Blogging has always appealed to me because I consider myself to be a good writer, and I enjoy it. (I was the kid who voluntarily took writing workshops over the summer.) Coworkers and friends trust me to review their emails, edit their resumes, and help them come up with just the right word that articulates what they want to convey. Because I enjoy helping people in that capacity IRL, I thought I’d share some tips here on how to become a better writer. Whether you’re creating a product description on Etsy, writing an essay, drafting an Instagram caption, or crafting an email at work, these tips will help you improve your written communication and ability to convey exactly what you want to.
If you’re stuck, just put something down. I feel like this often happens when you know you ‘have’ to write something, like a paper or report. You feel pressure to produce, get overwhelmed, and don’t know where to start … and before you know it, you’re scrambling at the 11th hour. To break out of that cycle, sit down and write anything remotely related to the topic you need to write about. It can be a brain dump, it can be “I need to write about X topic and cover Y and Z things.”, it can be the first or last sentence – just don’t write nonsense or unrelated junk. You can’t work with nothing. You CAN go back to what you wrote, whether that’s right after you’ve gotten that first wave of thoughts out, in 5 minutes, in an hour, or even the next day (time-permitting), and revise it. Having some semblance of a starting point gives you something to work with, as opposed to nothing, and often, that’s all you need to propel forward.
Give yourself ample time to edit. The best writings are given time to ‘marinate’. In a perfect world, I’d have several days to write, take a break, revise, and repeat. Taking that time to step back from your writing lets you approach it with fresh eyes. When I start to feel bogged down, overwhelmed, or frustrated, that’s a sure sign that I have spent too much time in one sitting. While I get that we don’t always have days, or even a full day, to craft a written work, start as early as possible so you can take those much-needed breaks.
Jot down incomplete ‘fragments’ of inspiration. The way my mind works is that I will get a spark of inspiration that contains the perfect word or phrase for the way I want to articulate something or the point I want to make. Trouble is, those ‘a-ha moments’ rarely come in the form of complete sentences, but we write in complete sentences. I had to get myself into the habit of writing them down anyway. As you’re working on a draft, don’t be afraid of adding incomplete sentences, notes to yourself, or maintaining a list of words that you want to use, because otherwise you’ll forget. Often those fragments and key words end up forming the foundation of your writing, and all you need to do is fill in the gaps between them to form coherent thoughts. Just remember to comb through your work to make sure there aren’t any strays when you’re done!
Read. In addition to all the other benefits that reading provides, reading exposes you to different styles of writing, sentence structures, new words (more on that one below ;)), and more. Much of that happens unconsciously, so you’re absorbing all of those facets of a written work and adding them to your linguistic ‘bank’ without even realizing it. Even if you don’t believe me, pick up a book anyway. Reading is good for you.
Improve your vocabulary. Out of anything about my writing, I have received the most compliments over the years about my vocabulary and ability to “wordsmith”, or come up with the exact right word or phrase to articulate a point. Broadening your vocabulary provides you with more options to work with, allowing you to write more succinctly and communicate more effectively. As mentioned in the point above, reading is a great way to do this. When you’re reading – whether it’s a book, an article, or a Buzzfeed quiz – and you come across a word you don’t know, look it up. Even silly things like word-of-the-day calendars are great for this.
Refresh yourself on the rules of grammar. It may sound like a pain to revisit grammar and spelling, but trust me, this makes a significant difference. Poor grammar and typos not only give a negative impression that you don’t care enough to correct those errors, they can also unintentionally affect the message that you want to convey. There’s a big difference between, “We already ate, Grandma.” and, “We already ate Grandma.” (Although if your grandma is anything like mine, telling her that you already ate will result in more food anyway.) You don’t want your writing to stand out for the wrong reasons, and proper grammar and correct spelling give your writing that polish that conveys a higher level of professionalism.
As always, I hope you were able to pick up some useful information. No matter what you do, writing will be a part of it, and better writing will only make you stand out in a good way!