At some point in time, every writer wants to know how to write better. Although many writers are especially critical of their writing, it is never a bad idea to constantly improve your writing skills. To know how to write better, it is important to understand the different writing styles and which of the writing styles you can identify the most. This article will give you information to help you improve your writing skills and identify and improve your particular writing style.
Is Writing a Skill?
Writing is a skill as writers need to practice to enrich their creativity and master the elements of good writing. Writers need to imagine, invent, reinvent, and innovate their ideas to attract their target audience to read their written pieces. Creative writers have to use the everyday happenings, remarkable memories, and notable observations to arrive at a masterpiece. On the other hand, technical writers do extensive research and studies to deliver outputs precisely, clearly, and deeply. Different types of writers earn their advanced writing skills through hard work.
In addition, writing is seen as a skill because it requires writers to do constant evaluation and reflection of their work to determine what may not have worked and what made their pieces one of a kind. Through contemplating, new ideas come into existence, writers’ vigor strengthens, and another legacy emerges.
12 Practical Tips on How to Write Better
Your writing skills matter whether you write a blog post or an epic novel. Understanding good and appropriate sentence structure, correct grammar, punctuation, and formatting is essential to learning how to write better, regardless of your writing type. Good writing begins with an understanding of the English language and grammar.
This article will provide tips and examples to improve your writing skills, but keep in mind that improvement in writing is a never-ending task. There is always room to improve your skillsets like any job or career.
1. Sentence Structure Should Reflect Writing Style
If you are an expository writer, you rely on conveying facts for success in writing. These writers often pen academic papers, medical journals, and nonfiction books. Business writing also falls under the expository writing style. This is a much more formal writing style than narrative or descriptive writing. Therefore, the sentence structure should reflect this fact.
If you are writing a blog post, it is perfectly fine to use lots of contractions and write how most people speak. It is an informal writing style that attempts to be personal with the reader. However, if you are writing a medical paper about the effects of Alzheimer’s on a patient’s family, the writing structure should be much more formal and respectful.
As a writer, you should pay close attention to the formality of your writing and the type of writing you are doing and match the sentence structure appropriately. This will improve your writing skills and make your readers’ work much more effective and well-received.
2. Get Rid of Unnecessary Words
One of the most valuable writing tips for anyone who wants to be a better writer is to say what you mean directly in your writing and get rid of any words you do not need. Never assume that your audience needs to be told everything in such great detail that it takes a whole page to describe an action. Overly descriptive writing is boring to read, and it is obnoxious. Be direct, and say exactly what you mean.
The following are two examples that convey the same idea.
Michael angrily stomped down the hallway to his office. He fitfully threw himself into his chair and reread the email with anger in his eyes. No promotion or raise this year. Something about saving corporate some money since the economy had not done well this past year. Enraged and fuming, Michael deleted the email and sent an irritated text to his wife, Betsy, to tell her about the email that had set him off.
He didn’t want to ruin her day, but he knew that she would be upset about this. They really had their hearts set on vacation this year. Now, Michael thought to himself, bubbling with frustration, they wouldn’t be able to afford a vacation.
Michael stomped to his office and threw himself into his chair. He read the email a second time. No promotion or raise this year. Corporate claimed they needed to save money because of the poor economy. Disgusted, he deleted the email and texted his wife, Betsy, to let her know. He didn’t want to ruin her day, but she needed to know. They’d had their hearts set on vacation this year, and now they wouldn’t be able to afford it.
Verbs such as “stomped” and phrases such as “threw himself into his chair” denote anger. In the first example, “anger” and its various synonyms are entirely unnecessary words that do nothing but weigh down the story and its message. From context clues, the reader can understand that Michael is angry about not getting a promotion or a raise and that his wife would be equally upset because the couple had wanted to go on a vacation.
The second example is much better because it does not rely heavily upon fluff and filler words. The message is clear, and the point is made, and the reader can move on to the next point in the story.
3. Avoid Passive Voice
Passive voice is less direct and far less interesting. No one wants to read about what was done to someone or something. Readers want to know what the characters are doing. Avoiding passive voice and employing active voice as often as possible will make you a better writer. Switching your habits and writing in an active voice is a way to immediately improve your writing skills and make your audience more interested in your story.
4. Divide the Time You Spend Writing
Do not edit while you write. The time you devote to writing should be for writing alone. You must schedule a separate time for editing. One of the best writing tips a new writer will ever get is to keep writing once you have started. Stopping your writing to worry about editing issues such as spelling, sentence structures, and other grammatical rules can put a damper on your creativity and stifle your flow and output.
If you give yourself an hour for writing, stop after an hour, and then edit for two hours after your writing session ends. This way, you can have separate, dedicated times for each task. Your editing period is when you can worry about sentence structures—and whether they fit with the different writing styles available to you.
5. A Ten Dollar Word vs. a Ten Cent Word
If you are writing professionally, you may be tempted to impress your audience by using what is sometimes referred to as ten-dollar words. These are complicated, uncommon words usually included in writing to make the author sound more intelligent or sophisticated. The issue with this is that it will often make you seem pompous, distract the reader, and turn the reader off to the story.
On the other hand, ten cent words are simple, short, common words that are used in place of their fancier counterparts. These are words that everyone understands. Say things simply in your writing. No one needs to hold a master’s degree to read your short story or novel. The following example illustrates the difference between ten cent and ten-dollar words.
The goldfish, deprived of an oxygen-rich aquatic environment, expired in its receptacle.
The goldfish died.
Both of the above example sentences say the same thing, but the second one says it in short and simple words that get the point across easily. This does not mean that you should not always expand your vocabulary. Having a large vocabulary means choosing the most appropriate tool when it comes to word choice.
