How to write what you want to say. 15 tips to improve your writing skills.
Welcome, I’m glad you found this place and are here to explore and try a few tips to improve your writing skills be it for work, communication or personal development projects. First, I'd like to begin with a brief journey into a fable to show you an idea and suggest a perspective.
In this old fable, there was a crow that was terribly thirsty. The crow saw a pitcher of water and flew towards it, delighted at the possibility of finally quenching his thirst. Alas, he found that there was only a little water in the bottom of the pitcher, just out of the reach of the length of his beak. He tried and tried to get at that water, but he could not get a drink.
His thirst remained but he came up with an idea. One by one, he gathered pebbles and dropped them into the pitcher, and as he filled the pitcher with the pebbles, the water rose and rose until he could reach it. He drank and his thirst was quenched.
Necessity is the mother of invention. Even with the rise of technology, writing is still a daily necessity and the plethora of modes of communication that have arisen all involve writing. If you take this perspective, then you will begin to thirst to write better.
Good Writing Skills Are Necessary
Indeed, it is often through your written communication that people will first encounter you, whether it is a cover letter that accompanies your resume or posts they read on your blogs and social media pages. First impressions are paramount.
Your words matter – If they cannot see you in person, all they have to go by is the words you put forth. Not only are your word choices critical, but the sequencing, use of punctuation and choice of vocabulary can make a difference.
Your writing choices can mean the difference between you getting a job, landing a client, winning someone’s affections, locking down an investor, being perceived in a positive light … or not. In some cases, you may get another chance down the line. In other cases, you may never get the chance again.
What you will learn – In this tutorial, you are going to learn how to improve your writing skills and get better results and responses from and to your work. I will show you broad principles that apply to all applications of writing as well as some writing tips for specific uses.
These days, amid the cacophony of words and information in a web-based world, it is more important to stand out than ever. If you can level up your writing, you can overcome this obstacle and have your writing win you many advantages in many circumstances.
10 Features That Make Writing Effective
Honesty – Just being yourself and telling the truth about your topic can establish creditability and trust. Getting this right in your first encounter goes a long way.
Research – When you are writing about something you don’t know anything about, it shows, and it looks bad. Take the time to get the background information on your topic and make sure to cite your sources. Learn how to take notes efficiently.
Respect – Write with respect for yourself and respect for your readers. Make strategic decisions about appropriate and inappropriate language choices and speak to people’s values and beliefs.
Targeting – Write to your audience. Know what they like or dislike, what is important to them, and touch on these in your writing. Also, figure out what vocabulary resonates with them and use it judiciously.
Usefulness – Don’t waste people’s time. If people take the time to read what you have written, make sure you have made it worth their while. Give them some ways to apply the advice or new information.
Integrity – All your writings should reflect a similar tone, level of politeness, tempo and personality, consistently showcasing who you are and what you stand for.
Skimming – Ok, this is not really a word, but I can explain this concept in three words: Short Attention Span. These days, people want to know right away if reading your writing will be worth their time. Many people skim through first to see if they care to read more. In fact, some of you just finished skimming this tutorial!
Audibly agreeable – When you read what you’ve written out loud, you will know if you are ready to send or not. Try it. It really works.
Preparation – You may think that the act of writing is the most important part of your journey. In fact, it is preparation. You first develop an article idea, outline various content options, research facts to fill the gaps and build the article's structure. Once everything is done, you start writing a draft and bring all parts together.
Writing style – Be specific. Answer the questions of your readers and audience. You can answer the W-questions What, Who, When, Where, and Why as well as How.
In News, you deliver the most important information first. In a blog article, it is effective to provide an overview of the topic and then go into more detail. People may want to apply speed reading techniques in order to get the most important outcome quickly.
Text design – We like things to be visual. A long and chunky text without breaks is not visual. It rather provides a frustrating reading experience. One way to increase visuality is to add images that underline the context of a text passage or section. Tables, sub-headlines, bullet lists and colors are further tools available to structure a text into easy-to-read sections.
