Better Writing: 7 Things to Try to Improve Your Writing

Dec 5, 2023 | Better Writing

Make it your motto day and night.
Experiment, and it will lead you to the light.”

That’s Cole Porter’s advice. He wrote the song “Experiment” for the 1933 musical comedy Nymph Errant. Take his advice if you want to keep improving. Here are seven things to try.

Write standing up

Try standing up while you write. You’ll probably find that you write with more energy than when you write sitting down. Standing up while you work also has health benefits.

Read aloud

When you write for the ear instead of the eye, you produce prose that moves smoothly. The way you find out if you’re writing for the ear is to read your writing out loud. You’ll find that your tongue trips over things your eye thought were just fine.

Use grammar-checking software

I was lucky. My parents both set the example with precise, grammatically correct language. They also thought good grammar was important enough to correct me when I strayed into the ungrammatical weeds.

The result is that I catch many things with my ears that others may miss. But I don’t catch everything. That’s why I use grammar-checking software.

Several brands are on the market, and Microsoft has incorporated a grammar checker into Microsoft Word. I suggest you use two of them. It doesn’t matter which two because they all have slightly different strengths and weaknesses.

Caution. Grammar checkers don’t always get it right, so it helps to develop an excellent working knowledge of grammar and usage.

Use prompts

Use prompts to kickstart your brain. My favorite prompts are on the Oblique Strategies website. Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt compiled them. There are several collections of writing prompts online.

Let your writing rest

If you’re used to moving straight from writing to revision, try building in a little break. When you let your writing rest, you return to it with something like fresh eyes. You will see things you didn’t notice when writing the first time.

If you write blog posts, try to build in a break between your first and second drafts. If you’re writing a book, complete the first draft, then review the whole draft with fresh eyes.

Use Dictation

For years, even the best dictation software was clunky and frustrating. That’s no longer the case.

When you dictate your material, you’re more likely to get that conversational tone that readers love. That’s a good reason to try dictation. Another reason is that it will often improve the quantity of your output.

Be careful, though. Even the best dictation software will require a lot of cleanup when you’re done speaking. Use that clean-up time to make the revisions in your second draft.

Before you plunk down money for a separate program, try Microsoft Word s built-in dictation feature.

Try out ChatGPT

You can read about ChatGPT and other AI programs all day long, but you’ll learn more faster if you try them out yourself. AI will be game-changing for writers but don’t believe all the hype.

Find out what works for you by experimenting. Just remember to try AI to improve your writing, not do your writing.

Bottom Line

Experiments help you discover new things that work for you and improve your writing. When you try things out, you learn faster and better. So, follow Cole Porter s advice.

Make it your motto day and night.
Experiment, and it will lead you to the light.”