Stop and think for a second about all the things you write.
At work, you may write emails to colleagues, a proposal for your supervisor, or sales materials for customers. At school or college, you might write homework assignments or reports. Online, you might write Facebook posts, tweets, or LinkedIn articles. You likely write texts or other short messages to family and friends. You probably write much more than you might think.
Writing is an important skill for communication today. Clear writing can help others understand your message, avoid confusion or mistakes, and in many cases reach a much larger audience than one-to-one communication.
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6 ways to improve your writing skills
Good writing is an in-demand skill in any industry, but you don’t have to be a “natural born writer” to be good at writing. Everyone can improve their writing skills, and it doesn’t have to be intimidating or complicated to do so.
One of the reasons that improving writing skills may seem daunting is because there are so many aspects to good writing. Here are some tips and tactics as a guide to help you improve your writing skills.
Nail your grammar
One of the most important ways to improve your writing is also one of the most fundamental: correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Without these, your writing will likely be confusing and frustrating for the reader. They may feel the need to go back and re-read parts of your writing to decrypt your messages and points.
A reader will form an opinion of you as the writer based on your grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Errors in these areas may lead a reader to quickly form a negative opinion about you and this may lead them to be dismissive of your writing, even if you have good content. Errors like these can cause businesses to lose sales and candidates to have their resumes rejected.
Being aware of using correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation as you write will make your writing more clear, credible, and easier for the reader to follow. This will help them concentrate on understanding your message.
Have you ever sat down to write only to feel that your mind is as blank as your empty word processor or notebook page? Beyond the fundamentals of correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation, the next most important writing skill is planning.
Knowing what you plan to write will help you get started, give you a path to follow, and let you know when you’ve reached the end. It lets you have a firm idea of what you want to say and your goals for your writing.
Creating the plan itself is a writing skill. You don’t need to start with much detail. Your plan is intended to be a basic outline or framework to give you direction and help you remember to include all your main points without missing any at the end. You will add the details along the way as you use your plan to progress through your writing.
Keep your target audience in mind
Can you think of a time when you read something and thought that it may not have been written for you? This can happen when a writer doesn’t keep their target audience in mind.
The target audience is the reader or group of readers for whom a piece of writing was intended to be written. A writer needs to select the proper tone, correct format, and level of writing complexity that will make the most sense to their target audience.
For example, let’s say you want to write a blog post on the topic of how to paint a dollhouse, but you write it in the tone, format, and complexity of a scientific research report. It’s likely the readers of your blog post will quickly tune out. They would expect a blog post like that to be written in a much more casual style that is accessible to a wider audience when compared to the much more technical style of a scientific report, which has a much narrower audience.
Choosing the proper tone, format, and complexity to best match the expectations of your intended target audience is a writing skill that will help your readers connect with and understand your writing better.
Quality over quantity
Every one of us has read something that we felt was unnecessarily long, had a lot of wordy fluff, and rambled off-topic. It doesn’t take long for writing like this to bore and frustrate readers and turn them off.
Everyone’s time is valuable. Someone who decides to read your writing is investing their time with the expectation that they will derive some value from this investment. If a reader feels that their time is being wasted by what they are reading, this will often cause them to stop reading and move on to other things. At that point, you’ve lost the ability to deliver your message to them.
You can avoid this situation by writing for quality, not simply quantity. Unless you happen to be writing a great multi-volume fiction novel, get to your point as quickly as possible. Eliminate filler words, repetition, and anything else that detracts from your message.
A great way to do this is by planning ahead as described above. Again, having that basic outline or framework is a great writing skill that will give you direction and help you stick to only our main points. As you fill in the details, be aware of sticking to your outlined plan and this will help you keep your writing clear, concise, and effective.
Always proofread it!
One of the cardinal rules of good writing skills is proofreading. Checking your writing after you’ve finished your first draft is a vital writing skill.
While most word processor programs like Microsoft Word and Google Docs can catch most spelling and many common grammatical and punctuation errors, they are far from foolproof. For example, they often don’t catch mistakes like words that are spelled correctly but are being used improperly in a sentence. A tool like Grammarly, available as a browser extension and standalone editor, with more powerful error detection features, will help catch errors like this and even make suggestions for improvements.
Even if you don’t use something like Grammarly, ProWritingAid, or Linguix, set your writing aside for a bit, then come back and give it at least one careful re-read. Making a habit of this writing skill will help you catch many errors of this type. Reading it aloud can also help catch additional errors that you might miss by only reading it in your head.
Better yet, ask at least one other person to review your writing for you. They can review it with a fresh set of eyes which often helps them catch things that even your careful review may have missed.
Read as much as you can
Readers make better writers. While at first, it may seem that the two activities are not particularly related, writers who are prolific readers nearly always have better writing skills.
While reading virtually any type of writing will help improve your writing skills, there is a way to make this process work even better for you. Determine what type of writing resonates with you, then read more of it. Doing so can not only help improve many of the writing skills described above but can also give you inspiration for your writing.
Find authors you like and imitate their writing styles for your project. Over time, this will help you develop your unique writing voice and style and will help make your writing process flow more naturally.
Take a writing course
Writing is an important communication skill that we all use every day and good writing is essential in effective communication. Practicing and applying the tips and tactics described in the guide above will help you continue to develop better writing skills, making your writing more clear, concise, and understandable for your readers.
However, if you’d like to accelrate your learning, considering taking an online writing course. We’ve curated the best courses from across the internet, covering everything from copywriting to creative writing to nailing your grammar.