4 easy tips to become a better writer
As much as I get frustrated with some of the things I edit, my current job is teaching me a LOT about where people fall short in being able to communicate well in writing.
Up until recently, most of the editing I’ve done has been for a relatively small group of people. In any given job, I’d be editing stuff written by the same handful of people all of the time. Now, I’ll probably edit things written by 70+ different people each month, and from month to month, I only get a few repeats. As a result, I’ve started noticing patterns.
Some of these patterns are things I’ve come across with individuals I’ve tutored over the years. Seeing them as more widespread phenomena confirms my suspicions about them being barriers to good writing.
Long story short, this brings me to a few easy tips for making your writing better, based on some of the most common problems I’ve seen.
- It’s usually best to write like you speak. If it would sound weird if you said it out loud, then you probably need to reformulate. I cannot tell you how many people have reports that read like they speak English as a second language, but when I email them or talk to them on the phone, everything is fine.
- That said, it’s best to avoid using colloquialisms and metaphorical language unless you’re writing fiction or communicating casually (like email or social media). Keep your intended audience in mind, and say exactly what you mean.
- While it’s good to vary your word choice, doing it too much is just as awkward as doing it too little. You don’t want to sound like a robot, but you don’t want to sound like a thesaurus, either.
- Keep it simple. Don’t use words that sound “fancy” or “more formal” when a simpler or more common word will do. Remember that just because two words have the same dictionary definition doesn’t mean that they always have the same meaning, especially in context. (Regardless of what some posts on the internet will tell you, “said” is NOT dead, especially when you’re writing in professional settings.)
Obviously, this list isn’t exhaustive. Learning to write is easy, but it’s also a lifelong process. There’s always something you can do better. But these are easy things that anyone can do to become a better writer almost immediately.