Dear Uncle Colin,

I keep being told my work needs to be tidier, but I’m not really sure how to go about that. Do you have any suggestions?

- My Exercises Skew Scruffy

Hello, MESS, and thanks for your message. I totally feel your pain. In honesty, this is like asking Bob Dylan for advice on how to sing better - I once had a comment on my homework saying it worked as a piece of maths, but not as a piece of calligraphy. I do have some tips, though:

  • Try to give yourself space. Leave space between lines.
  • If you need to delete something, cross it out neatly (don’t scribble).
  • Anticipate how much space you will need. If you’re going to run out of room on a line, don’t try to cram it in. If you’re going to run out of room on a page, come up with a plan for where to go next!
  • Draw diagrams big. They’re much easier to interpret and label.
  • When rewriting (assuming you have time to), try to organise as you go. Split your work up into logical groups.
  • If you can, label each quantity you’re working with. If you’re working out an area of a triangle as part of a complicated question, put “(area of triangle)” after it.

I hope there’s something there to help!

- Uncle Colin