As with most other skills, your writing skills can be improved with a little practice and by following a few basic rules. If you’re having trouble getting started or increasing your overall skill level, here are 41 tips that might help.
1. Copy the Style of Proven, Published Writers
Wondering “can writing skills be improved?” is something that all writers do at some point. If you look closely at the style that established writers use, you can learn a lot. This doesn’t mean that you should plagiarize them; it simply means studying their style and technique so that you can learn what does and what doesn’t work. If they’re already published, they’re doing something right. You can learn from their success and try to imitate them in those ways to get closer to being published yourself.
2. Go Back & Study the Basics
Yes, the English classes that you took in school are still important, and if you’ve forgotten any of the basic rules of literature and grammar, you should go back and study them again. This is simple to do because there are thousands of books and courses available to help you, including the same books that you likely used as a young person. Believe it or not, your writing skills can be improved if you utilize basic writing skills. So go back and review them if you feel that it’s needed.
3. Keep the Basics on Hand at All Times
There are numerous reference books that are used by professional writers that you should always have in your collection. One of these is The Elements of Style, written by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White. It contains the essentials when it comes to grammar and composition, and it helps you write concisely and say what you mean without being overly wordy. There is a reason why it has been used for so many decades, which you’ll understand as soon as you get your copy.
4. Read! Read! Read!
This is a basic tip but one that many amateur writers ignore. You can’t learn to write better unless you learn how the professionals write. The more articles, books, and short stories by the professionals you read, the more you learn about the art of writing. In fact, the more you read, the more you’ll catch the mistakes that you are making, which will automatically improve your writing skills. You’ll also learn new words that you may not have known before and learning the meanings of new words is a great way to write better in the future.
5. Don’t Be Afraid to Let Others Read Your Work
This is a tough one for most writers, but if you allow other people to read your work and encourage them to give you honest feedback, your writing skills can be improved. You may have written something that makes perfect sense to you but is confusing to others. By letting other people read what you’ve written, you’ll discover mistakes you’ve made and learn about any inconsistencies inadvertently left in the work, which makes it easier to go back and correct mistakes so that everything is easy to understand and readable.
6. Use Apps to Your Advantage
Just the same as developing any other skill, finding apps to improve your writing skills is extremely easy. Some of those apps include Ulysses, Evernote, Grammarly, and Scrivener and they all offer excellent, simplified ways to improve your writing and grammar skills. These programs offer dozens of features to write, edit, and organize better, freeing your time up for — you guessed it — more writing!
7. Determine Your Own Style of Writing
All writers have their own style of writing, and you have to discover yours. Once again, this is easier to do when you study other writers because this is a good way to determine which style suits you best.
That doesn’t mean that you can’t develop your own writing style; however, studying other writers’ styles first brings you one step closer to deciding which of those styles might be best for you. It doesn’t matter which style you end up adopting, but you have to recognize the different styles first before you decide on the one you’d like to adopt for yourself.
8. Use the KISS Method — Keep It Simple
Just as writing about what you know is highly recommended, so is keeping your writing as simple as possible.
Write to the point and keep away from words that people may not know the meaning of. Don’t use a lot of words to describe a person or situation if the same idea can be described in fewer words. Readers can automatically tell if you’re being overly wordy or trying to sound impressive and they usually don’t respond well. Keep your writing simple, and readers will react in a positive way.
9. Don’t Repeat the Same Word Over and Over Again
Remember that simple is best, but this doesn’t mean that you should keep using the same word or phrase over and over again.
All words have synonyms so use them whenever necessary. If you utilize websites such as WordWeb, this is much easier to do. Sites such as this allow you to look up synonyms and antonyms whenever you need to, which means that you won’t have to use the same word again and again in any of your writing.
10. Write Now, Edit Later
This can be difficult for a writer but you have to realize that editing should come later. Regardless of the size or type of writing you’re doing, you should write as much as you can first without trying to edit your work. After all, if you start editing at the beginning, it may end up being unnecessary because you may decide later on not to use that section at all. When you’re writing, simply write as much as you can for as long as you can and then start your editing once the article or blog is complete.
