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Do you want to improve your writing skills and become a better writer? I think if you are a blogger or writer like me, you surely would – wouldn’t you?
I get a lot of emails and messages from people asking me these questions repeatedly – “How can I improve my writing skills?” or “How can I develop my writing skills and become a better writer?”
So, I thought of starting a new “Writing” category on my blog, especially to help these friends, and this is the first post under that head.
Well, let me start by confessing that I am not a good writer, nor do I have any special writing skills to speak of. But with time and experience, I’ve improved my writing skills – though the process is still on.
You all have different reasons why you want to improve your writing.
Perhaps you want to write good blog posts, write great essays for your English class, write or publish your first eBook, author a book, or perhaps you just want to learn to respond to emails and comments in a better way.
It’s a well-known fact that the more you write, the better you become. But you also need to read a lot to become a better writer, which develops your writing skills too.
Becoming a good writer takes practice, hard work, and knowledge. Nothing is impossible if you are ready to learn 🙂
“Writing is the best way to talk without being interrupted.” ~ Jules Renard
4 Ways to Improve Your Writing Skills
You might have come across a lot of resources to improve writing skills or ways to develop your writing to get better. But here are a few specific ones that I’ve followed and they’ve worked for me.
1. Read a lot
You need to devote a little time, perhaps daily, to read. Just pick up any book, magazine, newspaper, or something online to read and try to understand the works of influential people.
When you read, you expand your knowledge, build your vocabulary, and enhance your imagination. This was a habit my parents inculcated in me when I was a child.
I remember the time when I used to read story books before I slept, and that became a habit with time. However, it’s something I need to get back to; though I’m glad my children have taken up this habit from me.
When you read, you begin understanding your writing better. Move out of your usual comfort zone and read something different to enhance your writing skills.
You could even try reading essays or classics to understand why it was so effective and influential. Even people, events, movies, and television can inspire you, isn’t it?
I think it’s best and easiest to improve writing skills by reading. Do you like to read? If you do, what do you like reading?
“The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading, in order to write; a man will turn over half a library to make one book.” ~ Samuel Johnson
2. Write, write, and just write
Writing IS the only thing that can enhance your writing skills. Sometimes you get so influenced by reading someone else’s work that you start imitating them.
You need to learn from the writers or books you read but develop your own voice – your own writing style.
Don’t sit to write as soon as you finish a book or reading something. Give it a break, and then write. I know it took me time developing my voice, where blogging and writing is concerned.
Let’s see how and where all you can write –
● Carry a notebook or journal, wherever you go. Just pen down your thoughts before they vanish!
● Write down ideas that come to your mind. These could be from blogs you read, phrases, comments, characters, topics, titles, subtitles, events, or just anything.
● You could rewrite your old blog posts to re-purpose them. You’d be surprised to see your improved writing skills now as compared to what it was earlier.
● Join a local or online writing workshop or writer’s conferences and groups. These are ways to stay motivated because you learn from others when you talk to them and get feedback on your work.
Also, these are a great place to meet literary agents, publishers, authors, writers, and editors. It has been a while since I joined one, though.
● Participate in writing prompts as these are good ways to improve your writing skills. Creative Copy Challenge and Writer’s Digest, besides others, provide prompts and writing exercises.
● Comment on blog posts by challenging yourself to write long comments, instead of the usual 1 liners. You’d be surprised to see your writing get better.
● Be creative – think outside the box! Don’t write the same thing every day or you’ll get bored. Try writing the same post or story in different tenses, or a different perspective.
● Find the right environment to write. Try different places or different times of the day to see what suits you. Perhaps you have writer’s block at night, so try waking up 15 minutes earlier, and write in the morning. If you have trouble writing in a noisy place; find a quiet and comfortable one.
● Write EVERY DAY! There is nothing better than writing daily if you really want to develop your writing skills. Write at least 1,000 words every day, or start with 500 words and increase it slowly.
When you think you’ve written enough, write a little more – it only makes you better. Just pick a topic and WRITE!
It could be a blog post, emails (if you take time to write long ones!), and even comments, especially if they are like mine – nice and long 🙂
Writing requires dedication, time, and patience. Don’t rush through your writing, something that happens with me when I have less of time.
To improve your writing, you need to write at least 5-6 days a week, if not more. All you need to do is set aside a fixed time to write daily, and just sit and do it!
“The secret of becoming a writer is to write, write and keep on writing.” ~ Ken MacLeod
3. Work on your grammar
I know blog writing is a little different than the real writing because one can afford to be a little casual here. But when you have to write for your clients or professionally, you need to take utmost care.
Here are a few things to keep in mind –
● Use less of passive voice, and more of active voice. It isn’t always bad to use the passive voice, but active is what’s generally preferred. For example – “The book had been written by Oscar while he was in college” is passive. “Oscar wrote the book while he was in college” is active. I’d be taking up the details about the active and passive voice in a later post.
● Keep your writing clear, direct, and simple. Use the right words at the right time. Don’t fill up pages saying what you want to, if it can be said in a few words.
