Whether you’re a professional writer, operating a blog as a side gig, or solely putting pen to paper (or finger to key) for creative reasons, striving to become a better writer is always a better idea. But what does it mean to be a better writer? Here, we’re going to look at some of the skills that you should try to sharpen to improve your overall output.
You should never overestimate the power of being able to pick from three or four words instead of picking the first and only that comes to mind in any given situation. Improving your vocabulary doesn’t just teach you about archaic or obscure words that you would never use, it can help you learn the contexts in which particular words are better suited. It also allows you to vary up your writing where you might find yourself using repetitive phrases and words. A synonym isn’t always the solution, but it can offer some depth and variety.
There are good tools out there that will help you automatically correct your grammar mistakes. However, it’s important not only to catch those mistakes but to understand the rules that are in place, to begin with. With grammar guides out there, you will learn much more about sentence construction, including subjects and objects, proper use of pronouns, and correct use of punctuation (including the dreaded semi-colon.) This will do more than reduce the number of mistakes you’re likely to make. You can become much more confident about sentence composition from the get-go, meaning that you can try your hand at a greater variety of structures and layouts.
One of the biggest issues amongst new writers. Even if you know your words and how to use them correctly, it’s easy to not pay much attention to how readable sentences are. As such, with some of the readability tools available on the net, you can learn a lot about your tendencies to use ambiguous phrasing, confusing sentence structure, not to mention the dreaded run-on sentence. Another easy way to spot this problem is to go back and read over your writing but read it aloud. The more awkward bits of your prose make themselves more clear when you say them aloud.
You don’t need to join a creative writing group or class to learn this skill, but one of the biggest benefits they have is offering environments that allow you to really dissect writing. It can be hard to apply your critical mind and find all the mistakes in your own writing. However, when you get into dissecting other’s writing, instead, it comes a lot more naturally since you haven’t been working as closely with it. This, in turn, exercises the mental muscles that allow you to critique your own writing better.
Lastly, take the time to read. It’s a lot easier to learn by example and you will find yourself absorbing many skills and rhetorical flourishes simply by being more exposed to them. Writers must read, that has always been true.