We all write for different reasons. Some do it for pleasure while others write for their job, to promote their business or sell their product or service.
Regardless of why people write, they all strive for the same thing when they put pen in hand—to become better writers.
There are many ways to achieve that goal. You could take a writing class or find a writing partner. You could read more, paying attention to things like sentence structure, word choice and how the story flows. Or you could find a good editor, who will show you why something doesn’t work rather than simply telling you that it doesn’t.
The best thing to do, however, is learn some of the basics of good writing and practice implementing them into your work.
Here are ten ways to improve your writing.
Plan your writing. Think about what you’re going to write before you start. Decide what information you need to include and what the best way to convey that information is. Be objective and convincing so your message will appeal to your audience.
Write drafts. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t create a masterpiece on your first attempt. Chances are you won’t and that’s okay. It’s more important to get your ideas down on paper first then go back and rework the material.
Word choice: Selecting the right words can be challenging. Vivid, active, colorful ones have the power to paint clear mental pictures and stir your reader’s emotions. When dull, vague or overly used words clutter up your writing, replace them with stronger, more precise ones. Instead of referring to a “loud noise,” call it a roar, din or commotion. The more specific your words are the more easily your readers will understand what you’re trying to say. Don’t choose words based on how long they are or how clever they make you sound. Long, fancy words aren’t always the best choice. Be wise and pick the best words for saying what you mean.
Vocabulary: Nothing makes a sentence sing like clear, specific and concrete words. Expand your depository by building your vocabulary. Scan the dictionary and look up words you don’t know or sign up for a word-of-the-day newsletter. Keep a log of vocabulary words and spend several minutes every day adding to it and studying your new words.
Word repetition: Nothing weakens a piece of writing like using the same descriptive word repeatedly. She had a pretty smile. She wore a pretty dress. She lived in a pretty house. This type of repetition robs a story of its imagery, making it two-dimensional. A thesaurus can alleviate the problem by building your vocabulary and helping find the perfect words for your sentences.
Concise writing: While a matter of style, concise writing is preferred for readers who don’t appreciate long passages of descriptive or long-winded sentences and paragraphs that drag on and on. It says what needs to be said in as few words as possible, using the simplest, most direct language available. It doesn’t mean your writing can’t have flair or be colorful. Shorter sentences can have a greater impact so eliminate unnecessary words. Shave off any excess “fluff” and get to the point.
Organization: Poorly organized content is difficult to read. Thoughts, ideas and action should flow logically. Similar ideas should be grouped together. Outlines are ideal for planning and organizing a complex piece of writing.
Consistency: For the sake of your reader be consistent. If you use italics for thought dialogue, always use italics. Don’t switch between italics and quotation marks. If you use a serial comma in one sentence, use it in all sentences that could take a serial comma. Headings and titles should all have the same formatting, too.
Revise for style, correct grammar and spelling. Writers who fail at this lose credibility with their audience. Invest in a good grammar handbook (e.g., The Chicago Manual of Style or The Associated Press Stylebook) and dictionary and use them whenever you’re unsure about punctuation and spelling.
Enlist a second set of eyes. Ask a friend or colleague to look over your work. They may spot mistakes that you overlooked. If sentences become confusing to a reader chances are a revision is probably needed.
In the end, the best way to improve your writing is to blend your own knowledge into your craft. What you know makes you unique. Be brave and tell people what you think and what you know.
What do you do to improve your writing?