Trying to improve your writing skills? Start here.
If you’re looking for ways to write better content, here are seven actionable steps you can take:
1. Read more often to learn from other writers
How does reading improve your writing skills?
A good way to become a better writer is to simply read more often. By reading regularly, you’ll expose yourself to different styles of writing and learn new ways to form sentences and structure your thoughts. There are so many writing styles out there, and without reading others’, it’s hard to gain perspective on what’s possible (and effective).
If you want to get the most out of what you’re reading, it’s important to read slowly and digest all the information. Rushing through a book will likely mean that you miss out on important details and nuances including the various elements of style in inherent in different works.
Read slow, gain fast (& write better!)
By reading at a slower pace, you’ll have time to reflect on what you’ve read and form your own opinions about it. This will help you better understand the author’s point of view and allow you to analyze the text more critically.
Additionally, more experience as a reader will help you understand what readers of your own writing will be looking for. Therefore giving yourself an advantage when working on your writing skills.
In today’s day and age, doing anything slowly is hard to stick with. But a writer looking to improve their writing skills would be well served reading less, but noticing more. In fact, we’d venture to say reading just one great book a month, but analyzing closely, is better than reading one book a week but analyzing little.
Observe which ways to write work best
How do authors successfully use passive voice? Active voice? What sentence structure works well depending on audience and message? By reading to learn, a writer looking to improve writing skills gains from others’ experiences and can apply when building their own writing style.
2. Write regularly
Another great way to improve your writing skills is to make a habit of writing regularly. This could mean setting aside some time each day to write.
What kind of writing counts?
This could include writing in a journal privately. Or writing publicly on a blog, social media, etc. Or it could mean taking on a larger project like writing an eBook. Either way, the more you take time to write, the better you’ll become at it.
In order to be a successful writer, you need to be disciplined in setting time each day to write. This means carving out a specific amount of time each day – no excuses – and sitting down at your desk to put words on the page. Just start writing!
How can I stay on track with my writing?
Some people find it helpful to set a timer and write for a certain number of minutes or hours, regardless of what they produce during that time. Others prefer to have an outline or list of topics they want to cover before getting started. The most important thing is just to start writing and not let yourself get sidetracked by other things.
As with the first suggestion of reading, you should avoid falling subject to going through the motions. It’s always a good idea to take some time to reflect on your progress as a writer.
Reflect on your writing styles over time
Comparing your writing from a while ago to the work you’re doing today can give you a good sense of how far you’ve come – and how much further you have to go. Effective writing skills come not just through practice, but assessment and adjustment.
Looking at your old work, do you see any areas where you’ve improved? Are there particular topics or genres that you feel more comfortable writing about now? What techniques or strategies have helped you produce better results?
It’s also important to be honest with yourself about the areas where you still need work. Identifying your weaknesses is the first step towards overcoming them. With enough practice and dedication, anyone can become a great writer.
Remember a good writer didn’t start that way
The writers you see excelling online today have troves of content very few ever saw. They didn’t become overnight successes. They wrote and wrote until they became better, found their voice, and others ultimately found them.
3. Get feedback from others and assess your writing skills
It can be helpful to get feedback from other people on your writing. This can give you some perspective on how others perceive your work and what areas you may need to work on. Becoming a better writer entails hearing where you need to improve. Try sharing your writing with a friend or family member and asking for their honest feedback.
Be clear on what you’re asking
When seeking feedback from someone else, it’s important to be clear about what you’re looking for. Are you looking for general feedback on your overall writing style? Or are you more interested in specific comments on a particular piece of writing?
It’s also helpful to provide some context or background information about the piece you’re asking feedback on. This will give the reader a better understanding of what you were trying to accomplish with the writing and make it easier for them to provide constructive comments.
When asking family or close friends for feedback on your writing, it’s important to make them feel comfortable that you won’t be upset by any criticism of your work. After all, the goal is to get honest and constructive feedback in order to improve your writing skills.
So be upfront with the person you’re asking for feedback and let them know that you’re open to hearing whatever they have to say. You can even offer that they are reviewing a “first draft” which may put them more at ease being honest. And if they do offer some constructive criticism, be sure to thank them for their input.
Avoid defensiveness, or explaining what you meant, when they are critiquing your work. Ensure your actions align with your request they be honest, or they may not be willing to help again. And more importantly, being defensive raises the risk you aren’t listening to the critiques and won’t learn what you can improve on. Defeating the whole purpose! Effective writing means ensuring your audience understands your work. If the person you asked to help gives feedback indicating they don’t understand – that’s for you to work on, not them.
Bottom line, separate your emotions from the exercise and listen openly to the feedback. And be grateful to those providing it!
Finally, be sure to thank the person who takes the time to read and critique your work. Their feedback is valuable and can help you improve as a writer.
4. Practice different types of writing and discover your writing style
Try to write differently
Another way to become a better writer is to practice different types of writing. If you typically write short blog posts, try writing something longer, like an article or an eBook.
Or if you’re used to writing formally, try experimenting with a more creative style. If you have historically written creative pieces, try business writing. The more types of writing you experience, the better equipped you’ll be to handle any type of writing assignment.
Why should I try different ways to write?
A writer who is skilled at different styles of writing can be stronger overall and adapt better to the need at hand. If a writer is only used to writing in one style, they may not be as versatile when it comes to adapting to different needs.