4 Common Difficulties People Encounter In Writing
Spelling and Grammar – A good many of us lack confidence in our spelling and grammar skills and fear looking bad or ignorant if we put our writing out into the world with mistakes.
There is a multitude of tools you can use to bring your writing up to a respectable par before you hit send. Also, just to put your mind at ease, experienced writers sometimes put out writing that contains at least one error that many readers may never notice. With all the technology to create the illusion that we are not, we are, after all, still human.
Tip: If you think you are both slow in typing on a keyboard and accuracy, I recommend looking into touch typing programs that help you increase speed and fix typing errors.
Structure – Not sure where to begin, how to transition from one point to the next, or if you have too many or too few words in a sentence? You’re not alone! This is a common difficulty for inexperienced writers. There are ways around this.
Writer’s Block – For many, this is like a huge Jericho wall that seems impossible to overcome. Really, it is simple to get through this minor barricade to creativity. We will explore some ways to keep the creative juices flowing in a bit.
Contextual Fit – The writing that you would do in an email is unique and has different characteristics from how you would write a blog post. Some contextual fitting is obvious and some is not. We will explore some differences and help you choose well.
Improve Your Writing Skills – 5 Strategies
1. Read more books
You know the story of the ant and the grasshopper, I’m sure. The ant works hard all summer storing up food while the grasshopper plays and mocks the ant for missing out on the fun.
When winter comes, the ants are cozy in their home with plenty to eat but the grasshopper finds himself cold and hungry with no reserves to keep himself going until spring comes again.
When you read books habitually, you are like the ant, diligently storing up material in your brain that you can call upon when you need it later on. A speed reading course can help you read more books and also retain knowledge more effectively.
2. Don't like reading? Try this ABC approach
Aspire – Set reading goals and promise yourself rewards for achieving them. When I learned that Warren Buffet and others of his ilk read 50 books per year, I set my goal at 25 books. I figured if I had a fraction of the money they have, I would be in great shape, so if they credit ample reading for their wealth, I can start by reading at least half as many books as they do.
I track my progress on Goodreads, which helps me continue to read more. We get a dopamine rush when we see progress in a particular area in our lives, don’t we? You can even buddy up to make this goal fun and challenging.
Bespoke – Your reading selection should be bespoke, that is, it should be made just for you. Start with books about subjects that interest you first, and you may find yourself branching out into other areas. You get to decide what books are worth your reading time.
Consistency – Scheduling daily reading time will help you form (or reestablish) a reading habit in your life. It is said that if you do something 21 times, it will become a habit. For the next 21 days, read for 30 straight minutes with no distractions at the same time every day.
3. Improve spelling, grammar and structure
Spelling and Grammar – Your reading habit will be highly instrumental in this area, but everyone makes mistakes on their first draft of writing something longer than a status update. Fortunately, there exists a multitude of resources that can help your final draft shine.
Some prefer human assistance, while some swear by electronic resources. If you prefer the fresh eye of an experienced proofreader or editor and are willing to invest some money, then you can hire a freelancer on platforms like Upwork or Fiverr.
Humans can pick up nuances and emotions in writing and consult with you to make sure that your writing is conveying those accurately. Going the electronic route also offers benefits. While the human eye can catch nuances, one can still miss a detail here and there.
Google Docs picks up spelling and suggests grammar fixes as you work. Grammarly is a popular tool that many bloggers swear by. Such apps can help you put out high quality work.
Structure – This choice is much like deciding what to wear – it depends on where you are going. The structure you choose for your writing depends on the purpose of your work. When in doubt, look for templates. Whether you want to write a book or a blog post, there are templates out there. Search, sort and select the one that looks right for you!
A good general structure is a triangle of Introduction – Body – Conclusions. The introduction should be short and snappy introducing the reader to the topic and partially explaining what the benefits is. What is in for the reader? What is the learning outcome?
Within the Body section, you may have serval sub-section that cover various topics. Ideally, you will deliver one idea with each paragraph. The conclusion can sum everything up and encourages the reader to try tips, techniques or if it’s a business try to book a service.
