I’m reviving my EMJWriter.com blog to coincide with the launch of my new marketing/writing newsletter! You can sign up for the newsletter here, and get a copy of my free guide, “The Marketing Manager’s Guide to Microsites.”
For my first re-launch post, I thought I’d share some trade secrets, and provide 10 Ideas That Can Improve Your Writing.
1. Read—a lot.
Read the kind of writing you want to emulate. Read the kind of writing you enjoy. Occasionally, read some bad writing to remind yourself what not to do (and because sometimes it’s fun, like a cheesy movie). But the important thing is to read.
2. Write every day.
Admittedly, this is difficult to do if you want to improve your writing, but don’t actually enjoy it. Fortunately, I didn’t say to write a lot every day. Set a small goal: try for 100 words a day. It might be an email to a friend, a Facebook post, a comment on a blog, or a product review. The point is to do some kind of writing every day.
3. Go back to the basics.
Grab that style guide you’ve kept since college, pick one out from the library, or visit one of the many, many online grammar guides. You don’t have to absorb and follow all the rules at once; pick one “lesson” every week and look for ways to implement it. (And fortunately, plenty of grammar rules can be broken.)
4. Practice describing something.
I include this tip because descriptive language is one of my weaker areas of writing. But this can help anyone who wants to improve their writing. Study a piece of art, or even an everyday object, and write a description of it. Give yourself a minimum word count; try to be as detailed as possible.
5. Join a writing group.
A writing workshop can provide accountability, keeping you practicing, and an opportunity to get some advice and constructive criticism. Do an online search for writing clubs and workshops in your community. Local libraries and popular or regional writing blogs are good resources for finding groups. Feel free to narrow your search by industry, location, or type of writing.
6. Study acting.
No, you don’t have to go to a community theater audition. Instead, watch interviews or read essays about how actors prepare for a role. This can help you learn to see the world from other points of view, and can help you write with your audience in mind.
7. Imitate the writing you like.
There’s a reason why student artists often copy the works of master painters. Imitating the methods of better painters teaches the students to be better painters themselves. Likewise, imitating the writing you aspire to will help you adopt the right techniques. Just don’t pass it off as your own work—plagiarism is way uncool, kids.
8. Cut out the extras.
Remember that description exercise in #4? Take that word count, cut it in half, and then re-write your description. You’ll have to consider other ways to phrase things, and which words are unnecessary. (Tip: remove adverbs whenever possible.)
9. Limit your thesaurus use.
Or at least recognize its true purpose. A thesaurus groups together words with similar meanings—not identical meanings. Thesaurus words are not totally interchangeable. Think about the meaning you’re trying to convey, and which words can help. A thesaurus is not a crutch (or a cane, buttress, or staff) for dull writing.
10. Set a timer and schedule.
As an alternative to writing a specific number of words each day or week, set a timer and force yourself to write for a certain length of time: 10, 15, or 30 minutes. (Staring at the wall, wondering what to write, doesn’t count.) Set aside time in your schedule for writing every day or week.
You don’t have to try all 10 of these at once–or at all. Pick just one, and commit to working on it for a week or a month. In no time, you see improvements and a new awareness to your writing.
Do you write regularly, for work or fun? What techniques or resources have helped you? I’d love to hear about them!