How To Become A Better Writer

On June 3, 2011, in Writing Courses, by lesley

Be careful what you wish for.

Do you want to be a better writer, or do you want to be a faster writer?

Or perhaps, a more effective writer?

Whether you write for reward or to promote your own blog or business,  you are a writer. You could take a course, but you probably don’t have the time. Worse still, they’re not easy to find.

What was that? You don’t believe me? Yes, I know there are many writing courses on the web, but take a look. You’ll find courses on creative writing, courses on screen writing, courses on copywriting, but when it comes to plain old informational content writing, there’s really not a lot.

But let’s back up. Why should you want to be a better writer?

Good news. Good writing is generally spare writing, to quote Stunk and White, (The Elements of Style)

‘ A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.’

Once you’ve got the idea, your writing will be quicker and your message will be clearer. Why?  Because all the superfluous words are gone.

In other words, once you’ve got the hang of it and become a better writer, your articles will be shorter, sharper, more effective AND quicker to produce.

It’s easy to give really general advice, and once again, you’ll find advice on better writing all over the web, but it is rarely specific.

One of the most common suggestions is to spend time reading.

Good advice, but hardly specific. What should we read? I’d recommend starting with something short, a post from copyblogger on writing.  Can you learn how to write fact by reading fiction? Yes. Good writing is a lot about developing a feel for words. For example, many good writers use the rule of three, without ever having heard of it. You can get full details from another copyblogger post. If you don’t have the time to read it, just think about about ‘location, location location’ or ‘Eat, Pray, Love’. Take away just one element, or add one, and it just doesn’t have the same effect.

Let’s ignore generalities and try to be specific.

To write well, you need to change emphasis.  It’s not about you, the writer, it’s about the reader.

  • You need to grab their attention and hold on to it, and the best way to do that is to establish common ground.
  • Once you have the readers attention, don’t be boring. Use dynamic words and move the text along.
  • Get rid of extraneous words.
  • Make your meaning clear by relating cause and effect.
  • Move from the familiar to the unfamiliar. If there’s nothing unfamiliar in your writing, why write?
  • Create solutions and action plans, in other words, make sure your writing gives the reader something useful.
  • Forget what you want to say, and concentrate on what your reader wants/needs to know.

Here’s one of the best video’s I’ve been able to find on this subject. It seems to be talking about fiction at the start, but hang in there, the information is all about business writing, and it’s very good advice.

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4 Responses to “How To Become A Better Writer”

  1. Lesley,

    Some great tips. I love the idea that it is about the “reader” not you.

    Trying to be extremely clever in writing is something that should be avoided. If only a handful of people “get it” you are not doing you job.

    Writing is for the masses and should be enjoyable by and accessible to those same masses.
    Steve@Internet Lifestyle recently posted..The Right Way to Launch an Information ProductMy Profile

  2. lesley says:

    Thanks Steve, glad you enjoyed the post. You are absolutely right, if writing isn’t accessible, it can’t do its job.

    Thanks for your comment!

  3. Almost every one can write but not so many can write quality content. To be a better writer a lot is needed. I think one of the best ways to improve your writing is to read a lot of useful material and learn from experienced writers. You should also do a lot of research in a the particular area you want to write about.
    Brandon Patton@west richland wa homes recently posted..Effective Online Real Estate SearchMy Profile

    • lesley says:

      Brandon, I couldn’t agree more, reading is an important way to learn to write, but don’t rule out good old fashioned practice. Thanks for your comment.

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