Whether you are writing professionally, for school, or for fun, chances are your work could use a friendly touch up.
There is no shame in it.
Writing consistently good sentences isn’t easy and even professionals find themselves with the occasional rough paragraph or choppy turn of phrase.
While the very best way to get better at writing is simply to do it frequently, there are some tips and techniques you can use to clean your pages up right away. Read on for five tips to improve your writing today!
Step 1: Avoid Unnecessary Words
It’s easy to get a little loose with your language, especially when you are trying to fulfill a word count requirement for a school or business project.
Tempting as it is to let a simple sentence turn in to a run on to fill up the page, you should avoid doing so as best as possible.
Let’s look at an example.
“Faster internet speeds give you the ability to save time throughout the course of your long work day.”
To be fair, if you are skimming an article you probably aren’t going to mind that sentence so much but that doesn’t mean we should settle for it either.
Let’s take a look now at how we can tighten it up.
“Faster internet speeds save you time while you work.”
The first example used eighteen words while the second used just nine. Why does it matter?
Filler language softens the impact of your message.
Granted, in the case of these examples there wasn’t much of a message to begin with but you understand my point.
Step 2: Outline
In the world of fiction writing the outline is a controversial concept.
While some writers like to know where the plot of their short story or novel is going others prefer to allow it to unfold naturally.
If your writing ambitions do not include crafting the next American novel, however, you should strongly consider implementing outlining techniques into your work.
The outline will keep you focused and concise and keep you from rambling on.
Since concision is the name of the game in writing every little bit will help.
How you go about preparing an outline is up to you.
You can use bullet points, sentence fragments, or even complete phrases that you will be able to implement into your finished product.
The choice is completely yours.
Step 3: Read, a lot
Mostly this applies to writers of fiction but I would venture to say that anyone wishing to improve their skills could benefit from this step.
If all you read is text messages, tweets and Facebook posts, chancing are you are exposing yourself to a lot of sloppy sentences.
Now poor writing craft isn’t quite as dangerous as secondhand smoke it’s also not doing you any favors.
If you are just trying to write better work memos, and books aren’t your thing you don’t need to hit up Barnes and Noble.
Taking the time to enjoy a well written article about at topic that interests you however, can go a long way in improving your own writing.
Just pay attention to the craft of the sentences as you read.
Now if you are a creative writer, reading novels as often as possible is something that you need to be doing. It will help expose you to what is on the market, as well as what sort of language and stylistic decisions that you enjoy.
I know that it’s is challenging to make time for reading but do the best that you can.
It’s not a chore—it’s something that will enrich your life and your writing.
Step 4: Grammar
It really does.
I majored in English and now I obviously write articles like these but I can still tell you with complete honesty that I despise everything about grammar.
Ok, not everything.
The purpose of writing is to transmit an idea that exists in your head as clearly as possible into the head of someone else.
The purpose of grammar is to assist in that process which I suppose I can’t begrudge it.
Still it can be finicky and while it is challenging in general to spot grammar mistakes, it is all the more challenging when you are going over your own work.
If you aren’t so good at spotting errors in your prose than I would recommend asking a friend or coworker to review your work for you.
When that isn’t possible, there is plenty of excellent software that is free to use.
My personal favorite is Grammarly.
Step 5: Structure
There is a lot you can do with structure to influence the tone of your work.
Varying your sentence length is a good way to control the tone of a piece. Long flowing sentences can be used to explain concepts, and illustrate ideas.
Short sentences do well to emphasize particular points.
Another very simple step you can take to make your pieces more readable is to monitor the length of your paragraphs.
While rules for how long a paragraph should or should not be are fairly loose, most people are going to have trouble maintaining focus for a long, bulky paragraph.
Limiting the length of your paragraphs to three or four lines can go a long way in making your work more readable.
This applies to writers of fiction and non-fiction, though in the case of the short story or novel, the rules are a little looser.
You see so differently here as not the same rules apply to the world of blogging, which is another animal on its own.
Even for the pros, writing is never going to be easy, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be stressful.
I firmly believe that the steps illustrated in this guide will help to improve the quality of your work with minimal effort on your part.
There are a lot of things to worry about, but communication shouldn’t have to be one of them.
Remember that that is all writing is.
Take your time, be concise and clear, and you won’t run into any problems.