Many people think that good writing is a gift from heavens: you’re either born with it or doomed.
Fact: we can’t all be the new Jane Austen. Other fact: we can all learn how to express our thoughts so that they make sense to our audiences too. Whether you’re writing for business or leisure, honing your skills is essential to infuse your texts with clarity, strength, and nuance.
Building and nurturing virtuous habits is a good way to improve your writing over time – and results last for a lifetime.
Ready to learn more?
Develop a reading habit
The first rule of Writing Club is: read more. The second rule of Writing Club is: READ MORE.
(forgive me, Mr. Palahniuk)
Good writing starts with the ability to select the best words for a given context. Reading can help a lot here: as you dive deep into books and papers, you assimilate new words and nurture your imagery. However, that’s only true when you take the time to experience language. So: forget skimming, and go back to paying attention to form and substance alike.
Nurturing a reading habit isn’t hard. You just need to make time for it, and enjoy the ride. Also, reading can reduce your stress levels – which is good for creativity, sleep and your well-being overall.
Train your critical eye
Familiarising with different styles and techniques also supports the development of a critical eye for writing itself. This makes it easier to recognise the positive or negative features of a text – and improve your writing over time. When your reading session is over, consider the following:
- What are the writing-specific elements you enjoyed the most? e.g. the vivid language; a snappy tone of voice
- How can you include such features in your own writing? e.g. use more adjectives; make sentences more concise
- What is the writing-specific element you enjoyed the least? e.g. too many repetitions
- How can you avoid making the same mistake in your texts? e.g. keep a thesaurus at hand
This quick exercise only takes 10-15 minutes, but making it a habit will increase your writing awareness. Also, it helps you define specific actions (or corrections) you can focus on to refine your writing skills over time.
Revise your early works
Revising your older texts (blog posts, emails, website pages, …) is a great way to train your critical eye. Doing this consistently can have a tremendous impact on your skills – plus, you don’t need to obsess with it to get long-term results.
To get started, decide on a sustainable routine (e.g. revise two pieces of writing a month). Starting small will help you reap the benefits of the exercise, and stay motivated. As you go through your early works, focus on the action steps defined in your critical reading exercises. We all know that (educated) practice makes perfect, right?