For example, if a writer typically only writes formal essays, they may not be able to write a creative story on demand. On the other hand, if a writer is skilled in multiple styles of writing, they will be better equipped to handle any writing assignment that comes their way.
In order to become a more versatile writer, it’s important to practice different types of writing. Expanding your repertoire will help you develop skills in different areas and make you a more well-rounded writer with a writing style that can flex and outperform peers.
What are some other ways to discover different writing styles?
Pay attention to what great writers in different genres focus on. Study good writing in those fields and make note. By drawing from an example in another genre and pulling it into yours, you can stand out that much more. For example, a technical writer who can draw on creative writing to make a point to a varied audience will outperform a purely technical writer.
An even more direct answer is someone accustomed to business writing. It’s common for business writing to be dry(er?). A writer in this genre who can use copywriting skills, for instance, can hook a reader more effectively than would otherwise be the case. Hooking readers is a critical first step to getting your point across. This combination therefore produces a more valuable product than business writing alone.
So try experimenting with different styles and genres – you may be surprised by what you’re capable of.
5. Study great writers and compare to your writing style
Take some time to study great writers and try to pick from their writing style to incorporate into your own. The more you read writing styles of the greats, the better you’ll be able to write.
Seems simple, right? It is, but just as we discussed when outlining suggestion #1, focusing on the greats requires time and focus. That’s why we separated #5 from #1.
Didn’t you already cover writing better by reading more?
Reading anything will help, including current pieces from trending authors. But great writers have stuck around in our psyche for a reason. Their writing skills are timeless. And timeless writing skills serve as a solid foundation for anyone looking to improve their writing style.
Just as with any other skill, practice makes perfect. And by reading a variety of different types of great writing, you’ll expose yourself to concepts that will come in handy throughout your writing career. This will also help you develop your own unique writing style and make you a more well-rounded writer.
Where should I look for great writers?
So if you’re looking to improve your writing skills, start by reading classic authors. Read books, articles, essays, and even some of the more “timeless” blogs. The more you read, the better you’ll become at writing. And the better you can have the perspective to develop an authentic writing style that is all your own.
So make it a priority in your life and see how much of a difference it makes in your writing ability.
6. Use outlines to organize your thoughts and improve writing skills
An outline is a great way to start a piece of writing. It helps you organize your thoughts and ideas.
How do outlines help me write better?
Great writing doesn’t just happen spontaneously. It takes time, effort, and a lot of organization. If your thoughts are scattered and all over the place, it will be difficult to produce anything that resembles great writing.
At the least, any time saved up front avoiding an outline will be more than made up on the back-end with trouble drafting content, massive editing work, etc. But if you take the time to organize your thoughts, you’ll find that the process of writing becomes much easier.
When your thoughts are organized, you have a clear idea of what you want to say. You know where you’re going and what points you want to make. This makes the process of writing much smoother and helps ensure that your final product is high quality. Organized thoughts and your own unique writing style are a combination your readers will love (and come back for more).
How detailed should I make my outline?
An outline can be as simple or detailed as you want it to be. It’s a great tool for keeping track of your thoughts and progress. When used correctly, an outline can help make your writing better.
Another benefit of starting with an outline is a mental one. Staring at a blank page is rough. Getting anything on paper helps alleviate that initial stressor.
An outline can start with a simple set of bullet points, using simple words. Those bullet points can grow into sentences. Those sentences can lead to paragraphs. Which can lead to full-fledged sections of a longer piece of content. And finally when you connect those all together, you’ve improved your writing in manageable steps.
So if you want to be a better writer, start by organizing your thoughts. It may seem like an extra step, but it’s well worth it in the end.
If you’re looking for tools that include outline features, some AI copywriting tools are great for this. We cover them here.
7. Spend more time editing and make your writing shine
Good writing is more than just putting words on paper. It’s a process that involves a lot of time and effort. And the most important part of that process is editing. Editing is what takes an initial draft and turns it into something cleaner and more polished for the reader.
If you want your writing to be read, it’s essential that you take the time to edit it properly. That means reviewing your work carefully, checking for grammar mistakes, spelling errors, and typos.
It also means making sure your sentences are clear and concise, and that your paragraph structure makes sense. Simple words are often better than complex ones (hat tip Ernest Hemingway). Unnecessary words subtract from your message, so carefully prune them wherever you can. A great resource for this includes hemingwayapp.com.
Editing is often overlooked but it’s one of the most important steps in the writing process. So make sure you give your writing the attention it deserves by spending more time editing than writing. You’ll be glad you did!
Where to start this process of improving writing skills
In short: wherever you want. There is no specific order to follow here. It just takes time and repetition. The more time and experience you gain, the better you will start to write. And the more unique and special your writing style will become. All great writers spend time honing their craft.
How much time should I spend on this?
Also in short: however much you want and can! But again, there are no shortcuts to become a better writer.
Do I need to become great in all of these areas to write better?
It helps, but no, probably not all. For instance, editing can be covered by a third party (we discuss outsourcing writing responsibilities here). Either family, friends (if they’re willing), or if you have the budget, a professional editor can help here.
We have covered a lot in this article, but to sum it all up, to write better content:
- Read & study great writing
- Practice, practice, practice and build your writing skills
- Use outlines when creating content for external audiences
- Ask for feedback on what you write
- Edit what you write heavily before publishing (yourself or via skilled editors)
- Repeat the process to learn, grow, and improve your writing skills
And above all have fun when you write (and read!).