5 Ways to Improve Your Writing

As a communications student with a minor in writing, I’ve had many classes dedicated to the art of writing. You may think, why would anyone need classes on how to write? But trust me when I say this: writing is not easy. Everyone writes, but not everyone does it correctly.

5 Ways to Improve Your Writing

Whether you’re a college student or a blogger (or both), you’re bound to find yourself writing. Actually, most jobs include at least a little bit of writing on the employee’s part. And, since that’s the case, wouldn’t you want to do it perfectly? This is why I’m sharing some of the wisdom my classes taught me to give you 5 ways you can improve your writing. Whether you’re a blogger or a college student, these tips can definitely help you be a better writer! (This is coming from a girl who got straight A’s in most of her writing classes ;))

READ MORE OFTEN

How can reading more influence your reading, you ask? Well, it’s simple. Think of it as a way for your brain to create a writing database. When you read, you can encounter new words or sentence structures, and your brain can retain that information so you can use it later! Reading more often will allow you to enrich your vocabulary and teach you different text and sentence structures that you might want to reuse later.

Reading can also help with spelling, grammar, and punctuation. I’ve always been good with learning new languages (I’ve basically taught myself English), but that’s because I have a photographic memory. Once I’ve seen the way a word is written, I am likely to remember it. Reading frequently allows your brain to recognize certain structures, which will make writing a lot easier for you!

Read anything. Blog posts, articles, magazines, books… the choice is yours! Just make sure you read something that interests you. Anything can help you. Everyone writes differently, and exposing yourself to all of this material will not hurt!

Pro tip: If you’re trying to improve your academic style, I’d recommend reading articles about topics that are related to your major. That way, you can learn the vocabulary used by people within your field!

SPICE IT UP

One the many things my university writing classes taught me is that, to make a text interesting, you need to switch things up a little bit from time to time. Now, I’m not saying to completely change the way you write, but there are a few things you can do to enhance your text and make your reader want to continue reading.

SENTENCE STRUCTURE

This is probably the easiest way to spice things up, but it’s also the hardest to fully master. Always writing sentences the same way can bore your reader, because you’ve become predictable. The “subject-verb-complement” structure might be very straightforward, but sometimes a change is good! Try to switch up the groups’ order within your sentences from time to time to add more dynamism to your text.

Also, always writing declarative sentences can be a little repetitive. Try to catch the attention of your reader by asking questions or writing in the imperative mood. This will certainly help add dynamism to your text and will involve your reader more.

Another thing you can do to improve your writing is to change the voice you’re writing in. If you tend to write most of your sentences with a passive voice (like me), try to switch things up by changing some of them to the active voice. Sentences where the subject does the action of the verb tend to be more dynamic and catch the reader’s attention more. The crucial information of the sentence is usually more clear with active voice sentences because it comes first.

SYNONYMS

Another way to enrich your text is to change your vocabulary. Find any repetitions in your text and try to change some of the words you’ve used. You want to use words that are precise and that express exactly what you’re trying to say. Avoid words that are too common (such as bigtall or pretty) and replace them with others that are more evocative. In the creative writing class that I had during my first semester at uni, the teacher gave us a list of common words at the beginning of the semester that she wanted us to avoid in any of our upcoming assignments. Anytime one of those words would be used in our texts, she would deduct points (except for a few exceptions). It made me think harder about the words that I was using and the weight they carry.

PUNCTUATION

Remember when I talked about sentence structure? This kinda goes with this. Adding some colorful punctuation in your text is one of the easiest ways to improve your writing! Punctuation hooks the reader and gives your text a certain rhythm.

How can you do it? Changing the sentence structure helps. Switch that declarative sentence to an interrogative one, and you’ve already improved your text! However, make sure you don’t overdo it. It’s all about balance! Too many exclamation marks can make you seem aggressive or overly excited, and too many interrogation marks can you seem uncertain or insecure. Depending on the vibe you want to give your text (and what’s the context in which you’re writing it), that may or may not be wise. All punctuation has a purpose, so make sure you’re using it correctly!

PLAN IT OUT

If there’s one thing that I learned during my writing classes at university, it’s how important planning what you’re going to write is. Planning is actually worth more than 50% of the work! Writing is easy. It’s coming up with the ideas, organizing your next and making sure your transitions are smooth that is hard. So plan your text before you actually start writing it. No full sentences. Just keywords to help you understand what you mean.

I recommend starting by just writing out the ideas that you have. Anything that might be related to your topic, write it down. Don’t bother with transitions and being cohesive just yet. Focus on your main ideas, and decline those into secondary ideas. Make sure you have examples to illustrate what you’re saying. When you’re done, start organizing your paragraphs. Decide which idea goes first and so on. Also, you should know that there should be only one idea per paragraph. I’d suggest planning your introduction and conclusion as well, but keep them for last.

Then, start crafting a thread that will link your ideas together. Make sure the transitions between your paragraphs are smooth and logical. If you’re not sure whether your transition works or not, ask yourself “What links this idea and this idea?” (it can be a cause/effect relation, an addition, an exemplification, etc.). 