– Don’t make your sentences too long or hard to read. Remember, the longer you write, the lesser you might hold your reader’s interest. (I hope that’s not the case with my posts!)
– Take care of spelling mistakes.
– Use paragraphs to break your text.
– Take care of the punctuation – use colons, semi-colons, apostrophes, and commas in the right places.
– If phrases aren’t needed or aren’t adding value, just cut them. Sometimes removing what is not required is best done at the editing stage, that’s how I do it. I usually don’t stop my flow of thoughts when I write. But when I edit, I cut the chaff, though I still need to work more on this. 🙂
● Good writing skills include using strong words, being precise and evocative. Finding the right word, whether it’s a verb or adjective, can spice up your writing. Be specific when you write, without repeating the same words, unless you really have to – as in rhyming words.
● Work on the emotions through your writing. Your readers should feel what you write, whether it’s through your blogs or other writing. Nothing works better than feelings and emotions, don’t you think so?
● Just don’t follow the rules – break them! Sometimes it’s alright to break the rules if you know how and when to break them. This only happens once you’ve mastered it all. However, make sure that you write well enough otherwise.
● Correct your grammar using online resources. Grammar is a pain, I agree. But you have help if you use resources like Grammar Check, GrammarBook.com, or Grammarly (I use Grammarly and this is a affiliate link).
Even switching on the spell-check and grammar check on MS Word, your iPad and Google Doc helps. I work on MS Word and it works perfectly for me. How about you?
● Edit and re-edit your work – not once, but 2-3 times if required. Editing IS essential, whether you are a blogger or a writer. I don’t think anyone’s perfect – nor is there a perfect masterpiece in writing.
If an author or writer could find something to change in their work, even after completion, if given another chance – they would. Rewrite if necessary – don’t hold yourself if you feel you need to work on your writing to make it better.
Once you finish your work, read through to edit. That would make your first revision, where you can remove the unwanted phrases, words, and check the grammar.
The second revision should ideally be on print or once you read your writing aloud. Hearing your voice, as opposed to seeing your words, may change your thoughts about them. You might get the chance to work on rambling sentences or pretentious-sounding terms.
The third revision should be the next day, or with a fresh pair of eyes. If you cannot afford to do that, even a few hours can make a difference. You can edit the typos, add or delete paragraphs if need be, to make your piece better.
If you have a professional editor, its ideal, but if this isn’t affordable, choose someone to proofread for you.
The person doesn’t have to be better than you. Instead, you need someone to give you feedback on how your tone and points are coming across.
I’m lucky that my hubby is my second pair of eyes there, though sometimes both of us turn blind, because we aren’t perfect 🙂 (That is why we also use and rely on Grammarly)
Remember, writing should be fun – something you enjoy. Also, there is no one right way to write. You need to find your own writing style and work on it.
“Write. Rewrite. When not writing or rewriting, read. I know of no shortcuts.” ~ Larry L. King
4. Keep your readers in mind
Whatever you write, you need to write clearly, concisely, and avoid ambiguity of any kind. You want your readers to read, understand and absorb all that you write comfortably. So, short is the answer!
If your page layout is full width, then keep your sentences short, or else set it for a shorter one.
If you think of speed, then 100 characters per line is ideal for reading depending on your font size, and about 45 characters is best for readers comfort.
Use more of associative or descriptive words, paired with a few pictures because images can do wonders to your writing. People will be glued to your work.
Reading online IS tiring. Ask me!! So, do all that you can to reduce the strain by trying the following –
● Add bullets and subheads to break your lines and express yourself.
● Don’t add more than three short sentences to a paragraph so that it’s easier to read.
● Keep a comfortable font size so that your readers don’t have to squint to read.
Most importantly, stay on topic. I sometimes wander off from my main point too if I write too long, which confuses people.
So, building a rough outline helps. Decide on your main and sub-points before you start writing, and ensure your writing is relevant and related.
“Write while the heat is in you. The writer who postpones the recording of his thoughts uses an iron which has cooled to burn a hole with.” ~ Henry David Thoreau
No one is born a writer. Learning to become a good writer takes time, practice and determination. Check out this wonderful video that tells you the way to improve your English writing skills
How To Improve Your English Writing Skills ~ YouTube Video
Speaking of myself, it was only when I started my freelance writing career that I really started to write, which was a few years back. Before that, I was not into writing of any kind at all!
It is now with time, that I write a lot, whether it’s through my blog posts, emails, writing projects, and of course, comments! How can I forget those! 🙂
Thus, if I can write, so can you. And if I am ready to improve my writing skills, aren’t you? All you need about English grammar is a good handbook.
Go ahead and challenge yourself to write every day, if you aren’t already, and watch the magic happen 🙂
“Forget all the rules. Forget about being published. Write for yourself and celebrate writing.” ~ Melinda Haynes
Over to you –
Do you write? If you are a blogger or writer, what writing tips would you like to share with our readers to become better? What have you tried to improve your writing skills? Share in the comments.
Photo Credit: FreeDigitalPhotos, Danoff