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What you need to understand is that much of writing in school is bullshit. And not actually very useful for building up your writing skills.

For me I'd say the most important influences towards improving my writing came from one particular course in high school (modern european history) where the homework was all short essays and paragraph-ish long answers to a bunch of questions/topics and heavy participation in usenet during my college years.

With papers it's too easy to fall into a pattern of satisficing, because the bar is set pretty low, even in college, and the exercises are mostly unrealistic. But when you have to spend time trying to communicate complicated subjects to real human beings or to make detailed arguments then you have to step up your skills substantially.

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