Writing

10 Tips to Instantly Improve Your Writing

Many can write, but very few can write well. In a world where written communication skills are increasingly paramount to one’s success, investing the time and effort in honing this craft is imperative.

While there is no substitute to practice for becoming an expert writer, you can take a few steps to bring a marked improvement in your writing.

 

1. Don’t Be a Bore With Your Long Sentences

“If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter” – Blaise Pascal

When you write more, people understand less. Take pity on the poor reader; those 4-6-line word soup would be terribly hard for one to digest, especially if they are unfamiliar with the topic you have written on.

As much as possible, make it a rule to keep your sentences limited to 25 words or less. Readers are more likely to enjoy your writing if they find it easier to retain what you are saying in your sentences.

Of course, even the best of writers can’t help but write long sentences sometimes. It is best to be mindful of the density and keep their count below 5% of the total. The Hemingway App is a useful tool in this regard.

2. Properly Capitalize Your Titles

Capitalization grants a title more impact. Certainly, “I am a monster” just doesn’t read as good as “I Am a Monster”. Title case, as this typographic convention is called, is useful for putting emphasis on words.

Worth bearing in mind, it is not essential to capitalize all your words in the title as not all words need emphasis. The general rules of using title cases are as follows:

  • Capitalize the first word
  • Capitalize verbs and important words, including the second part of the hyphenated ones.
  • Lowercase articles (e.g., the, an, a) and conjunctions (e.g., as, and, or) unless they form part of a name (e.g., The New York Times)
  • Lowercase prepositions made up of four letters or less (e.g., of, by, to)
  • Of course, different styles exist. Some might differ slightly from what is presented above. In AP 55th edition, for instance, ‘to’ is written with the first letter capital.
  • Fortunately, you don’t need to learn the myriad of rules differences; make use of this online tool instead.

3. Give Your Writing a Structure

Unless you a sadist bent on acquiring the maximum gratification from giving your readers immense pain, please structure your writing. What this means is that the flow of your content is easy to follow, consistent, and progresses in a logical and orderly manner.

Writing without structure is just mindless rambling, with the reader struggling hard to make sense of what the writer even intended to say. Always create a rough outline of the topic you are coving before you start writing on it. Not only will it allow much clarity in what you are trying to convey, but it also makes the process of writing down the topic itself much easier and straightforward.

4. Avoid ‘Said’ Like a Plague

She said, he said, I said, they said, etc. – please do your writing a big favor and avoid repeating this verb over and over again. Not only does it borify your written dialogues but also robs them of some of their expression.

There are thousands of better alternatives to the word said. Make full use of the immense potential that the ever-expanding English vocabulary has on offer. She expressed, he cried, I exclaimed, they shouted, and so on. Understand the context of your dialogue and employ the appropriate word likewise.

5. Mind the White Space

Do any of you read the terms and conditions of a service or product before clicking ‘I agree’? I can say with certainty that the great majority of you don’t – and neither do I. The question is, why? Why is it so uninteresting that we, by instinct, instantly skip on its reading?

Well, it’s not that the words used are hard – in fact, a lot of such text documents nowadays feature relatively simple words. Rather, the reason is that it is simply an unappetizing read. And it is so because, rather than you getting to enjoy it piece by piece, you get the entirety of its content shoved down your throat, figuratively speaking.

What I mean here is that a one, big wall of unending text is just hard for the brain to follow. Anything with which your brain will have to make effort on without their being immediate gains is something that it will make you detest.

Mind the white space and divide your long paragraphs into smaller chunks – ones that the reader can easily follow. Ideally, it is best to keep your paragraphs no longer than 4 to 5 lines.

6. Keep It Simple

The finest language is mostly made up of simple, unimposing words. – George Eliot

The frequent use of difficult, uncommon words and long, complex sentences isn’t the mark of a skilled writer; it is a mark of an idiot poser. The primary purpose of writing is communication. If your readers find it difficult to understand what you have written, yours is definitely not good writing.

There is benefit in clarity, charm in simplicity. You can mean much and say much without forcing the poor reader to look up the dictionary ever so often while they read your work. When using a word, ask yourself: is there a simpler alternative out there? When developing a sentence, ask: what I do to make it much more succinct?

7. Use the Right Word

As any seasoned diplomat will tell you, even similar words can carry very different interpretations. Words carry more than a base meaning; they carry an association.

A word spoken or read can immediately conjure in a person’s mind all things that they associate with it. And, thus, the emotions they feel can greatly influence the way they perceive what you have written.

For instance, let us mention the word socialism. Indeed, in today’s politically charged climate, few words are as contentious.

For some of the readers, it conjures up images of prison labor camps, economic stagnation, and dictatorships. Because they associate the word with negative things, their emotional response would also be negative.

In contrast, for others, the very same word could conjure up images of more equal societies, certain social and technological advancements, and the decolonization movement. Because they associate the word with positive things, their emotional response would also be positive.

Thus, you have to be very careful in what words you use when writing for your audience. Lest they end up taking the wrong meaning behind your sentence instead of what you intended it to be.

8. Thing? What Thing?

Like said, thing is another word I have chastised many writers in my role as editor. It shows laziness and states to the reader that you, dear writer, were unable to think – or didn’t know – the right word for your sentence.

Now don’t get me wrong here. I am not saying that you completely eliminate the use of ‘thing’ in your writing. As a matter of fact, in certain situations, it definitely may be the absolute right word to use. Rather, I am simply urging here that you don’t abuse its usage.

For your benefit, here is a list I have compiled of some good alternatives to “thing”

9. Kill the Adverb

“The road to hell is paved with adverbs” – Stephen King

If one word can do the job, why use two? It is not highly approved; it is endorsed. It is not really dangerous; it is lethal. It is not highly necessary; it is a must. It is not very hot; it is scorching. It is not super quiet; it is hushed.

Overuse of adverbs can make your writing messy, cluttered, and lazy. Where ever you can, kill the adverb. Instead, make use of a forceful verb. Ideally, you should have in your writing no more than one adverb per 300 words.

It is not a hard and fast rule, though. Good writing isn’t rigid, and indeed, there will be instances where a good alternative to an adverb may be impossible to find. If you truly feel that an adverb might be best suited in a sentence, then go ahead with it.

10. Avoid Unnecessary Word Repetition

Good writing isn’t just based on the ability to effectively convey information but also influence emotion. If your text cannot make the reader feel anything, it is not engaging. Part of ensuring greater engagement and avoid risking monotony is through avoiding unnecessary word repetition.

Rather, consider the relevant synonym. Though take heed that the meaning and context aren’t distorted; thunder is not the same as lightning.

11. Make Use of a Writing Aid

On the internet today, God forbid if you make a typo. Considered the ultimate sin in the eyes of your average netizen, its presence can instantly invalidate an otherwise quality writeup. It is recommended, therefore, always to proofread your work before publishing.

Yet, being humans, it is not always that we can’t spot all the mistakes in our drafts. Thankfully, digital writing aids exist.

The one I personally use is Grammarly. It is a free service that automatically checks your writing for potential mistakes: grammar, spelling, punctuation, and more. But what is most remarkable about it is its compatibility with many other platforms, including Microsoft Word, Google Docs, WordPress, and LinkedIn.

The A.I assisted software also understands context quite well, so it won’t mark names and uncommon terms as incorrections.

You can download it here. A word of caution, though. As with any online tool, Grammarly has its limitations. On occasions, it will land with a false positive – your writing will have no issues, but it will incorrectly assume that it does.  Thus, it shouldn’t be seen as a complete replacement for good proofreading.

 

 

 

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