Unlike some other academic skills, the ability to write well is something that follows you from elementary school all throughout your life, particularly if you work in an office environment – so it’s no wonder there’s such an emphasis on it in school! From creative short stories and descriptive paragraphs in elementary school to lengthier prose and argumentative essays in high school, and then implementing those skills to write research and term papers in college, students spend a great deal of their formative years learning the proper grammar rules and various writing types.
Whether you’re still in school now, or want to refresh your skills as an adult, it’s never too late to improve your writing. Here are some key strategies to implement into your regular routine:
1. Read (a lot)!
This might be surprising, but the first step toward developing writing skills is not to write, but to read! Reading the works of respected authors will open your eyes and your mind to examples of good writing. Do you already know the type of writing that appeals to you? Find out who the leading writers are in that genre and read through their works. Whether it’s fantasy, academic, humor, poetry, science fiction, satire, or general prose, reading a lot will help you recognize what sounds good on paper and, in turn, will help you follow a similar model in your own writing. And it goes without saying that reading good writers will expose you to correct grammar and spelling, as well as a larger vocabulary.
2. Get familiar with various writing styles.
Speaking of different writing styles, get to know the idiosyncrasies that exist between each. How does academic writing differ from fiction? What makes a good creative writing sample? What are the different types of poetry and how do they differ from prose? Becoming familiar with the different styles will lead to you become a more nuanced and sophisticated writer as you hone your own voice.
3. Write and/or journal everyday.
The old adage stands true: practice makes perfect. It applies to virtually any activity or endeavor in life. When you want to get better at something, there’s just no substitute for doing it, and doing it consistently. The same goes for writing! Write every day. Keep a folder on your desktop with your daily writing or keep a physical journal if you prefer writing by hand. You may not feel like you are developing writing skills from day to day, since progress can be very gradual, but trust us, you’re getting better with each day, week, and month of practice! One of the most rewarding experiences as a student of writing is to look back on your writing samples from months or years before and recognize just how much progress you’ve made over time.
4. Read your writing out loud to yourself.
This tip is another one that might not seem intuitive, but it is important. Writing that is good on paper should also sound good to the reader’s ear, as though they were a listening audience. When you read your writing out loud, you may notice if it’s choppy, incomplete, or repetitive – things you may not always notice when you’re busy typing or writing away.
Be sure to do this regularly, not just at the end of your assignment or document. Getting in the habit of pausing to read every few sentences or paragraphs helps to keep your momentum flowing and your writing fresh.
5. Work with a writing tutor.
Finally, it can be extremely helpful to share your work with others, especially those who can give you useful feedback and individual attention. A writing coach or tutor is key to developing writing skills, as he or she will have professional experience and can offer constructive criticism. This final step is especially valuable if you are planning on submitting a piece to a writing competition or publication.
Some are born with natural writing talent and others need extra practice. The thing to remember, though, is that anybody can become a good writer! Let these key strategies guide you in school and beyond, and you’ll notice a difference in your writing skills sooner than you think.
Photo by jeffrey james pacres