Like it or not we are constantly judged by our writing skills. Whether we are writing a term paper for a class or research report for our boss, the quality of our work will be determined in part by the quality of our writing. This may not be fair, but there is something we can do about it.
Writing is important because it’s a communication tool. Imagine you had a great song on your MP3 player that you wanted to share with your friends, but every time you played it there was mainly static. Your friends couldn’t appreciate it because the music was blurred. Writing is the same. You may have great ideas and worked very hard, but if your ideas aren’t conveyed properly then all will be lost. In this article I will discuss some easy ways one can improve their writing skills and gain an advantage they will use all their life.
Not everyone can win a Pulitzer Prize, but all of us can improve our writing skills. Here are a few basic tips to keep in mind:
- Good writers typically read a lot – If I wanted to be a strong basketball player I would try to watch the best players and mimic their skills. It’s the same with writing. Becoming a great writer means reading a lot of different sources like books, magazines and newspapers. You should read whatever interests you, but just do it regularly and make note of how authors deliver their message. Most poor writers don’t like reading and you typically won’t find many books in their homes.
- Build your vocabulary – You’d be surprised how a limited vocabulary will limit your writing ability. The words we use are an extension of our thoughts. Without the right words we may not be able to express our feelings or ideas adequately. I’m not saying you need to swallow a dictionary, but knowing more words gives you more options and tools for expressing yourself. Since I was a kid whenever I would find a word that I didn’t know I would write it down and look it up. These days you can do this online at places like YourDictionary.com. I would also suggest signing up to a daily dictionary word email service like the one from Dictionary.com.
- Write with a purpose – Many people think writing is about dumping everything you’ve studied onto a piece of paper. They don’t understand that people will not sift through your paper to find the meaning or brilliance of your work. Before you start writing decide what your main message is and how you’re going to deliver it. Remember that writing is just a form of communication. Imagine that the reader of your work is pressed for time and has other things to do and read (which is likely true).
- Review, revise & reorganize – It’s absolutely critical to review your work when you’re done because it may need to go through numerous drafts before it’s perfect. Look at your work objectively and search for obvious errors in spelling and logic. Afterwards make sure the message is getting across, the sentences are ordered properly, it’s the right length and the proper vocabulary has been used. Don’t be afraid to chop up your work, cut things out, add things and move sentences around.
Writing is a skill like any other, with practice you will get better. The type of writing you do in school and business is mainly for other people and hence you need to get external opinions. Ask your boss or instructor for feedback. You should also ask friends, family and colleagues for advice as well. Don’t take criticisms personally, just try to interpret them as opportunities to get better and eventually you will.