5 Ultimate Fool-Proof Ways to Improve Your Writing*Posted: May 2, 2012
*in my humble opinion.
Hello! I’m going to kick WCBH Version 2.0 off with a list! I just love lists, me. This post isn’t really aimed at those established novelists or academics out there, but more at people who might want to improve their everyday writing. If I do happen to help any professional writers though, that would be awesome! These are really simple things which have helped me enormously, and still do every time I think about writing (which is more than you might have thought given how few and far between my blog posts have been). I’m sorry if I lapse into bossiness below, I can’t help it. It’s for your own good anyway.
1. Read more, read everything!
I accept this to be an extremely obvious point but it has to be said. Reading is one of the best ways to help
your writing; it will help spelling, vocabulary, style, tone, grammar, the list goes on. However, my advice to everyone is don’t limit yourself to one genre; just reading OK! magazine or the Twilight Saga (sorry Meyer) isn’t going to help you that much. Similarly, sticking to the classics probably won’t help if you’re the kind of person who likes laid-back informal writing. Mix it up! Read a bit of everything: modern fiction, classics, sci fi, fantasy, romance, crime, magazines, newspapers, online articles, blogs, etc. Yes, you’re going to have favourites, but branching out and finding new stuff is exciting and enlightening. You’ll develop a good feel for style and flow in your writing and you’ll probably expand your general knowledge in the process as well.
2. Learn a foreign language
Now I know this one is hard; I tried suggesting this to a friend once and the idea was instantly poo-pooed. I understand that it’s not easy to just decide to learn a foreign language overnight, you’d have to think about finding classes or forking out for Rosetta Stone software, but TRUST ME ON THIS ONE, it’ll be worth it.
Native English speakers don’t have to think about speaking English, you just do it. You’ve learnt it by talking it first and it comes naturally to form sentences. However, when writing it, people get mixed up with homophones and make other basic grammatical errors that don’t exist or matter in speech. The best way to correct this is to see English from a different perspective, and learning another language will do this. You have to get to grips with different verb conjugations, pronouns, sentence structure, etc. and your mind will relate it all back to English. For example someone who speaks English as their second language wouldn’t mix up your and you’re, because they will be translating two different things; they’ll know they mean either the possessive pronoun or “you are”.
OK, I know I can’t convince everyone with this one and I’m not even explaining myself very well, but I really think just learning the basics of another language will be an eye-opener; you’ll learn things about English you never expected. You could just learn a few key verbs (to be, to go, to eat etc.) and some really basic vocabulary. Plus, pick the language you’re going to find most useful on future holidays and you can stop shouting slowly at waiters and embarrassing yourself. Just think about it.
3. Read your writing aloud, then get someone else to check it for you
A fairly straight forward tip. Reading your work aloud will help you identify problems in flow and sentence structure. It will also help you pick up on punctuation placement and repetition of certain words. If you’re like me and you would rather not start talking to your computer you can do it all in your head by imagining you are giving a speech. Well, in either case you’ll end up feeling crazy but it will help your writing.
Having someone else read your writing is invaluable as they will always pick up on things you don’t see. Your eyes will skate over obvious mistakes and typos. I find it hard to keep rereading my own writing anyway, it makes me cringe, so I hastily get someone else to check it for me when I’m finished.
4. Write more!
The more you write, the better you’ll get at it. Fact. It doesn’t really matter what you write, just do a bit more of it. This is something I am aiming to do at the moment. At the top of my list is to blog more often. Number 2 on the list is to write an international best-seller aimed at the teen market which will rival the success of Suzanne Collins, Stephanie Meyer and JK Rowling. It’s all about setting yourself small, realistically achievable goals.
5. CARE MORE!
Today I feel a bit like Captain Obvious but never mind! There is absolutely no way you will be better at writing if you don’t really care about it. It’s simple: if you’re not that bothered, you won’t see any improvements.
This is the hardest thing for me to try to convince people, and I’m just not sure how to get through to people. Think you can do it all perfectly already? That’s fine. Think it’s not important to write correctly? That’s also fine. But don’t complain when people think you’re stupid because your writing is littered with grammatical errors and spelling mistakes. In my opinion you should always want to do better, and to strive to be the best you can be. As it happens, that is my life motto as well.
So there’s another list for you! I’m sure there are lots of other really important writing tips out there, if you could let me know some of them that would be great! :-)