14 Simple Ways to Improve Your Writing Skills
Remember those days when the thought of writing essays for school exams made you sweat? Well, back then, you probably didn’t have a great grip on grammar, or you were too worried about connecting your thoughts with words. You probably kept thinking, “How can I improve my English writing skills?”. Well, the good news is that you have come a long way since then. While you might not be the next Tolstoy or Stephen King, if you are reading this, you want to improve your writing skills and you believe that you can. We believe that too! Irrespective of your job role or business, being able to write smartly and effectively is crucial these days, since content is a more powerful king than ever.
Before you start going through our 14 tips, remember that your writing should convey what you have in mind quickly, correctly and nicely. Also, an average reader is like a toddler with toys. They lose interest quickly, especially when online. Which is why, you need to hook them fast, keep them engaged, and convert them. After all, at the end of the day, you want them to buy your product or service, right?
So, let’s dive deep into these 14 incredibly simple tips if you are wondering how to improve writing skills.
1. Read (like here’s no tomorrow)
It can be a book, journal, magazine, newspaper article or a long social media post from someone who is creative or shares intellectual thoughts regularly. Observe how they start, how they organise their thoughts, how they frame sentences, and what kind of words they use. Read what others in your field are writing, what kind of topics are in vogue, which writers are getting the maximum response and why. These will show you how to write well. For instance, if you dabble in digital or content marketing, read Seth Godin books like This is Marketing or All Marketers are Liars. Listen to TED talks and podcasts as well. All ideas need not resonate with what you think. By reading or listening to something different, you might get ideas that you never thought was possible.
2. Research (take your time)
Just getting into writing without researching enough material or resources isn’t a wise move. You must first go through each and everything related to your topic and then move ahead with writing about it.
Say, you have started selling handcrafted bags, but you have a long way to go before you become an established brand. How do you write for your website? What kind of blogs should you create? Well, it might seem like a tough nut to crack, but not if you research right. There are plenty of high-end and popular brands selling bags that are fashionable, top quality and probably even handcrafted in some cases. However, if you just go by what they write, it won’t work for you.
You need to research what other start-ups who have started making a name for themselves are putting up on their sites or blogs to improve your writing skills in English. What are they highlighting and what kind of information are they sharing? Note their style, language, and even the kind of layout or design they are following. Gather inspiration and make your own path.
3. Understand your audience (what do they want?)
No matter how awesome your writing skill is or gets, unless it hits the sweet spot with your target audience, the content won’t work. So, first get a good understanding about your potential readers. Those who read home and gardening blogs will usually have different interests than those who want to know what’s the latest in the world of gaming. Your topic, style of writing, language and structure will depend on that. This is important not just for your website or blog content, but also if you are wondering how to improve email writing skills. That is because in an email, you need to get the job done in as few words as possible, since no one has the patience to read a letter!
Now, when it comes to understanding your target audience, make sure you figure out what they want from you, what are their pain points, why would they even read what’s on your website or blog. And once you know that, give what they want.
Highly technical language might make you acceptable or even a hit among tech-savvy or gadget-freak readers. But if a senior citizen wants to know about the basic safety rules to follow at home, they wouldn’t want to read something that takes too much effort or is hard to understand.
Also Read: Engage Your Audience With The Right Dose Of Storytelling
4. Jot down ideas (every time you get them)
Ideas and inspiration can strike you anytime. So, one of the best tips about writing is to carry around a stylish notepad or a phone with a note app where you can jot down all the ideas. You might be in the shower, waiting for your partner to join you for dinner, or just shuffling channels on the TV aimlessly. You never know when an idea might help you to frame a topic or get other related thoughts in place.
Remember that writing is something you might need to do regularly, which means, you will need different kinds of ideas every other day, to churn out engaging and informational blogs or write-ups. And whenever you think that one of the ideas will really work, start researching on it and reading what others have written on it already.
