Almost everyone can write, but it is rare to find someone who can write well. It doesn’t always come easy, but there are steps that you can take to help yourself along the way. Here are a few practical tricks that anyone can use to move their writing up to the next level.
Create structure. If you start writing without knowing how it will eventually all fit together, it will often show in your finished product. With the possible exception of poetry and other free-flowing creative writing, starting with a simple outline will help shape your finished product while letting you focus on what you are really trying to communicate.
Expand on your structure. Start with one-line headings – for an essay, that might be the title and one theme for each paragraph. Then expand your ideas using dot points under those themes. Finally, write the full paragraphs using those dot points, deleting them as you expand each one. Your writing will have better flow and focus on the heart of the message.
Use your tools. Most writing software has some great tools that can help with more than just presentation. Use your thesaurus to avoid repeating the same words - although be careful not to select words if you are not completely sure of the meaning. Spell check and grammar check are obvious choices, but pay close attention – there’s nothing like a human brain for deciding which option is best.
Write before anything else. When you sit down at your computer there are usually hundreds of distractions competing for your attention. Make sure your writing comes first – it doesn’t take much browsing the web until your time has gone. Setting up a space that is free of other distractions will minimize the need for you to leave your task.
Leave and come back. Once you feel the satisfaction of finishing a piece, there is a strong temptation to save it and not look back. Reading over your writing after a break will give you a much better idea of how the piece flows, as well as allowing you to change aspects like word choices and sentence structures.
Trust your gut. Read through your writing, and learn to trust your instincts. If you feel that a sentence is a bit clunky or not sending the right message, there is almost always a way to improve it. Study a writer whose work you admire, and see how they are achieving the effects that appeal to you.
Practice, practice, practice. Every writer has pieces they look back on and cringe. Don’t let that stop you! If you wait until you are perfect, you will never improve. Keep writing, and give yourself permission to learn as you go.
The most important part of writing is simply to write! If you value the process of creating a piece of writing instead of trying to rush through it, you will end up with a piece that has better flow and more impact. The only way to improve is to keep trying. What will your next writing project be?