It’s a fair question and one I get asked more often than any other question when I’m running a business writing class–How can I become a better writer?
Here are the top five tips, based on my own experience (and 25 years of asking other people, too!)
- Read. Anything. Books, magazines, cereal boxes. Reading will give you a bigger vocabulary, help you find out what you like to read, and help you become choosy. Over time, you will discover you can tell good writing from bad writing and that will help you become a better writer.
- Write. Every day. Write short notes, long letters, emails, texts. Write about your day, what you liked, what you would do differently if you had your life to live over, what you would like to say to your friend whom you don’t see often enough. Write poems, fiction, to-do lists. Writing everyday makes you better at writing every day.
- Practice writing. It’s the same thing as #2, but phrased differently in case item 2 sounds harder. Practice writing is simply writing. It doesn’t have to be perfect, and you can write whatever you want. Don’t know what to write? Subscribe to a journaling prompt a day (Google some different choices to suit your personality) and write on an assigned topic. Sound to rigid? Open a book and point to a random word. Write about that word, what it makes you think of, what sounds like it. Or make something up about where the word came from. It’s all practice. No one ever did anything well without practice. Including you.
- Listen. What are people talking about? Is it clear? Do you understand them? Eavesdrop at the office, in public places. Listen to how well or badly people express themselves. Listen to political speeches, TED talks, podcasts. Listening to good writing helps you write better yourself.
- Don’t use the first draft. No one (and I mean that) gets it right on the first draft. There are mistakes in thinking, in writing, in helping the other person understand what you want. Everyone is in a hurry and first drafts are, too. Put it away while you do something else, then read it out loud and listen. Does it represent you? (Hint: No.) Re-write it from the reader’s point of view. Better already.