Many people get easily frustrated with writing. One of the main reasons is that writing is actually undervalued and underappreciated as a learned skill – it’s not an ability we naturally possess. Therefore, it must be practiced to be improved. And as a learned skill, it certainly doesn’t come easily to everyone, and those who are deemed good writers have most probably put considerable time and practice into their craft, the same way that a musician would with their instrument, for example. It’s therefore vital to consider that writing is something that you can improve with the right advice, and the right commitment to practicing and developing.
But unlike playing a musical instrument, most of us have to write, particularly in the course of performing our daily tasks at work or college. It may be a simple email, or a slightly more complex document, or even social media posts as part of a marketing campaign: writing still crops up as a necessary skill for many of us.
The point is, most of us need to write, and most of us need to write better. So how can we do just that? Here are four easy tips you can implement to see you on the way to becoming a better writer.
There’s a time for writing, and a time for editing
If you don’t edit your work, you are making a huge mistake. In fact, you should proofread and then improve upon everything that you right the first time. However, it is also important that you first give yourself time to write before then pouring over every word and every sentence looking for errors and ways to make improvements. The point is that those of us who edit at the exact same time we are writing end up taking much too long to say what we want to say, and often we run out of impetus before we have even finished penning what we intended to put together.
This is the same process for writing a work email or putting together a novel. Write first, then edit after. The editing process will probably be more time-consuming than the original writing, but that’s okay. In fact, that’s good. Get your thoughts down first, and then when you’ve got to the end of the email, or the end of the first chapter, then start to evaluate everything and make changes as necessary. Even give yourself time between the writing and the editing to allow sufficient space between the two activities. If you edit immediately after every sentence you write, you’ll never get anywhere.
Stop tip-toing into it, and be clear
In essence, the point here is that you should say what you want to say clearly and concisely. Too much of the other stuff – unnecessary introductions, unnecessary qualifying words such as ‘very’ and ‘really’, and too many adjectives – just takes away from what you are trying to say, and actually makes your writing harder to read, or at least a lot less interesting.
Consider if you could say what you have said using less words. Less is usually more in terms of writing. Start with your introduction: is it really necessary? This is certainly something that develops with practice. In short, cut the unessential ‘blah blah blah’.
Read to develop your writing tools
Reading informs your writing more than anything else. It is no coincidence that some of the best writers are or were voracious readers: these activities are not mutually exclusive.
You don’t need to be reading a novel a night to improve, though. Reading anything helps, especially if it is relevant to what you are trying to achieve yourself. Read writing style guides and blogging tips to see what you can pick up and add to your writing arsenal. Certainly, from a vocabulary perspective, reading more will widen the number of words you have at your disposal, and will then better allow you to select the right word at the right time. And remember, simple words are very often best.
In short, reading will assist you develop all the tools you need to become a better writer yourself, from the way that sentences are structured, to the very words that you use.
Linguix can help you to learn new words while reading online. When you encounter an unknown word anywhere on the web, just hold Alt and double click on it to see its definition:
Use a dictionary
It’s always advisable to be cautious when it comes to dictionaries. There are a very small number of people who actually enjoy ‘reading’ the dictionary. For most of us, it’s simply not a stimulating option. However, if you have a dictionary close at hand (and for the majority of people these days, that means an online version) you can then access it in certain circumstances. What circumstances?
First of all, a dictionary is useful if you don’t understand a word and you can’t understand it from context (always try ascertaining everything you can from the context in which the word is given, first). It’s a solution.
Secondly, a word may truly interest you, in that you can understand what it means, but it truly speaks to you, and you want it to become part of your active vocab toolkit. Looking it up in the dictionary will reinforce the word in your learning, and will also give you really important information about that word, including how to pronounce it. Remember, in English in particular, the words we see are not necessarily the words we say. How can you possibly know from the word quinoa that is it pronounced ‘keen-waa’? Paper dictionaries will give the phonetic spelling of the word, but an online dictionary will actually allow you to hear it. Listen, and repeat. It’s that simple.
And focus on the reader
What you write should not be about you, but about the person who is reading it. The best writers always think about things from the reader’s perspective. Can the reader follow your ideas logically? Did you just use that word for your own benefit, or for the reader’s? These little questions will help to deliver reader-focused writing, which is really what it’s all about.