11. Don’t Assume That Spell-Check Will Catch Everything
It is crucial that your work be proofread, but it is also important to remember that your average spell-check feature won’t catch everything. Make sure that you thoroughly proofread your work a minimum of two times and go over it line by line so that you don’t miss anything.
It’s even a good idea to proofread your work and then leave it alone for a few days because this is a good way to catch things that you may not have caught the first time you proofread your work.
12. Use Outlines & Graphics to Prove Certain Points
If your article or blog is especially long, there is always the chance that you might lose a reader or two along the way. If you can’t make it shorter because you consider all of the information to be important, try using bullets or outline form to get your points across. This will enable your paragraphs to be shorter and keeps the attention of the readers a lot longer, making your writing more interesting and even more aesthetically pleasing on the page.
13. Don’t Expect Your First Draft to Be Perfect
Your first draft will always be just that, a first draft. This means that you should never consider it to be anywhere close to a final draft. Just keep writing until you cover everything you wish to cover and then start the editing process.
There is no set number of drafts that are necessary before you hit pay dirt as it will vary from one writer to the next. The important thing to remember is that when you read that first draft, and you decide that it’s no good, there is no need to give up at that point. Just keep working on it until it meets with your approval, which may take two times or more than ten.
14. Make Sure That Your Sentences Are Different Lengths
Writing each sentence the same length will distract the reader. If you wish to emphasize something, use a short sentence. If you want to define or illustrate something, use bullet points and a longer beginning sentence.
Sentences over 25 words may confuse the reader so breaking long sentences into two separate sentences is always better. Don’t make them too short either or they will sound too trite. Let the words and sentences flow naturally, which should result in sentences of the perfect size.
15. When You Proofread, Read Out Loud
There are many advantages to reading aloud, but perhaps the biggest one is that you are more able to catch any mistakes you made. This includes mistakes in tone, syntax, consistency, and even sentence flow. If something doesn’t make sense or just sounds wrong, you will know it immediately, which means that you can correct it, so it doesn’t affect your readers that way. Reading your work out loud also helps you discover how it will sound to the reader from start to finish, making it easy to make the necessary revisions.
16. Always Research & Fact-Check
Before you submit any type of article or blog, make sure that everything in it is correct to your knowledge. If there is a phone number attached to something, call the number and make sure that it’s the right one. If you include a link in the article, make sure that it isn’t a broken one. If you use facts or dates to emphasize something, research them and make sure that they are correct.
There is no excuse for not doing these things because this is one of the fastest ways to discredit your writing.
17. Remain Open-Minded & Flexible
Let’s face it; everyone makes mistakes. If you’re working on something and discover for whatever reason that you’d do better if you changed your focus, do this immediately. Most writers have a particular goal or message in mind when they start writing but you may discover that it isn’t quite working the way that you thought it would. In these instances, it is better to go ahead and make the necessary changes even if it means restarting the article from scratch.
18. Take Advantage of the Online Tools Available
Naturally, it is now easier than ever to find online tools to help you write better. These include sites to help you catch spelling and grammar mistakes, sites to help you determine the length of each article you write, and even sites that help you correctly cite all of your sources. In fact, there is really no reason why you cannot write the perfect article or blog every time because there are many resources available to help you do just that.
19. Keep in Mind the Importance of Common Courtesy
Because email is now a part of everyone’s daily life, many people assume that what you write in an email doesn’t matter but this is far from the case. If you’re composing an email or business letter, common courtesy must apply. Just as when you’re speaking with someone face to face, people can tell if you’re being rude or curt in your writing.
Always watch your tone when you’re writing and keep everything appropriate and above-board.
20. Make Sure That You Have a Regular Routine
This is especially important if you’re writing a novel or short story. Start a routine and stick with it. You can choose to write at certain times throughout the day, on certain days of the week, or any other pattern that you can stick to.
Even if you sit down at your assigned time and feel as if you have nothing to say, keep at it anyway. You’ll be surprised at how easily ideas will flow into your head if you regularly sit down at your computer and start to write.
