Tips for Writing
Writing is a skill that many people find difficult. Whether it’s writing a college essay, a work email or something else entirely, getting those words onto the page can seem like a daunting task.
Here are some practical tips to help you write whatever it is you require.
The inspiration to write nearly always comes as a result from reading. Without exception, all great authors were or are insatiable readers too, and the two actions go hand in hand. If you almost never read, then you are never going to see combinations of words written down. This will affect your ability to write. So, seek out examples of different types of writing, from short stories and novels to emails and articles, to see what good writing looks like.
Pay attention to what you read
When reading, look past the content to see how the author has combined words to create his or her sentences. Notice the varying length of the sentences, and the use of punctuation and paragraphs to separate ideas. Try to mimic the style in your own writing, as there is no need to reinvent the wheel.
Think about punctuation
A lack of punctuation, or its incorrect application, is one of the most important mistakes people make with their writing. Think of an instant message that has no commas or periods and therefore becomes an undecipherable piece of mumbo jumbo! Punctuation organizes ideas in your writing, and the result is something which is easy for the reader to digest. And it really all should be about the reader.
Think about the reader
Unless you are penning a diary that is for your eyes only, the purpose of your writing is for someone else to enjoy or be informed from. So, think about the reader in everything you do. Just because the idea is clear in your head, it doesn’t mean that this is true for the reader! In everything you write, keep the reader at the front of your mind. Your stream of consciousness will not necessarily make sense to anyone else.
Signpost your writing
Along with punctuation, one of the best ways to make your writing easy to follow is to use what are known as ‘signpost’ words. Just as signposts give you clear instructions when you are on the street or driving, these words help the reader navigate the text. Example of clear signpost words are first, then, before, finally, in addition, with plenty more examples besides. Technically they are adverbs and sequencers, but all you need to think about is their function, which is to guide the reader between ideas and show the relationship between them. Note the use of these words in the things you read.
Think about the value of words and ideas
Everything you write should add value and have a purpose. If what you have written is just ‘filler’ – unnecessary words and ideas that do not contribute anything to the main idea – then just get rid of it.
The tips so far have been general in nature. The following are more specific to the steps you must take when writing.
Get words on the page
Getting started is always the hardest part, so just get words onto the page: any words! Think about the purpose of what you are writing, so write anything connected to that. You can organize your ideas later.
Order your ideas
Once you have all your ideas on the page, you can start to rearrange them into a logical order. The great thing about using word processing tools such as Microsoft Word is that you can cut, copy and paste to your heart’s content, rearranging things as many times as you like. But…
Don’t overthink it!
Changing things too regularly will leave you unsatisfied, and it will be difficult to settle with a final version. Does your writing achieve what you set out to achieve? If the answer is ‘yes’, then don’t keep procrastinating.
Re-read what you write
This is very important. When you have finished, make sure you re-read everything. When doing this, check for common errors such as spelling mistakes, the wrong use of punctuation, and any grammatical errors. If you are not sure, ask someone else (we will talk about this later). After a while you will become aware of the common mistakes that you make, so…
Use a checklist
Have a checklist which includes all the relevant points on this list and keep adding to it as you notice the typical mistakes that you make. For example, if you often write ‘there’ instead of ‘there’, make sure that this is one of the points on your checklist so you can look for this in your writing.
Read it aloud
Reading what you have written aloud, perhaps to another person, will greatly help in understanding if your writing flows naturally. If no one is available to listen to you, consider recording what you read aloud and then listening back.
Get someone else to take a look
Get someone else to proofread your writing. You can use a friend or colleague, or even a professional proofreader. These services don’t cost a lot and can be really useful when starting out. You won’t need to use these forever, but do ask the proofreader to highlight your mistakes, and then you can know what to look out for in the future.
Have a break before you come back to it
It’s easy to get stuck in the middle of writing, or to not feel motivated to re-read what you have written when finished. For this reason, park it, and then come back to it later. It’s amazing how leaving a little bit of time to pass in between these activities can help you see your writing with a fresh perspective. You will more easily spot any mistakes, or will be able to finish sentences that you found tricky the first time round. Sometimes we just forget the word we want to use, so taking a break can help you refocus.
Use a useful writing assistant, like Linguix
There are a number of fantastic writing assistants out there for you to avail of, one of which is Linguix, an AI-based writing tool.
Once you have downloaded the app (there is a free extension for Chrome), Linguix will give you recommendations while you write based on its library of contextual data. Linguix also avails of more than 2000 context-based grammar rules that can help you produce great sentences, and it then helps with typos and spelling mistakes, once again accessing a huge data library, this time with more than 9 million suggested edits.
Linguix also gives you definitions and synonyms of any word you highlight and can be the help you need to produce fluent, immensely readable writing text.