5 Tips to Improve Your Writing Skills

Posted on December 6, 2017

by April S

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

Learn More About Writing Research Papers and Improving Your Grammar and Punctuation …

Improve Your Writing, 6th Edition by Ron Fry
Essential Writing Skills For College And Beyond by Charlene Gill
The Cooper Hill Stylebook - a guide to writing and revision (third edition) by Gregory Heyworth and Rosette Liberman
The blue book of grammar and punctuation : an easy-to-use guide with clear rules, real-world examples, and reproducible quizzes / Jane Straus, Lester Kaufman, Tom Stern
Using Grammar To Improve Writing by Sarah Tantillo

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

Learn How To Find the Right Word With the Help of These Great Resources …

Abused, Confused, and misused words - a writer's guide to usage, spelling, grammar, and sentence structure by Mary Embree
Roget's thesaurus of words for writers : over 2,300 emotive, evocative, descriptive synonyms, antonyms, & related terms every writer should know / David Olsen, Michelle Bevilacqua, Justin Cord Hayes, and Robert Bly
The Well-Spoken Thesaurus - the most powerful ways to say everyday words and phrases by Tom Heehler
Mastering the Craft of Writing: How to Write with Clarity, Emphasis, and Style by Stephen Wilbers
Word Painting (revised edition) : The Fine art of writing descriptively by Rebecca McClanahan

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

Get Help With Story Ideas, Writing Exercises and Writer’s Block …

The writer's idea thesaurus : an interactive guide for developing ideas for novels and short stories / Fred White
The story cure : a book doctor's pain-free guide to finishing your novel or memoir / Dinty W. Moore
Writing the Wave: Inspired rides for aspiring writers by Elizabeth Ayres
Story Sparks - finding your best story ideas and turning them into compelling fiction by Denise Jaden
Write Smart, Write Happy : How to Become a More Productive, Resilient and Successful Writer by Cheryl St. John

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

Books About Reading & Books …

How to read literature like a professor : a lively and entertaining guide to reading between the lines (revised edition) by Thomas C. Foster
How to Read Literature by Terry Eagleton
A Year of Reading: A Month-by-Month Guide to Classics and Crowd-Pleasers for You or Your Book Group by Elisabeth Ellington and Jane Freimiller
Am I Alone Here? Notes On Living To Read And Reading To Live by Peter Orner
The Late American Novel: Writers on the Future of Books by Jeff Martin and C. Max Magee

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

Learn All About Composition, Writing Style and Editing …

Keys to Great Writing: Mastering the Elements of Composition and Revision by Stephen Wilbers
To the Point: A Dictionary of Concise Writing by Robert Hartwell Fiske
The Sense of Style - the thinking person's guide to writing in the 21st century by Steven Pinker
The Story Grid: What Good Editors Know by Shawn Coyne
Story genius : how to use brain science to go beyond outlining and write a riveting novel (before you waste three years writing 327 pages that go nowhere) / Lisa Cron

Looking for More Information and Tips on Writing?

Toledo Library Blog Posts on Writing
Writing Tips from the Web

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