5. Write regularly (practice will make you perfect)
Make writing your daily habit if you are wondering how to improve your writing skills effectively. Try and follow a proper schedule to improve your content and writing style as well. Even if it’s a small paragraph, write something every day. You can elaborate one of the ideas that strike you or just put together whatever happened over the day or you can write about some random incident that affected you deeply. With practice, your writing will show clarity of thought and ease of expression. Try and make your writing more precise, direct and cohesive as the days go by. Play with words but keep it simple. If possible, show your writing to a friend, colleague or a family member who will go through it regularly and give honest feedback.
6. Have a structure in place (always)
To ensure easy readability, make sure you create a structure or outline of what you are going to write, before getting on with it. It should include a headline or title, a bit of the introduction, the important things that you are planning to talk about in the main body (these can become subheadings later), and the conclusion. This will give you a fair idea about how the content will flow. You can get your thoughts in place and figure out how to link the different parts of an article or blog. Here’s an awesome example from Neil Patel:
Another useful skill related to writing involves providing a table of contents in the beginning of the blog, to make it easy for readers to understand what you will be covering. Link the subheadings to the relevant parts of your write-up to make navigation easy as well.
Apart from breaking up the main body into digestible chunks with subheads, use bullets or numbering wherever possible. It makes it easy for readers to spot important information, retain the same, and share it with others.
7. Craft a smashing heading (and subheadings)
How to Quit Your Job, Move to Paradise and Get Paid to Change the World – now that’s a headline you will remember for a long time to come. And you will feel compelled to click on it too!
So, yes, a catchy headline is a must to grab the reader’s attention and one of the most effective writing skills. Including phrases like “How to”, “Guide”, “Why you should”, “Find out” etc. can do the trick. Also, try and use a number in the headline, so it seems like a listicle and something concrete. Here are some examples to help you:
- 10 ways to give your small kitchen a makeover
- How to get coffee stains out of carpets
- Find out why eggs are good for your hair
- 7 steps to create you own herb garden
But remember that a catchy headline is not enough. You need an engaging introduction that gets to the point fast and motivates readers to at least read through most of your blog. Make sure the introduction relates to the topic and focuses on the problem area you want to address through the blog.
For instance, say you are writing a guide on how to plant and grow marigolds. Going on and on about how beautiful they are, or their colour and petals will not get you any brownie points. You need to focus on why it’s important to know how to plant them, since the reader already knows how beautiful the flowers are. That is why they are reading your blog in the first place.
Also make sure your subheads are catchy, short, but clearly indicate the flow of the content.
Try and research about the kind of questions people usually ask around the topic you are writing on. Turn them into subheads or make them a little better and answer them through your content.
This will help your content to appear in Google snippets too.
8. Avoid filler sentences (jargons and complicated words too)
This is one of the basic writing skills that you should remember always. Never underestimate your reader’s power to detect fluff content. They can easily detect filler or repetitive sentences that add no real value to your content. Avoid writing empty words just to make your piece long. Instead, research more and better to come up with relevant information that you can share with readers to ease their pain points.
Also avoid too technical words or jargons that most people don’t understand. If you are using abbreviations, make sure you explain them when you use them the first time. Extra flowery or complicated language is a strict NO too, as it just hampers the reader’s experience.
As mentioned before, no one has the patience to crack open a dictionary or spend more time than necessary to deduce what you mean. So, use simple and crisp language and keep paragraphs and sentences short.
Also Read: Content Writing 101: How to Become a Successful Content Writer
9. Hone the art of storytelling (everyone loves a good story)
Wondering how strong writing skills benefit your career? Here is an example that will help you understand. Imagine you are subtly trying to sell a health insurance product through your blog. Now, everyone knows what a basic health insurance policy does, and they have probably read countless other blogs on it already. So, how do you hook them from the very beginning? By offering a story, preferably with a personal touch.
You can probably start talking about how a senior citizen’s health insurance policy saved you from financial hassle when your elderly mother got the flu and needed hospitalisation.
Or imagine you sell baked goodies. You are a home baker and just starting out. In that case, you might want to share a story of how you started on your website. Maybe you can talk about how your kids love sweet treats after dinner every day, and so, you came up with a way to whip up muffins and cookies that are tasty yet made with healthy ingredients.