21. Practice Makes Perfect
The best thing that you can do when you’re a writer is to write as often as possible, then keep writing more. Just as with other skills, writing skills can be developed over time so when you think “can writing skills be improved?”, the answer is a firm YES. The more you write, the better you’ll get at it, because one of the many advantages to writing on a regular basis is the ability to write many different types of articles, blogs, and stories so never stop writing.
22. Read a Variety of Publications
Yes, reading is important because there is no such thing as reading too much. However, you also need to read a variety of publications to learn what you need to learn to be a good writer. This includes magazines, journals, school textbooks, newspapers, books, and even reference manuals if you can tolerate them.
All of these publications will include correct grammar and styles that you may not have noticed before. So the more diverse your reading habits become, the more you’ll learn about writing.
23. An Outline May Help
Most people remember doing outlines in school and didn’t like them but if you start your writing assignment with a good outline, it helps to make it more organized and professional-looking. Remember to include the basic parts of an outline: the introduction, the body, and the conclusion.
Some people consider the intro and the conclusion the most difficult parts to write but keep at it and you’ll eventually become a pro at using your outline to develop your writing skills.
24. Prepare to Do Your Best Writing
This means that preparation is the key to good writing so prepare yourself physically and mentally to write each time. Make sure that you’re writing at a time of day when you do your best work. If you’re not a morning person, don’t try writing at 8:00 a.m. If you’re a night owl, the nighttime might be the best time for you to write.
You should also make sure that no distractions exist to cause you to think about other things besides writing. This means no television, no radio, and no cell phone. In other words, make sure that writing is the only thing you’re doing and you’ll be more successful at it.
25. Don’t Overlook Inspiration in Everyday Things
When you’re a writer, you should be able to write about anything and you can get inspiration about these things in the most common places.
You can take a walk or even watch your favorite movie, then ask yourself questions to pique your interest and bring about ideas for writing. What is that woman thinking about? How would that person’s life have been different with a different movie ending? What is the significance of that actor being in that specific location or situation? The more you do this, the better you’ll get at it, and it can give you dozens of ideas for your writing.
26. Keep a Journal
Writing in a journal daily is more beneficial than you think. Even if all you write about is what you cooked for dinner, you’ll see a pattern over time and the best ideas will pop into your head. In fact, many of the ideas you get will surprise you and you’ll likely find dozens of ideas to start writing again.
27. Use Writing Prompts
Writing prompts are not just for kids; in fact, it is easy to find dozens of writing prompts for adults if you know where to look. Writing prompts are written scenarios that give you ideas on what to write about. It is much easier to start writing when you’re given a specific idea or question to answer because it gives you a great starting point to begin your writing.
28. Practice by Rewriting a Famous Story
This doesn’t mean plagiarism. It simply means taking an already written story and changing it up a bit. This could be accomplished by changing the ending of the story, rewriting it from a different character’s perspective, or even adding other characters so that the story’s outcome or morale is somewhat different. Start with a basic story, such as Goldilocks and the Three Bears, and create your own version of the story to give you some very good writing practice.
29. Reward Yourself for Achieving Certain Goals
Setting goals is always helpful. “Today I am going to finish an entire chapter in my book”, “today I am going to write 500 words”, or “today I intend to write for two hours straight” are all good goals.
Every time that you reach your goal, give yourself a reward. It can be anything you enjoy doing, including going out to lunch or watching your favorite movie. The important thing to remember is to set a specific goal for your writing and reward yourself in some way once you achieve that goal.
30. Always Write About Something You Are Interested In
If you despise horror movies, you don’t want to sign up to be a movie critic for horror movies. Writing about what you know and love is always going to be easier than writing about something in which you have no interest. Your writing skills can be improved if you start writing about things you are passionate about. Doing so will allow the ideas to spill out of your brain, making it much easier to get started.
