Some people are not great writers. There, I said it.
It’s the same as saying some people aren’t great at Math. I dare you to walk into a college classroom full of communication majors and pose a math problem. First, they will all look blankly around the room to see if anyone happens to know the answer. Then, the smartphone calculators will come out. I can attest to this from my personal experience – it was an ongoing joke in my years at La Salle.
But not being a naturally talented writer doesn’t mean you can’t become a great writer. Just like certain journalism students had to work a little harder than others to ace their college Math courses, you can work a little harder to become a stronger writer. Here’s how.
Read You might be thinking, “Wait, the first tip to becoming a better writer has nothing to do with sitting down to write?” Yes, that’s exactly what I am saying, especially since you’re reading this blog post for tips to become a better writer (ironic, eh?).
Pick up a newspaper or magazine, subscribe to some highly regarded blogs and reach for a book instead of turning on the TV. If you want to become an improved writer, look for resources that contain the works of great writers and really read. Take notice of how they “hook” you into their story, form sentences in interesting ways, use a variety of vocabulary and weave the details together.
Even if what you’re reading isn’t particularly well written, that’s a learning experience too. Figure out what makes the content boring or poorly written and how to make it better.
When you are learning from the best and the worst, you’ll have a better idea of what to do and what not to do the next time you sit down to write something yourself.
Write Practice really does make perfect – or it at least gets you closer to perfection. Bodybuilders consistently become stronger and maintain that strength by lifting weights. The same goes for writing. You have to get down to business and write, write, write. Writing on a regular basis will lessen your fear of a blank page and blinking cursor with an assignment and its deadline looming. It will also help you develop a style, voice and tone.
Brush up on the basics If you’re a content marketer, this one definitely applies to you and establishing your brand’s credibility through written word. You need to know grammar and spelling basics. It doesn’t matter how great your ideas or topics are if your article, blog post, newsletter, etc. is riddled with errors.
Spell check makes our lives a little easier if you’re not sure of a word’s proper spelling, but that handy little tool can’t help you with your grammar.
Ever see these grammar mistakes?
Your vs. you’re
Further vs. farther
There, their and they’re
Effect vs. affect
Who vs. whom
I see them pretty frequently – they’re (not their or there) easy to make. The best way to ensure you’re using the proper word is to refer to an expert. Great resources you can tap online include Merriam Webster and Grammar Girl. I would also recommend picking up the latest version of the AP Style Guide.
Edit Even though you’ve written the last sentence of your content, you’re not done. Now it’s time for you to go back through your writing and review for typos, spelling and grammatical errors. We often make typos, not because we’re careless or dumb, but because, according to psychologist Tom Stafford, who studies typos of the University of Sheffield in the UK, when we’re writing, we’re trying to convey meaning – and that is a very high level task.
That means that when you’re typing away, your focus and energy is being spent on trying to convey a meaning by combining sentences together while your brain generalizes the more simplistic components like turning letters into words and words into sentences.
Going back over your writing piece can help you identify instances where you missed a word or have a random typo. But, sometimes you can’t catch these errors when you’re reviewing your own writing. Instead, find someone to edit your work, which can improve your writing. Bonus points if your editor points out your mistakes to prevent you from repeating them the next time you write.
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