5 Ways to Instantly Become a Better Writer

A Better WriterWriting has always been an important skill in our culture, and the rise of the internet, email, and social media have made it even more important. Buyers are selecting sellers based on website copy, and many business deals are now made entirely through email. Being a good writer on Facebook or Twitter is like being the cool kid back in high school.

From writing on Facebook or Twitter, to writing articles for your business, you need to be able to express yourself clearly and effectively using the written word — your success depends on it. Becoming an excellent writer takes a long time, but there are some things you can do right away to see immediate gains.

Here are 5 things you can do to improve your writing instantly:

1 — Research

Always make sure you research a topic before writing about it. Expert examples and quoted opinions will make your writing more interesting, and the simple fact that you understand what you’re talking about will show through clearly.

Knowing your subject matter will also add confidence to your writing, which is a standard of better writing. Without background knowledge and confident writing, it’s just too easy to write a long fluffy article that really doesn’t say much of anything.

2 — Proofread

Good writers have been giving this advice for decades (centuries?), and bad writers have been ignoring it for just as long. The simple truth is that even gifted writers can’t write a perfect piece on the first try — and us less-gifted writers need at least two or three passes to get things to a reasonable level.

Read through your work 15 minutes after writing it, and you’ll immediately find some mistakes that you’ve made. Don’t just read through for grammar or spelling, though, make sure to look for readability, flow, and style as well. If the first re-read turns up a lot of errors, then it’s probably a good idea to do it again for good measure.

3 — Get To The Point

What are you actually trying to say? It’s important to know the answer to this question and to keep it at the front of your thoughts the entire time you’re writing. Almost all good works of writing, articles and novels alike, carefully take the reader from point to point without excess babble.

Get to the point quickly and keep your readers interested. If you need to explain things or set the stage then do so, but don’t do it to the point of excess. Nobody likes to read something with a lot of banter and no specific direction.

4 — Write For The Right Audience

Writing for MySpace and writing for the New York Times, although both critically important, are two very different tasks that require two very different styles of writing. Confusing the two could create serious problems.

The same advice applies everywhere you write — know your audience. Don’t bash solar panels on an environmental blog, and don’t use curse words or slang when writing to a formal audience. Knowing your audience will save you a lot of headaches and make your writing more interesting and appropriate to the end reader.

5 — Avoid Common Mistakes

Although it’s impossible to fix every grammar and spelling problem instantly, you can at least make some serious headway and avoid the most common mistakes. Here are 5 Grammatical Errors That Make You Look Dumb, and another 7 just for good measure.

Memorize those lists, always remember to proofread, use a spellchecker and you’ll probably have most of your writing down. Of course, there’s still comma usage to deal with, but that’s for another article…

Do you have any tips for quickly improving writing skills? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Top image by kalaam

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Comments

  1. says

    Great list.

    I’d suggest Relax — both body and mind, but especially the mind. Don’t worry about how good your writing is, just write to one sympathetic and interested person, imagined or real, and let the words flow.

  2. says

    While they’re all important, #2 is crucial. I rarely, almost never, get it right the first time and often return to something hours later to realize I need to edit or even start over. I would like to contribute a small addition to #2…

    “Don’t be afraid to start over.”

    If you discover that you’re trying to “put a square peg in a round hole” or trying to “put lipstick on a pig”, the work is probably beginning a slow descent to the trash can or recycle bin. When that happens, let it go and start over. Your readers will show their appreciation by reading your work next time you write.

  3. says

    This is a great list. I always feel that some days are better than others when it comes to my writing, If I would add anything, it would be that to make sure you are not feeling rushed or on a time limit when writing your piece. Even if you are on deadline, let your thoughts and words come at their own pace.

  4. says

    One I would add…

    Read it Out Loud.

    When you read something to yourself – in your head – your mind will automatically replace what you wrote with what you’re TRYING to say.

    However, by reading it out lout, you typically say exactly what you wrote. It’s very easy to pick up grammar and spelling errors this way.

    LOVE the picture btw… Koranic Writing has such beautiful forms.

  5. says

    I wholeheartedly agree with Troy…reading a piece out loud is my primary method for catching silly grammatical blunders (and in a lot of cases, typos that can’t be caught by a spellchecker).

    Good overall list, though. Very solid advice.

  6. says

    @Brian — I told you I needed two or three passes to get it right :-)

    @Troy and Colin — Reading it out loud is something I rarely do, but I’ll have to give it a shot. It certainly sounds like it could be a good addition to the list.

  7. says

    Getting to the point is vital. Speaking as a reader, if the author needs to set the stage, do so as concisely as possible. It’s no fun to read babble or excess. It’s painful. It can also be a bit narcissistic on the writer’s part.

    Be kind to your reader!

  8. says

    It’s not quite instant … but if you’re trying to get a really good piece done, then print it out, and redraft from scratch. The good bits will bear retyping, the long-winded bits will become more concise, and any ambiguous phrases will get tightened up.

    Reading your work aloud will almost always highlight clumsy sentence construction.

