Better Writing: 5 Easy Tips to Improve Your Writing

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If you’re serious about writing well, you probably learned you can always improve. Here are five simple techniques that have worked for me and my clients.

Read Your Writing Aloud

It’s hard to spot errors in copy that you’ve just written. We tend to see what we think we wrote. Reading your writing aloud is a way to beat that problem.

Read your writing aloud. Read slowly. Your tongue will trip over things that your eyes thought were just fine.

Caution! Tell the people around you what you’re doing. Otherwise, they may think you’re talking to yourself.

Don’t Write Like a Writer

Many of the people I work with are writing their first book or doing their first serious writing since they left school. Their mental model of good writing is usually something literary or academic. Elmore Leonard called it “writing like a writer.” He thought the writer should “remain invisible” to the reader.

In 2001, Leonard shared his “10 Rules of Writing” in a New York Times article. Then he added an eleventh rule that summed up all the rest. “If it sounds like writing, I take it out.”

What should you do instead? Write like you’re talking to a friend, one-on-one, in an informal situation.

Let It Rest

Too many writers, especially bloggers, don’t plan enough time between drafts. The longer you wait between drafts, the more likely you will see your piece with fresh eyes.

If you blog, consider lengthening your production process. Leave more time between drafts so you come to each draft fresh. If you’re writing a book, try putting each draft away for a week or so before you begin revising.

Walk on It

Walking is one of the great aids to any kind of creative production. Walk in nature if you can or anyplace where there won’t be many distractions. Don’t listen to an audiobook or music. Just walk. The ideas will come.

Be sure to take some way to capture the ideas you’ll get. A small notebook, index cards, or a small digital recorder will do the trick.

Use a Grammar Checker

Microsoft built a grammar checker into Word. There are also several good, reasonably priced grammar checkers on the market. They’ll help you find and correct errors in grammar and usage.

Caution! using a grammar checker is not a way to avoid learning the basics of grammar and usage. Put in the work to learn the basics. Then you can make wise choices among the alternatives grammar checkers give you.

Takeaways

You can always improve your writing.

Read your writing out loud.

Don’t write like a writer.

Allow plenty of time between drafts.

Walking is a great way to get ideas that will improve your writing.

Use a grammar checker.

Using a grammar checker is not a substitute for learning the basics of grammar and usage.

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