31. Establish Your Own Unique Voice
The voice you use in your writing should be different than anyone else’s. Keeping the reader interested from start to finish is impossible if your points aren’t getting across. The way you express yourself is important and if you write something that sounds incoherent or difficult to understand, the reader will notice immediately. Set the tone, express yourself properly and succinctly, and the reader will respond positively.
32. Take Everything You Write Seriously
Even if you sit down to write an email, you should always take it seriously. Written words are powerful and even an email is going to have significance to the person receiving it.
Whether you’re at work writing a memo or at home composing an email to a friend, use that as an opportunity so that your writing skills can be improved. All types of writing will make you a better writer so never treat a writing “assignment” as if it’s unimportant.
33. Your Writing Is a Relationship, Not a Job
If you treat writing as if it is a job, you may quickly lose interest in it. Think of your writing as a relationship and it will become more personal to you. Just as you want your other relationships to grow, your writing should grow also, which means writing on a regular basis — preferably every day. Eventually, you’ll be able to write not only about what you know but about what you’d like to know as well.
34. Make Sure That Your Characters Are Realistic
This is easier than you think and there are even courses that teach you how to develop the characters in your book. In order to be relatable to the reader, your characters have to be realistic, honest, and engaging.
When you write the dialogue, don’t make it too stoic and textbook-like. Use the language and slang that real people use and, again, read it out loud to make sure that it is believable and realistic.
35. Rely on Other Professionals for Assistance
If you have friends or mentors who are writing professionally, don’t be hesitant to tap into their expertise. This is especially beneficial if that person is already a published author. It doesn’t matter what type of writing they’re involved in; if they write professionally, your writing skills can be improved with their help. They can help you with the more practical aspects of writing for a living and provide invaluable assistance every time.
36. Don’t Fight Writer’s Block
Writer’s block happens to everyone. If you sit down to write and find yourself devoid of ideas, it’s best not to fight it. Get up, go outside and take a walk, go to the gym for a workout, or concentrate on another task. You’ll know when it’s time to get back to your writing and you’ll learn that trying to write when you’re suffering with writer’s block is usually unproductive and a waste of time. Keep in mind that your writing skills can be improved if you know how to deal with writer’s block.
37. Get Creative in Other Ways
Writing is a creative activity but if you’re creative in other ways, let that be a way to help you write better. If you love to paint, start painting. If you love to crochet or knit, get busy with your next project.
Your writing skills can be improved if you increase the creativity you have in another area. In addition, participating in other creative activities for a while is often a great way to give you more and better ideas the next time that you sit down to write.
38. Don’t Be Afraid to Fail
If you’re submitting your work for publication, you are going to get rejections. It is a part of the process that you can’t avoid. If you give up just because you get a rejection letter or two, you’ll never be a real writer.
In fact, you shouldn’t even think of these rejections as real rejections. Writing is a competitive occupation so you could have simply sent them something that they weren’t looking for at the time. Accept that you’re going to be rejected occasionally, move on, and, most importantly, keep writing!
39. Don’t Use Cliches
Cliches can sound trite and most readers will cringe when they read them. Metaphors and analogies can be distracting to the reader. Even when writing a piece of fiction, you need to write paragraphs that sound professional. After you’re done with the article or chapter, go over it, make sure that no cliches were used, and try to replace at least most of them with something else.
40. Linking Words Can Help You Write More Clearly
Vivid descriptions are a must for many types of writing, and when you use phrases such as “in addition”, “in other words”, “moreover”, and “furthermore,” it can help further explain or describe something so that the reader understands what you’re writing about.
You want to create an accurate picture in the reader’s mind and the only way to do this is to write descriptively. Linking words and phrases can help you do just that and they enable you to get the point across easily and quickly.
41. Use Active, Not Passive Voice
Not that using passive voice is always bad, but using the active voice makes the sentence a little more realistic-sounding and even easier to understand. The passive voice can be confusing because instead of using Subject-Verb-Object in a sentence; e.g., “the girl ate the donut,” it changes the order and puts the object first; e.g., “the donut was eaten by the girl.” Use passive voice whenever necessary, but as a general rule, you should always use active voice when writing.