Some professors might give you a template to work with, but just know that there are many ways to create a writing plan. Just make sure you can understand it, and you’re good to go!

PRACTICE

Practice makes perfect, right? Well, it’s the same concept with your writing. Practicing is what is going to make you better! Writing often will allow you to develop your own voice and help you make you feel more confident in your writing.

Write anything. Blog posts, journal… the choice is yours! As long as you keep writing. I’d suggest making it a daily habit, but if you don’t have that much time, try to block out at least a few hours every week to write. Just dedicating 30 minutes 3 times a week can make a difference.

Practice is also the time for you to experiment a little bit. Challenge yourself and try to add some new words on to try to spice your texts up a little bit. Remember those strategies we talked about earlier? Try to apply them now! It’ll come to you more naturally with practice. The more you practice, the easier writing will become!

What to write about? Anything! You can create your own story, write about your day… just write! If you’re looking for more college-oriented practice, give yourself little prompts about class-related topics. Practice writing small essays (about 300-500 words is enough!) about things you have seen in class. Not only is it good writing practice, but it’s also a great way to study and make sure you understand the content! If you’re not too sure, you can always ask your professors to give you ideas. They’re happy to help!

LEAVE TIME FOR EDITING

One of the many mistakes students make with their assignments is not leaving enough time for editing. Think about it this way: would an author just hand in the first draft of their manuscript? No! There is a lot of time and effort that comes from proof-reading and editing what you wrote.

I already wrote a post about revision techniques, but let me give you one tip: proof-read on paper! You are more likely to see mistakes when you correct on paper rather than on a screen. I’ve learned this the hard way, and ever since one of my professors talked about it, I proof-read on paper and see a big difference!

I’d also recommend rereading more than one. Focus on something different every time you reread to make sure you leave no mistakes behind you! I’m talking structure, syntax, grammar, punctuation, spelling, vocabulary… and the list goes on! If you know you tend to make more mistakes in one of those categories, dedicate a reread only to that category. Also, while you’re proof-reading, use your dictionaries and other writing resources! If you doubt something, look it up. Better safe than sorry.

Do you have any other tips to improve someone’s writing?

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  • Molly O’Connor

    Such good and practical tips! I think reading more is the biggest one for me, it influences you and teaches you more than you’d think!!

    http://www.mollyonthemoveblog.com

    • People definitely underestimate the importance of reading! Reading is actually one of the reasons why I can write in English so easily (my mother tongue is French).

  • Great tips, Amelie! The art of good writing is surely a difficult skill to master. I think reading is one of the most important things one could do if they’re trying to be a writer. I’ve picked up so much vocabulary just because I love books! I’ll be using more of these tips for my college essays this year.
    Lots of Love,
    Lola

    • I totally agree! I’m a bookworm and that’s what helped me the most as a writer! It’s also one of the best ways to learn a new language. You are right, you can learn a lot of vocabulary simply from reading! Thank you for reading. 🙂

  • I’ve always been a bookworm since like the 1st grade, and I swear it really does help with learning how to write and with grammar and stuff like that. I was never taught most major grammar things in school, but when I was tested on them in things like the SAT/ACT it was always my best category. Shoutout to books for being the most entertaining teacher ever!

    • I agree! Reading can be so beneficial for your writing, I can’t believe it’s being overlooked!

  • Having someone edit my writing makes a world of difference! Also reading it out loud.

    Alix | http://www.apintsizedlife.com

    • Having someone else revise your work is such a great idea! It allows you to have a different perspective on things, and sometimes they can see mistakes that you hadn’t even seen! Reading it out loud also makes a big difference! You can pick up on things you hadn’t seen while just reading.

  • Totally agree with reading more. I have to admit that I didn’t do much reading for pleasure once I graduated, but now I read at least a chapter every night before I go to bed.

    • I can definitely relate to that! I’ve been really busy this year in between college and work and that didn’t leave much time for me to read for pleasure, but I’m definitely trying to fix that now. Although I’m not reading every single day, I still try to get my book out whenever I can!

  • I seriously love this post Amelie! I am a writing tutor at my school and often see students who don’t save any time for editing-it really comes back to bite them! Great job.

    • Thank you Shannon! I think students underestimate how important editing your work is.

  • Maurice Escher

    When I go to a barber, I always pay attention to his hair. When I see a screaming headlines concerning the art of writing, I analyze the author’s manner of writing. It’s rationally, isn’t it? And, I cannot, but admit your talent, Amelie!
    Being in love with figurative language, I believe that stylistics is powerful medium to turn plain text to the masterpiece. The prerequisite to the high quality is uniqueness, am I right? For this big reason, it’s always a good idea to check your work for originality (Unplag can help with it) or ask a friend for a critical evaluation. My opinion may sound subjective, but I do like creativity, complex sentences, inversion, and metaphors. And what do you think of it, Amelie?

    • Thank you so much, Maurice! And you are totally right, originality is a big part of someone’s work! Something can be well written, but totally lack originality. That can definitely have a negative impact on your work, even if it’s very well written!