Sometimes you need a bigger word in certain situations. Sometimes you need to speak simply. Great writers always expand their vocabulary to learn new words and gauge when it is appropriate to use them.
6. Leave Your Own Opinions Out
Few tips are as important as leaving your own opinions out of any research or academic paper you write. While you can disagree with the subject matter, an expert, or a theory to your deepest core, you should never state your personal opinion in a research paper. If you are not writing an editorial-style piece, keep your own thoughts out of it.
This is especially true if you write a paper about already hotly debated or divisive topics, such as gun rights, the death penalty, religion, or politics. These are already emotionally charged topics, and almost everyone has a deep-seated opinion regarding these topics. Never include what you think or feel in a news article, term paper, research paper, or factual essay. Doing so will immediately lose your audience, and you will most likely be dismissed as a biased writer with zero credibility.
7. Stick to the Point
We have all seen the social media posts and the Pinterest articles and blogs that claim they will tell you how to make homemade macaroni and cheese and spend the first two thousand words telling you about their grandfather’s leg infection. They also share the time in high school they got stood up for a date, their third cousin’s weird condition that makes them whistle through their teeth when they breathe, and what the score was last night when they played Yahtzee with their book club. Then, and only then, you are going to get that recipe.
Many of us turn off and stop reading and just scroll down until we see an ingredient list. Do not be that writer. If you promise the reader macaroni and cheese, get to the point and tell them what they need to make the dish and how to make the dish. Stay on the subject if you want to be taken seriously and if you want to be a better writer.
8. Have a Set Editing Process
If you do not have a set process for editing, chaos will more than likely ensue. It can be overwhelming to edit your work, so the best strategy is to have a process. Always proofread what you wrote first. After proofreading, you can move on to other things like formatting, fact-checking, and other editing steps that you need to take—having a process in place that stays consistent will get you into a routine as a writer that will not only keep you from getting frustrated and confused but will also keep you from wasting large chunks of time that could be better spent writing.
9. Develop an Effective Writing Process
Putting pen to paper at the same time every day, working for the same amount of time, or setting a consistent word goal is a writing process. Developing habits such as this will establish a routine that you can follow. Having a routine will make for better writing because you will start to carve time out each day to make that routine work once it becomes a habit. You are not forced to squeeze in writing if you schedule it.
For example, Stephen King writes 2000 words per day, no exception. Whether he is working on a book or not, he writes the same amount of words per day. He also does not know how a book will end and has a very loose plot idea in his mind. He invents characters and lets them play out the situations he puts them in to see what happens. He has stated he is often surprised by what happens and how his books end. However, what is not surprising is that he has a set routine for himself every day.
How to Improve Your Handwriting
As a writer, you may use various mediums when writing, such as mobile applications and desktop software. However, for many writers, using a notebook or journal and pen works best for them. When you write by hand, the words and ideas will often flow from your mind and transform into one readable piece. It allows you to express yourself and make your writing more vivid and impactful. Often writers struggle to read their handwriting after putting their words on paper, which can be a major disservice to them during the editing process. Improving your handwriting not only improves the appearance of the penmanship itself but it also allows for the release of emotions when writing.
To improve your handwriting, begin by selecting the pen you are most comfortable with, as well as the paper you will use. You also need to take the time to feel which handgrip is the most appropriate for you. Find somewhere quiet and simply slow down. Focus on practicing the skill of writing itself by writing slowly and focusing on your penmanship. Go back, reexamine your writing and also let yourself doodle. Be patient with yourself; it takes time to truly master the writing process overall. However, the more time you spend on your handwriting as well as your writing, the better they both will become.
10. Take a Break for a Fresh Perspective
We all need to put down our work and take a breather every now and then. It gives us time to enjoy other things, and it gives us a chance to get a fresh perspective on the content and quality of writing. For example, if you are working on a novel and someone has just committed a crime, you need to leave breadcrumbs behind so that the detective and police stay just one step behind the criminal. It may be difficult to figure out how to do that without making the criminal’s identity ridiculously obvious.
You can keep brainstorming, you can try to force the words to come out, and you can try to work through the problem by just writing and rewriting until something sticks. Or, you can take a break and step away from it.
Sometimes we need to change scenery to let inspiration find us and tell us what is next for the story we are working on. Maybe if you put the pen down, close your laptop, and go outside and get some fresh air, the answers you are looking for will fix an issue in your story that will come to you. Thinking too hard about them often only gets you more frustrated and addled.
11. Grammar Equals Good Writer
Often, writers think that the changes they can make to improve their writing have to do with inspiration, formatting, technology, or story development—they often overlook basic grammar, which is incredibly important.
If you want to be a better writer, start by looking at how you write. Do you have run-on sentences that you need to change? Have you included unnecessary adverbs that muddle your story’s message and content?
When you start writing, you often get wrapped up in the story, and it can be very easy to lose sight of the fact that to make sense to a reader and be “good” writing, you need to get back to basics and employ the grammar rules you learned in grade school. These often overlooked things are simple changes that you can immediately improve.
12. Read the Work of Other Writers
Nearly every writer has a favorite author or book long before writing their own first story or novel. In other words, you know what you like to read. A good rule to adopt in your writing career is to continue to read other authors’ books. Do not just read—study.
For example, Kurt Vonnegut writes with dry humor and a satirical, biting style that is irreverent yet still somehow moving. J.K. Rowling focuses on character development and character relationships in her writing. Lewis Carroll writes with a lighthearted and whimsical style that appeals to the curious child in all of us.
Reading the work of other writers can give us endless examples of other writing styles that obviously work because these authors published their books and are well known for them. Think of it as a type of homework that you enjoy immensely.