We all do some routine writing on a daily basis—whether it’s texting in messengers, work emails, or social media posts. There are also situations when we need to show our best as an author, such as composing a motivational letter, writing an essay, or completing a test assignment when applying for a new position.
Today, we’ll share a few methods of how you can improve your writing skills. Off we go!
Practice smart reading
Reading is often listed as one of the best ways to develop excellent writing skills, refine one’s style and build up vocabulary. However, plain passive reading will hardly bring you this far—it’s crucial that you treat it as a helpful practice rather than mere leisure. Through reading, we can learn a wide range of expressive means authors use to convey their thoughts and ideas, so it’s important to take an analytical approach.
For example, you can take notes while you’re reading and put down artistic means or specific phrases that catch your attention. Analyze the writing style, word choice, and phrasing the author uses to produce the desired effect. So, your primary focus here would be on “how” rather than on “what” is written. Later you might use these notes to adopt certain elements of the author’s style to develop your own one.
Another suitable method is to combine reading with your writing exercises by summarizing what you’ve just read in a couple of paragraphs or writing a review after you finish the book.
Freewriting is an effective technique to unleash your creativity, allowing thoughts and ideas to emerge without any restrictions. The method itself is quite simple: set a timer for 3-5-10 minutes, and start putting down anything that pops up in your mind.
One important thing: you shouldn’t stop for more than a few seconds and edit or rewrite the text during the session (although you might want to edit it afterward.) It doesn’t need to be thoughtful or coherent—after all, it’s not intended to be read by anyone else. The main idea here is to let your imagination rather than logic guide you. It is also an excellent technique that helps overcome writer’s block or brainstorm on a set topic.
Editing is an indispensable part of the writing process. However, for some reason, it’s often overlooked as being a method of improving your writing. When editing your own or someone else’s texts, you learn to more critically assess the wording, style, and logical structure, let alone eliminate grammar and punctuation mistakes.
For example, you can offer your friend or colleague to send some of their texts to you so that you can practice editing, while they will get a free proofreading service. Or, you can pick a random blog post on the internet—perhaps, written by someone who’s not a professional author—and use it for your practice.
Editing your own texts might be more tricky since you need to be critical of your creation. Take a while before getting down to editing so that you can review your text with a fresh look.
Start a blog
It goes without saying that to advance your writing, you actually need to write texts on a regular basis (surprise!). But what if you don’t get enough practice at work or in class? Many of us are active in social media and post regularly—but this format has its limitations, such as the requirement to be concise (which is a good practice on its own.)
To refine your writing skills on a larger scale, you can start a blog on your favorite topic(s)—be it gardening, fixing cars, traveling, cultivating new habits, or your professional interests. Apart from the obvious joy of developing your themes and sharing them with others, you will also have a chance to constantly practice and improve your writing skills.
Rephrase and translate
As an Italian author and philosopher, Umberto Eco wrote, to translate means to “say almost the same thing.” Translation, indeed, requires the skill to rephrase sentences to avoid the blind copying of the syntactic structures of the original text, which can often result in awkward constructions in the target language.
This skill of paraphrasing is actually extremely helpful when writing in your own language, too. There are many ways to express the same idea, and the more ways you can come up with, the richer your expressive toolkit is. Translation is a more profound practice where you also improve your knowledge of the foreign language while training writing skills.
Take part in writing marathons and contests
There are plenty of opportunities nowadays for novice authors of both fiction and non-fiction texts to develop their writing skills. For example, you might want to take part in a writing marathon where you need to write something every day and then get your texts reviewed by peer participants and/or a mentor. Such an activity can be a real challenge for those who want to quickly boost their writing skills and get feedback.
A more serious challenge is to take part in one of the writing contests for professional or semi-professional authors or journalists. Participation in such a contest might inspire you to show your best, and even if you don’t win, it’ll certainly be a valuable experience.