On a recent Q&A call, the question came up from one of the participants about how to improve their writing. First of all, that’s a great question–and one that any writer, new or tenured, should be asking. I believe we need to always be looking for ways to practice and improve our craft. So, kudos to the person who asked!
Second of all, I think improving your writing is a personal thing…you need to find what works for you. For some people it’s a class. For others it’s “butt in chair” as Anne Lamott says. In this article, I’m sharing five ideas based on what’s worked for me.
1: Read books about writing
There are a ton of books to help you learn about writing and how to be a better writer. It can be overwhelming. My advice to you is to focus on one at a time. Pick a book on writing that you want to start with, go through the whole thing, then move on to the next one.
I probably have a dozen or more books on writing, but I recommend starting off with two by Ann Handley, especially if you’re writing content marketing copy – Everybody Writes and Content Rules.
2: Try using what you like from other writers
“Read a thousand books, and your words will flow like a river.”― Lisa See
Many famous writers have been quoted discussing the importance of reading, and reading a lot of different styles. When you read something and like how it’s written, you can put that same style to use in your own content. Over time, you’ll develop the best writing style for you.
“Read, read, read. Read everything – trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it’s good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out of the window.”― William Faulkner
3: Write like you talk
Conversational writing styles are more engaging and feel more natural to your readers. Imagine you’re discussing something with a friend as you’re writing. Use contractions and keep it simple.
You’re writing to share something with the world. If your audience can “hear” you, they’re more likely to read till the end and get more out of the piece. To test how it sounds, read your content out loud to yourself. Does it sound like something you would say in a conversation with a friend?
4: Get feedback every now and then
It’s hard to be objective about our own work. Especially if it’s a piece we’ve worked hard on or have an emotional connection with. Asking for a fresh set of eyes to review may find issues that we’re too close to see.
Once you’ve worked on content for a while, it’s a good idea to ask a trusted friend or colleague to read it for you. Ask them for any specific feedback you want to receive. If you want basic proofing, let them know. If you want “developmental” or thorough feedback, let them know. You can always trade off content as well – be each other’s “fresh eyes.”
5: Practice every day
Writing is like any habit. Even if it’s just 15 minutes in your journal, make sure you write something every day…create the habit so it doesn’t feel strange to get behind the keyboard or put pen to paper.
Almost no one starts off a great writer. The best writers got that way by learning, reading, conversing, getting help and practicing their craft.
“I believe myself that a good writer doesn’t really need to be told anything except to keep at it.”— Chinua Achebe
How do you improve as a writer? Please share with us in the comments below.
By the way…whenever you’re ready, get your copy of the Complete Guide to Becoming a Professional HR Writer, my comprehensive guide on how to launch and grow your HR writing career. Click Here to Learn More.