I’ve always heard people describe writing as an “art / craft” – it needs to be worked at and honed; perfected. Copywriting is a huge part of my day to day role, so I know first hand how important it is to work at your copy and to never take your first draft as a final edit. So with that in mind I have made a list of 10 tips on how to improve your writing skills; tips which I have learnt from my own experience and one or two that I’m genuinely considering right now.
I’m in no way stating that each of these tips will improve your writing guaranteed, some will work for you better than others, so try them and stick with it. Keep honing and editing what you write, you’ll soon notice improvements.
10. Try word of the day
The first part to improving your writing skills is to improve your vocabulary. Using a broad range of words adds depth and variation to your writing. No one wants to read a paragraph with the same words repeated again and again, it gets boring and feels slow and awkward to read. Visit a word of the day site, or get an app on your phone. Look at it every day, learn what the word means, how it should be used and try to work it into your writing for that day.
The downside to learning new words sometimes is that they’re not a natural choice, so by practicing using it in your writing it becomes a more natural choice, which will in turn make your writing smoother and a pleasure to read.
Another option is to keep a thesaurus by your side. If for example you’re writing a rave review for a product, rather than constantly repeating how much you “love” the item or its features, talk about how it’s a pleasure to use, is there a certain feature you “adore” or have they gone the extra mile to really think about user experience which you “appreciate”? These probably aren’t the best examples but I think you get the gist.
9. Take a class
Taking a class is a great way to improve your writing ability. There are so many classes available, from copywriting, news writing and short story classes, to creative writing classes. Take a look around your local area or at your local college to see what’s available. There are also home learning courses to consider too.
Another great benefit to taking a class is that you also get to learn from your peers and pick up tips and advice from them. It’s a great way to learn as you go along.
8. Read more
Another way to improve your writing is to read more and don’t just read the same genre you normally pick, or the same magazines / newspapers. Read a diverse and varied range as you’ll understand how certain words are used in context and you will naturally pick up certain things as you read.
Reading a broad range of books and publications is also a great way to expand your interests and knowledge, in turn giving you more things to write about.
A big part to improving, is to plan what you’re going to write about. It sounds obvious, but I know so many people who decide what they’re going to write and then just go straight for it, with no consideration for thought or planning. Your writing is like an investment, you’ll get out what you put in. So if you’ve got a topic that you want to write about, really think about what you want to say, what angle are you going to take? Break it down into core parts / headings and then think about what each of those sections will cover. If you plan your writing, it’s structured and it flows nicely, you’ll find you’ll get a lot more enjoyment and interest in your writing.
Writing isn’t something which should be rushed out. Take your time with it. Some of my blog posts take me a good week to write because I set aside time to think about what I’m saying, why I’m saying it and how I want to go about it.
6. Vary your sentence lengths
To really flex your skills and put them to the test, write about your day, but try writing it in different lengths. For example, you might want to go all out and write a full page about what you did for the day and how your day was. Then try cutting it down into two or one paragraphs, working your way up to one sentence; summarising your day, similar to a headline.
It’s a great way to find your natural writing style, do you like to go down the long, descriptive route? Or are you more blunt, sticking to what needs to be said. It’s also a great way of learning to be ruthless with your writing and practice your editing skills, which brings me nicely onto my next point.
5. Cut the rambling
You know when you’re having a conversation with someone and they start rambling about utter rubbish, taking 5 minutes just to get to one point before eventually going off topic, in the mean time you’re thinking “what the hell is this person on about?” and you’ve lost interest and trailed off into your own world… yeah that. It’s painful when it happens in speech and it’s painful in your writing too. Don’t ramble or fill your copy with unnecessary details. Just stick to what the reader needs to know.
If you find it helps, make a list of bullet points or headings of things you want to talk about and then bulk them out into sentences. This way you stay on track and only focus on what you need to. Basically, do point 7.
4. Always check and proof-read
One key tip to improve your writing is to proof-read. I can’t really emphasise it enough. I know so many people who don’t check what they’ve written because they think “well I’ve written it I know what I’ve said.” When that isn’t really the case, especially if you have the habit of writing how you talk. You’ll find some things just don’t work in copy form vs speech and of course errors will still happen. So always re-read your work. It will also pay to get someone else to read your copy too. It’s very easy to miss errors in your own writing, because you naturally read the sentence exactly how you meant it, so you don’t always notice to odd missing word.
3. Read aloud
Somewhat related to my above point about written vs spoken sentences, make sure you read your writing aloud. It’s not until you say something out loud that you’ll realise you’ve repeated a word too many times in a sentence, or you’ve made it too long with not enough pauses. Go sit down somewhere quiet, alone and read your work. Take your time and see what works.
2. Edit others writing
Another great way to improve your writing and your editing skills is to re-write someone else’s’ work. It gives you a great opportunity to explore writing styles and see what comes most naturally for you.
Look through your local newspaper or magazine, pick a handfull of articles and re-write them, using your own creative spin and flair.
1. Write guest posts
Finally, another great tip on how to improve your writing ability is to write a guest post somewhere, whether that’s for a magazine, newspaper or a blog. Get in touch with the Editor and see what type of guest posts they’re looking for. Alternatively, if you’re passionate about a certain topic and already have an idea of what you’d like to write about, pitch your idea to them.
Once you’ve written it and sent it off, don’t be afraid to ask for feedback, whether they liked and used your post or not. This is a great way to learn from peers and other like-minded people. Editor’s are busy people though so be patient, but I think you’ll find most will always be eager to help you learn and develop.