    Check for overused words or phrases. I tend to use “just” a lot, and have to go back and edit it out.

    Above all, the more you write, the better you’ll get at writing!

  9. says

    Like Ali said, taking a print out gives us the beauty of the words in real flesh and blood. It costs a penny, but worth it. :)
    I also like to read it loud to see if it resonates with me first, if so, it can with others.
    It takes long time to become an excellent writer…. I agree with you!

    Good post about WRITING here @ Freelance Folder!

  10. says

    There seems to be a lot of writers in the comments of this post (which is excellent) so I have a quick question for you all.

    What is the correct way to use quotation marks at the end of a sentence? In my daily newspaper, they will often end a sentence “like this”. But they’ll also end it like “this.”

    Is the second quotation mark always supposed to be after other characters like a period or a comma? That was my understanding, but I see both examples as frequently as each other.

  11. says

    Some great advice here!

    I would also add: Don’t be “Delete Happy”, some things you edit out could be used elsewhere. This was easier to do before Computers, but you can find a “Scratch pad” to paste text until you are sure you don’t need it.

  12. says

    Good list! You touched on several items that I have found to be useful. I wrote a similar list (a “Top 10″) on my blog as well. I will provide the link if anyone is interested, but driving traffic to my site is not my intent here :-)

    Thanks to FF for continuing to provide useful info!

  13. Paola says

    An add-on to #3, based on journo experience: Try explaining your story to a friend/relative. “What would you tell your roommate?” gets you out of a rut every time, because you immediately skip to the interesting stuff.

  14. says

    Write what you know and what you’re passionate about. Good writing always comes from the heart, not the head. Heart to heart connection — grabs and moves the soul!

  15. says

    I definitely spend more time proofreading what I wrote than actually writing it. That is easily the hardest part of writing for me and I still fear the unthinkable, even long after I hit post/publish.

  16. Lexi Rodrigo says

    I’d like to add some more advice: write as if your reader were in front of you; use more verbs and fewer adjectives; always write with a purpose.

    Hope this helps!

  17. says

    Good advice! I guess I’m old school and an old English major nit-picker, but splitting the infinitive is a no-no for me (see the hed). If I was editing this piece I’d take out the “instantly” to keep the infinitive intact; besides that, there is no way to become a better writer instantly.

    On the quotation question from one of the commenters (Glenn): Quotation marks after the period or comma is the U.S. rule. In the UK, quote marks go before the period or comma.

  18. ryan vines says

    I am not a good writer but I am very pationate about distributing my knowledge to others. So I always follow the 3rd rule(get to the point)and keep it simple .Although my writings end up very quickly but I think that its the content which is the most vital point.

  19. Rick Knee says

    Mr. Hipp would do well to edit his own copy or, better, find a friend or associate to do it. He is welcome to contact me for an explanation.

  20. joe says

    This site is very informative and could really help us improve the writing skills. Do you post any specific topic on what we have to write about or we just start writing picking up some topics in mind. Could anyone let me know where to start.

    Appreciate your help in this.

    Thanks
    Joe

  21. says

    Good points, Mason. I’m always doing #2, rewriting until I’m communicating my ideas well enough. My problem is trying to perfect it, and I end up delaying to publish the post.

  22. says

    I’ll add another suggestion– hire a professional writer! Too often, people think they can do the job as well and as quickly as a pro can. In the end, hiring someone with a great deal of experience can be much more cost-effective than trying to produce top-notch copy on your own. Contracting with a freelance writer can allow you to complete finite jobs with little headache, while focusing on the reasons you went into your field in the first place.

    (Oh, and there’s still a mistake in your proof-reading section: “us less-gifted writers need at least two or three passes to get things to a reasonable level” should read “we less-gifted writers…” “We” is the subject of the second half of your compound sentence.)

    Laura
    professional writer

  23. Dingus McCracken says

    This list reads like something taught in a remedial English class for sixth-graders. One would hope that anyone already semi-literate would automatically do these things at a minimum any time they write.

  24. Gary Brumberg says

    I agree and support Mason Hipp’s 5 points. I would also like to add No 6: Practice. Sometimes it is literally under our noses where we could immediately implement these 5 points that Mason listed. Practice it when sending an email, or (as I am) when replying with a comment. I ESPECIALLY recommend reviewing point No. 5, “5 Grammatical Errors that make you look dumb”. By habitually repeating and ADOPTING correct writing skills, it will become second nature and you won’t sweat it when the heat is on.

  25. says

    I agree with all the comments above. I recently read a post about self-taught versus college educated web designers/developers, and I think good writing skills is one of the major benefits. Of course, this is not saying that because one is or is not college educated automatically makes them a better writer, but it sure does help.

    I really dig the posts here. Great work!

  26. says

    Being a web writer for the internet has been a great adventure I get to publish my own content and get a lot of publication of my work online. I read a lot and walk to the library sometimes but most of the time I just walk to the book store each month to buy a copy of historical magazines and other informative magazines and books.

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  28. says

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