As the saying goes, there is always room for improvement. All writers can benefit from working on improving the quality of their work. Use these five tips to become a better writer and it will pay dividends in your studies and career:
Become an avid reader
It goes without saying that writers should also be readers, but sometimes time constraints stop us reading as much as we should or would like.
However, reading is vital when it comes to improving your writing. The key is to read as widely as possible – not just subjects that are in your field of interest but as many topics as you can. Everything you read will give you ideas, motivation, enjoyment and awareness of others’ writing skills. So read fiction and non-fiction, crime, romance and biographies.
Study good examples of writing
This is stating the obvious, but it’s important to study the language you read. Whether it’s a novel or article, if you find a piece of writing that you think is excellent, study its construction and re-read it as many times as you need to in order to understand why it works so well.
Think about why the writing has caught your attention. Is there something in the text that the writer does that you don’t currently use in your work? Can you use something similar into your style of writing (but remember that your own writing style is yours and yours alone and not something to copy from other writers)?
This can also be done with examples of “bad” writing. Study what makes the text poor and think about what improvements could be made. It is all good practice for your own work.
Increase your vocabulary
Reading is excellent for improving your vocabulary and adding words to your repertoire. The English language has an abundance of words – knowing how and when to use them is crucial to the quality of your writing.
Get a good dictionary, either in book form or download an internet dictionary and thesaurus, and make it your aim to learn a few new words each day or week. Check the meanings and spellings of words – don’t assume you simply know – it’s surprising how many words are misspelled and misused!
It’s also good to check the synonyms of different words – this can add to the richness of your descriptions as well as avoid clichés!
Read your work aloud
Reading your writing out loud allows you to check its rhythm and flow. If your work sounds odd to your ears or feels clumsy, it’s a sure sign that you need to revise and rewrite your text. Listen out for word repetitions and superfluous adjectives that make your work sound like long-winded waffle. In writing, less is usually more.
Also make sure you check the length of your sentences. Overly long sentences will stand out clearly when you read them aloud because you’ll need to take a breath mid-sentence!
Proofread and edit
As hard as it can sometimes be, you need to look at your work dispassionately and scrutinise the spelling, grammar, flow and effectiveness of what you have written. Proofreading and editing your text is vital.
Once you have completed your writing, it is best to put it away for a few hours or days and then return to it with fresh eyes.
Carefully read your work again and check the spelling, grammar, remove any unnecessary adjectives and check for repetitions. Are all your verbs in the right tense? Are the facts correct and is the text consistent? These are important considerations when you critically check your work.
Proofreading and editing polishes your text and helps to make it the best it can be and is something you should do after each piece of writing.
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