4. How to handle writer’s block
Remember the ant. The more you read the more material you store up in your brain. Writer’s block can come from the pressure of a deadline or the rejection of a first submission. Scroll through your mental library, browsing the titles of the books you have read. If you have been a good ant, you should have a wealth of material. Seeing titles may light up an idea for you.
Other ways to overcome writer’s block:
- Field ideas from others in person, on the phone or online.
- Use writing prompts. There are groups and mailing lists that you can join who provide periodic (daily, weekly or monthly) writing prompts that come as either written scenarios with suggested word count or just an image.
- Take a walk. When you get the blood flowing, ideas can flow also!
5. How to select for context
Different writing for different purposes requires different approaches. Let’s look at a few scenarios to see how unique they are from each other. This can help you begin to understand better ways to write appropriately in every area of your life.
Social Media – Dazzle with brevity. Use short words, numerals (instead of spelling out the names of numbers), and tags and hashtags to emphasize keywords.
Email – Here, the most important consideration is the recipient. An email to your professor, a potential employer or a government agency should be carefully executed in tone, be concise but provide a thorough explanation of your reason for writing. It should use appropriate greeting using the recipient’s name, and a detailed but concise subject line.
These rules don’t apply for an email to your cousin about grandma’s carrot cake recipe. Use your judgment. For a great rundown on email etiquette, check out Victoria Turk on TedxAthens: “How to Write an Email (No, Really)”
Blogs – These used to give a writer an opportunity to put meaningful work out there, but have now joined the ranks of the brief and dazzling. Best practices include short paragraphs, the balance of shorter and longer sentences, section headings and bullet points.
The idea is to create something lengthier than a status update or a tweet that has visual breaks for those who will skim your article first to decide if it is worthwhile to read in-depth. If you create a work with attractive peaks, readers will be intrigued to explore and find out what you have in the valleys for them.
Documents – Many companies follow popular style guides or have created one in house. Similarly, most educational intuitions provide students both overarching rules for written work and specific guidelines for individual assignments.
Your challenge here is to do thorough research so that you submit something that will get the result you desire, whether it’s a promotion, landing an account, or getting a good grade. Research and write, exceeding the word count in your first draft. Having too much and cutting back is better than not having enough and scrambling to flesh out later.
How To Improve Your Writing Skills – Summary
You are a writer. In your own right, for your own purposes, in pursuit of your own desired outcomes, you write. The more you read, the better you will become at this skill. When you approach your writing with aforethought to the context, your reader’s interests and your desired outcomes, you have the potential to influence your reader.
Great writing is in rewriting. A great final draft presents you to the world as someone who is worthwhile, and there are many tools out there to help you nail it. Start today leveling up your writing skills so you can get your ideas out there and be the force you were created to be.
16 Tips To Improve Your Writing Skills
- Stick to the truth in your writing.
- Research the topic you are going to write about.
- Use appropriate language with regard to your audience and topic.
- Use industry, niche and topic related vocabulary to deliver your messsage.
- Don't tell but show. Allow readers to apply the knowledge you want to teach.
- Apply a similar and consistent intonation throughout your writing.
- Structure your writing to allow readers to skim and scan.
- Apply journalistic writing principles. Answer the 5 W-questions Who, What, Where, Why, When.
- Structure your article within an introduction-body-conclusion format.
- Visualize your writing. Use headlines, images, bullet points, paragraphs.
- Stick to spelling and grammar rules. Proofread your writing.
- Know your audience. Explain unknown vocabulary, concepts and principles.
- Create context to avoid misconception or wrong conclusions.
- Use active voice and limit passive voice.
- Read more books to passively improve your writing skills. Try different styles.
- Different situations require different writing styles. Know who you are talking to. Adjust your style and words accordinlgy.
Websites and Tools To Improve Your Writing Skills
These are some handy blogs, websites and resources to further improve writing skills. I do not claim it to be comprehensive at all. There are hundreds of blogs out there that will teach you to write better and more effectively.
- Daily Writing Tips
- Grammarly – Tools and Blog
- SelfPublishing Com
- The Write Life
- The Write Practice
- Write To Done
What are the best tips to improve your writing skills? We like to hear from you in the comments below.