younger kids, use specially lined paper to make forming neat letters easier.

“Good artists borrow, great artists steal.”

Copywork for Adults

Adults may have multiple reasons for using copywork to improve writing skills. Some may have graduated from high school with poor writing skills and may want to fix that. In that case, copying simpler texts may be the best way to start. Many adults work in fields where writing is important or they may want to write books, articles, or blog posts. The best way to do this is to find a writer you want to emulate and copy out sections of their works. Doing this even for ten to fifteen minutes every day can lead to a dramatic improvement in writing skills. If you want to write a great novel, or screenplay, or learn to write marketing materials or technical papers, find writers that are the best in your particular genre or field and learn from them by copying their work. Do a little every day. If you are learning English or another foreign language, copywork can reinforce your spelling and grammar skills. Start with sentences from your language learning books to build a solid foundation. As your skills improve, you can find fiction and nonfiction works in your target language to copy.

Standing on the shoulders of giants is a metaphor which means "Using the understanding gained by major thinkers who have gone before in order to make intellectual progress".

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How to Improve Your Writing with Copywork

© 2012 LT Wright


LT Wright (author) from California on February 22, 2013:


It is hard to learn the basics as an adult because bad writing habits have become second nature by that time. It really is necessary to build correct writing habits from the beginning.

Wendy Golden from New York on February 22, 2013:

It's sad but true, schools no longer teach spelling and grammar. I got out of the regular classroom because of this and decided to teach computers instead. Children need to learn proper grammar and spelling or they are at a disadvantage for the rest of their lives. It's very hard to learn the basics as an adult, because no one taught you as a kid. I"m glad parents like you are home schooling. This will ensure that at least some American kids are literate when they grow up. ;-)

Julie Fletcher on June 04, 2012:

I was introduced to the Mason 'way' by a friend and fellow Hubber. I need to utilize copywork here at home. Trying to homeschool and so far the writing/reading is not coming along. The kids are far more interested in science, which is great, but they don't seem to understand that they will learn far more by reading. Great Hub!

Melis Ann from Mom On A Health Hunt on June 04, 2012:

I always loved doing copywork as a kid. Then again, I'm one who learns by writing things down. I think it would be helpful in training kids in spelling and grammar. Interesting and SHARED!

SPK5367 from Pennsylvania, USA on June 04, 2012:

We use copywork in our homeschool and I really believe in it. Interestingly enough, when I started homeschooling twelve years ago I saw it in a language arts curriculum and summarily dismissed it as boring and a waste of time. Was I wrong! I think Miss Mason was really onto something with copywork and with dictation as well.

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