Writing is something we do every day from work emails to shopping
lists to texting with friends and family. Writing is a craft and practice makes perfect. With time and effort your writing will improve each time.
Here are 14 ways to start improving your writing:
- Write everyday
Good writing takes practice. The number one writing tip is to simply write as
regularly and often as you can. This exercises the part of your brain responsible for your writing prowess. Writing every day does not have to mean churning out thousand word-long articles. Try documenting your day on paper to get started.
- Read often
Making a habit of reading will expose you to different styles of writing and ways of structuring articles and content, which will benefit your own work. Reading fiction will help you learn about narrative structure, while non-fiction can provide lessons on writing concisely and clearly.
- Focus on structure
It’s important that your content is ordered logically, leading the reader through your arguments or ideas point by point. Introductions entice people to continue reading while outlining your reasons for writing and establishing your point of view. Each sentence and point should build upon the previous one. Anything that seems superfluous and does not move the story along should be left out. Avoid digressions and write a conclusion that summarizes your main points.
- Reference style guides, or create your own
News agencies like Reuters and the Associated Press (AP) are renowned for publishing thousands of pieces of content everyday. They urge their journalists to avoid writing with exclamation marks in place of other punctuation. They also ask writers to avoid using any other word instead of ‘said’ or ‘says’ when demonstrating speech.
- Do not use adjectives and fillers
Keep things simple. Adjectives and fancy vocabulary should be used sparingly. If you want to give your audience a clear message, use simple words. For example, instead of using the word ‘verbose’ to describe a person who talks a lot, use a word like ‘chatty’ instead.
- Know your audience
Anyone who wants to become a better content writer needs to be in tune with their target audience. Focusing on issues that are pertinent and topics they will want to read about.
- Tell your story
Storytelling is an engaging way of immediately grabbing your reader’s attention. It helps them understand why something is important and how it relates to their situation.
- Keep skim readers in mind
Skimmers are people who want to get information quickly. Break up your article into short sections using clear subheadings to indicate what’s important and what they should expect in each section.
- Keep it brief
Like simplicity, brevity is a key to good writing. Less is more – never use 20 words where five will do. Such advice is similar to author George Orwell’s six rules of writing:
“Never use a long word where a short one will do. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.”
Concise sentences improve the readability of your content. Aim to have readable content, but keep in mind readability levels will differ depending on your target audience and their goals.
- Word count
Equally important to having concise sentences and appropriate readability is sticking to an overall word count. It can be useful to assign a word count to each section. Try breaking up articles into 200-word bits to focus on explaining your main point in a fixed number of words.
- Re-read your work
Proofing (re-reading) your work to check for proper story flow, grammar and punctuation, and phrasing is vital. Slowly read your writing line-by-line, underscore areas that need work then go back to change them.
- Take a break between rewrites
Some writers find it beneficial to re-read their work after some time away. Working on edits too close to your deadline adds stress, which can make checking for errors less effective.
- Be open to feedback
Be open to feedback. When it comes to writing, everyone needs feedback. Someone with more experience often provides a wealth of knowledge and a second set of eyes never hurt.