So, you want to be a writer? Or maybe you just want to improve your writing skills? Where do you start? What can you do to improve your writing and become a more effective communicator and/or successful writer? Let’s start with the basics.
Writing Tip 1: Writing Mechanics Matter
Believe it or not, writing mechanics still matter, even in the age of texts and tweets. Let’s say you send in an article to a magazine for consideration. Odds are pretty high they’ll be wading through a huge stack of submissions and if your piece is hard to read or contains a lot of grammatical errors it’s going to end up in the rejection pile. When trying to become a successful communicator or writer, it’s definitely helpful to spend time brushing up on the basics – spelling, punctuation, and grammar. After all, who remembers all of the things we were taught in grade school anyway?
Grammar is a piano I play by ear. All I know about grammar is its power. ~ Joan Didion
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Writing Tip 2: Word Choice is Essential
Every form of communication benefits from proper word choice. To be a successful writer, avoid using wording that’s awkward, vague, or unclear. After all, you don’t want the reader left wondering what you meant. Depending on the words you select, you’ll either grab the reader’s attention right away or bore them to tears, so choose your words wisely.
Words can be like X-rays if you use them properly — they’ll go through anything. You read and you’re pierced. ~ Aldous Huxley, Brave New World
Good words are worth much, and cost little. ~ George Herbert
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Writing Tip 3: Write Regularly
The most effective way to improve your writing skills is to practice – a lot! Treat writing like a job, take it seriously, and stay on task until you succeed.
Any man who keeps working is not a failure. He may not be a great writer, but if he applies the old-fashioned virtues of hard, constant labor, he’ll eventually make some kind of career for himself as writer. ~ Ray Bradbury
Reading and writing, like everything else, improve with practice. And, of course, if there are no young readers and writers, there will shortly be no older ones. Literacy will be dead, and democracy – which many believe goes hand in hand with it – will be dead as well. ~ Margaret Atwood
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Writing Tip 4: Read More
Experienced writers point to reading more as one of the keys to successful writing. After all, how can you write well if you haven’t read much? How can you have a decent grasp of language and the written word? Read biographies, literature, mysteries, science-fiction, and everything in-between, but most of all – read what you enjoy.
Read, read, read. Read everything — trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it’s good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out of the window. ~ William Faulkner
If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that. ~ Stephen King
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Writing Tip 5: Write, Review and Revise
Experienced writers may tell you that the key to success is finishing something. The other part of the equation is revision. Opt for being more succinct and less wordy, because padding your writing with words that serve no real purpose does not add value. Writing is a process that involves work and a lot of revising to get a piece publisher ready.
The best advice I can give on this is, once it’s done, to put it away until you can read it with new eyes. Finish the short story, print it out, then put it in a drawer and write other things. When you’re ready, pick it up and read it, as if you’ve never read it before. If there are things you aren’t satisfied with as a reader, go in and fix them as a writer: that’s revision. ~ Neil Gaiman
“Rewriting is the essence of writing well: it’s where the game is won or lost. That idea is hard to accept. We all have an emotional equity in our first draft; we can’t believe that it wasn’t born perfect. But the odds are close to 100 percent that it wasn’t.” William Zinsser, On Writing Well
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