One of the best ways to take your writing up a notch is to improve your grammar and usage. You can be a better writer just by avoiding the “Word Crimes” pointed out by Weird Al.
When I was a child, my father introduced me to the musical stylings of “Weird Al” Yankovic. He used to sing the words to “Eat It” to my siblings and me when we balked at cleaning our plates.
Yankovic has a new album out, and one of the funniest songs included is “Word Crimes,” a parody of “Blurred Lines.” It's fantastic.
Yankovic takes aim at poor grammar and usage — including spelling. As I watched the video (and laughed out loud several times), it occurred to me that almost anyone could be a better writer by avoiding the word crimes pointed out in the song.
Are You Aware of Your Word Crimes?
In my own quest to be a better writer, I routinely review my own work. I can see the difference in the way I write now to the way I wrote when I first started freelancing. I feel like I've improved.
However, I can still write better. Just the other day, a typo made it through and was published in an article I wrote for a major web site. It was definitely an embarrassing face-palm-worthy moment. I'm still waiting for the site's editors to review my request to have it changed. In the meantime, I'm horrified that others will see my casual mistake.
As a writing professional, it's impossible to be perfect all the time. However, it does make sense to review your writing periodically and look for indications that you are committing crimes against grammar and usage. Be honest with yourself (or ask someone you can trust to be honest with you) as you review a few samples of your recent work. Do you regularly misspell words, or use words inappropriately? Are there stylistic items that you can change, such as using passive voice too often?
Take stock of where you stand, and identify problems with your writing. Proofreading can help you catch typos and other issues on a post-by-post basis, but it also helps to complete a wider survey of your work to catch recurring problems that could be dragging on your writing.
Strive for Constant Improvement
In order to be a better writer, you need to strive for constant improvement. Identifying your own word crimes can help you move forward. You'll become aware of your mistakes — even as you make them. This awareness can help you edit your own work moving forward, and it can also help you avoid making mistakes in the first place.
It's never fun to confront your shortcomings. If you want to improve, though, you need to. Whether you want to be a better writer, a better guitar player, or a better shortstop, you need to confront the things you don't do so well and make it a point to improve in those areas. Once you recognize your shortcomings, it becomes possible to move forward, improve yourself, and even market yourself better.
When it comes to writing, the best thing you can do is get back to basics. Learn proper grammar, spelling, and usage, and watch your writing improve dramatically.