To some of us, writing comes easy, while to others, it’s a stressful endeavor that you just want to end. Like any craft, however, writing is what you make of it.
For those of us who enjoy it, writing is an outlet for creative expression. It’s our chance to find a voice that would otherwise fall on deaf ears, or get lost in the millions of little things we do each day.
Here are three easy ways to improve your writing.
1. Don’t Be Afraid To Re-Read, Then Re-Read Again
Often when I am writing, I will re-read an entire section just to write a single sentence. If this sounds tedious, that’s because it is. But it also happens to be incredibly effective in ensuring consistent flow in your work. I’ll ask myself this:
“How does this new sentence sound with the last three I just wrote? Does it flow?”
By constantly re-reading your work, both silently and out loud, you can get a feel for how the end product is going to sound and read. Each sentence you write helps tell your story or convey your point. And while one shaky sentence won’t entirely derail your piece, enough of them will.
On the flip side, a piece that flows should read like a snowball rolling down a hill; with each sentence, it gains speed and size, ready to deliver a much stronger impact at the bottom of the hill. In short, sentences that cause your readers to stumble are clunky and interrupt all of the momentum you’ve built up so far.
By reading and re-reading, we experience our writing as our readers would and can ultimately craft a stronger, more convincing body of work.
2. Engage In Conversation With Yourself
When checking your work for mistakes and flow, it is easy to just read in your head and study every word. It’s what we were all taught in school, right?
“Don’t forget to read over your work before submitting it.”
Sure, checking your work for mistakes regularly is important. But if you aren’t also reading out loud, then you are missing some crucial details. When writing, make it a habit to routinely read your work out loud to yourself, and pretend you are talking to somebody else.
Whether you are telling them a story or explaining your topic of choice, this will help ensure your piece is easy to understand and flows well. You don’t need to over-complicate your writing; as a rule of thumb, if it sounds too wordy or complicated when read out loud, then it probably is.
Pretend you’re having a conversation with somebody and simplify it. This quote by Albert Einstein really drives home what I mean here:
“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”
3. Surround Yourself With Stories (Both Written And Verbal)
A large part of writing lies in your ability to properly convey the story or message you want to tell. Whether you are writing a book, a poem, or even a scholarly essay, storytelling is always an integral piece of the puzzle. You have to determine who your audience is and how to best tell your story to get through to them.
By now you’ve probably heard that to improve in something, you have to surround yourself with it. While that is entirely true, that is not 100% what I am suggesting here.
You need to surround yourself not just with the written word, but the real-life people and stories that inspire them. There is a reason that storytelling has existed far longer than writing has.
Human experience, passion, and creativity have inspired every story ever told.
Surround yourself with real people . Listen to their stories and tell your own. By engaging in regular conversation, you can learn what sounds natural and what doesn’t, and apply it to your writing. Ideally, you want your work to flow as easily and as naturally as a heart-to-heart with a good friend.
Managing your work for your readers’ internal voice isn’t something you can learn through reading and writing alone. Stories like this make your readers comfortable and are easier to connect with. Mastering this skill will help set your writing apart from the masses, especially in academic writing.
At the end of the day writing and storytelling is an art form that has evolved over thousands of years — you’re not going to master it in a day.
Be patient with yourself and your progress, and work on letting go of what you’ve been told writing needs to be. What is writing to you? Who do you want to reach and what do you want to convey? Decide what story you want to tell, then take it one sentence at a time.
The classics weren’t written overnight.
It’s important to note, however, that some disciplines like law have strict rules that you need to follow, and may require you to write in a very specific way. When in doubt, always follow the style guide of your discipline, and remember that these tips are only meant to help you think constructively about your writing.