Storytelling is one of the good writing skills you need to develop as it sets the tone for more practical information later in the blog. It helps readers to connect with you, empathise or feel good, and read on.
They start trusting your brand and keep coming back to buy from you.
10. Substantiate (with data and visuals)
These days, people try not to believe things at face value. They want proof. So, whether you sell cleaning products, baby clothes or insurance, include data from reliable sources whenever you are making a claim. For example, if you are writing nutritional content and claiming that eating a certain vegetable can reduce the risk of diabetes, provide a study or research from a widely acclaimed or government source that backs it up. This will lend credibility to your writing and earn the reader’s trust. Try to share numbers visually too, in the form of simple graphs or charts.
Coming to visuals, apart from the usual well-shot images, try and include short videos, especially if they can showcase your product’s usage easily. Infographics, memes and slides are other useful visual media that explain what you are trying to say better. Don’t go overboard though. Keep the layout clean so that the visuals don’t clutter your writing.
11. Proofread (because it is human to err)
One of the best ways to improve your writing skill is to proofread your content. Not just proofread, but also edit and update your content once before submitting it. This way, you can spot minor grammar mistakes, typos, formatting problems, alignment issues, font problems and more.
Remember that a simple punctuation error can completely change the meaning of a sentence. It is also easy to confuse tenses, verbs and capitalise the first letter of a common noun even if it’s not in the beginning of a sentence. The wrong use of hyphens can also twist the meaning of a phrase. Proofreading can help you fix these easily. You will also find plenty of online tools that make grammar checks easy and even suggest ways to restructure sentences.
Also Read: (Free Cheatsheet) 12 Grammar Tips for Content Writers who Pursue Perfection
12. Use active voice (to engage)
Using active sentences and addressing the reader as “you” is the trick to making your content engaging. Read the following two sentences and decide for yourself:
- The following documents need to be submitted by the applicant – Passive
- You need to submit the following documents – Active
Which seems simpler? The active one, right?
Also keep in mind that the more you use active sentences, the greater will be your pace of writing. It will keep the message and delivery both strong and effective.
Using active voice will make the content tone conversational and direct, which is exactly what a modern reader with very little patience wants.
13. Avoid plagiarism (be original)
The act of improving writing skills is incomplete if you ignore plagiarism. Plagiarism essentially means taking someone else’s work and passing it off as your own. And it is not just about copying large chunks of content from another blog or website, in case you were wondering. Even if you copy a sentence from somewhere, both readers and Google will penalise you.
To be more precise, any premium plagiarism tool flags your content if more than three words are copied from anywhere. So, always try to be original and avoid taking all your ideas from just one source.
Even if you like a sentence or phrase too much to change it, rephrase completely and give it your own touch. Better still, gather ideas from multiple sources, understand the gist of it, and craft your own narration. And try to use a plagiarism checker to be on the safe side.
14. Build your own style (be unique)
When you are new to writing, wondering “how can I write well”, or trying to get better, it is easy to imitate writers you admire. And while it may help you initially, sooner or later, you need to develop your own distinct style of writing. Even if you read something somewhere and then decide to write on something similar, brainstorm and decide how it will sound when coming from you.
Sometimes, it is not the content, but the style that draws readers to your site. When it comes to style, ensure that your introduction and conclusion are especially unique and powerful. You can use a story, data, interesting fact, case study or even a quote to lend that special touch to your writing.
By now, you surely realise that writing something meaningful, valuable and engaging, involves many different factors. So, to improve your writing skills, not only do you need to keep these 14 tips in mind, but also watch out for inspiration and evolving reader behaviour.
Read as much as you can, write regularly, jot down ideas whenever they pop up in your head, and get basics like proofreading and zero plagiarism right. Research intensively, practise storytelling, find ways to add value, and adopt a unique style and tone of writing. You can also take offline or online classes to improve your writing skills in a disciplined way.
About The Author
Monica heads content sales and management at Justwords and comes with 8 years of content marketing experience. She advises SMEs on social media strategy and 10X content. There is nothing that delights her more than good wine and artisanal cheese.