We can all get better. Put these tips into practice, and you'll improve your writing in no time.
Even though I'm a professional writer, I know that I still have room for improvement. I like to think I'm a decent enough writer (since people pay me to write for them), but I know there's plenty I can do to get better.
Here are 15 tips that can improve your writing (I do these, too):
- Pay attention to spelling, grammar and punctuation. Correct usage and spelling, along proper punctuation, make your writing easier to read.
- Don't rely on spell-check. Yes, it can help you. However, if you rely too heavily on spell-check, you end up missing some things, especially when it comes to homonyms.
- The same goes for the grammar-check. While the grammar-checking tool on your computer can help you avoid huge mistakes, it doesn't always fit your style and usage.
- Edit after you're done writing. If you interrupt your flow too much in order to edit, you stand the chance of losing your inspiration. Instead, go back through the piece when you're finished and make the edits then.
- Ask someone else to look at your writing. Even the best writers have editors. What makes you think that you don't need one?
- Read. When you read good writing, it helps you become a better writer yourself. I love reading. I read frequently. And I try to read from some of the best books.
- Reduce your use of “to be” verbs. One of my professors in journalism school encouraged us to cut out forms of “to be” and use dynamic language instead. I still need to work on this, but I've made progress.
- Cut the adverbs. According to Stephen King, “The adverb is not your friend.” While you don't need to excise adverbs from your writing altogether, consider whether or not you need them — and then get rid of the excess.
- Stop using passive voice. Guilty (but only sometimes). Instead of using passive voice, making your writing active. Your readers will enjoy it more, since it will move them forward through your sentences.
- Write every day. You'll be surprised at how daily practice can improve your writing.
- Avoid wordiness. It's harder to write with brevity than to write at length. Some of my hardest assignments in J-school dealt with writing 300-word articles that contained all the essential information. Now, thanks to my training, I have a hard time writing lengthy pieces. It annoys me to try to add filler just to hit a 500, 700, or 1,000 word requirement.
- Vary the sentence length and structure. Change things up a little bit to keep the reader interested and to create the pacing you want.
- Organize your thoughts first. Before you start writing, organize your thoughts. Do it formally, with an outline (especially helpful if you write fiction and need to keep plot points and characters straight), or just take a couple of minutes to think about what you want to cover without writing it down.
- Just get started. Sometimes writer's block keeps you from organizing your thoughts ahead of time. If this is the case, just start writing. You may have to go back and re-arrange things, but if you are having trouble, just starting help you break through — and it enables the free flow of ideas.
- Revisit old pieces. Look at pieces written in the past, and consider how you can improve them.
What do you think of these writing tips? What tips do you use to improve your writing?
Image: Eduardo via Flickr