Recently, I’ve had a few people comment on my blog writing. And, mostly it’s been favourable. Generally, the comments suggest that I write in a comfortable, casual and friendly way. And, the ideal compliment, ‘It’s like you’re talking to me’.
This is usually followed up by the question, ‘How can I write better?’ Here’s seven things that I suggest as a reply.
1 Write, Write and Write Some More
The simplest way to become a better writer is to write more often. Over the past ten years I’ve written a couple of books, more than 50 Book Rapper issues and today is blog post number 778. That’s a lot of writing. And, I think the key is not writing in a closed diary, it’s publishing your words for the world to see. This will probably instantly raise your standards!
TIP: Take on a daily or weekly task to write and publish something. I highly recommend blogging. Just start writing and your voice will emerge.
2 Deliberate Practice
Previously, I wrote about deliberate practice. Essentially, this means you create writing exercises to focus on and improve your skills. If you follow the process strictly you don’t simply write blog posts or ebooks. That’s not practice, that’s performance.
Think of an athlete practicing for a game of tennis. The hit 100 serves and they focus on the snap of the wrist at the point of impact. Then they focus on forehand volleys punching the ball down the line. Contrast this to match practice.
With Book Rapper I practiced to writing short sharp sentences using everyday words. This took a while for it to become a natural way to write.
TIP: Devise a writing program based on practicing specific things. For example, write 100 headlines, 33 metaphors or rewrite previous examples with everyday language.
As Tess Nobile suggests, if you have no self-awareness about what you do then you can’t improve it. The same applies to feedback – without it we may not know what we are doing well. We need to hear what other people think. Then we can reflect on how to improve our work.
TIP: Ask for feedback! Find out what you are currently doing well and what could be improved.
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4 Write as you speak
I laugh when I look back at how I wrote 20 years ago. Mostly, these articles were dry, conceptual and probably boring. They were full of jargon, academic-speak and pitched at a highly educated audience. Fast-forward to today and I now write as I speak. And, I’ve cut the big words to broaden the appeal of my articles and blog posts.
TIP: Review something you’re written recently. Look for big words and the tone of your voice. Are you writing as if you were speaking to someone?
5 Tell Stories
I was lucky enough to have lunch with Seth Godin late last year. As one of 300 people in the room, it was a brilliant opportunity to see a world-class thinker present his ideas.
And, one of the things that stood out was his micro-stories. They were short, sharp and simple stories that described everyday encounters in a couple of sentences. Just like I just shared!
TIP: To make your writing better tell some stories. They can be long, short or very short. Practice this skill to engage your audience.
Perhaps the single most important thing I’ve done to improve my writing has been to make my work easier to read. One part of this is to write as you speak. And, another is to simplify everything. For me, this is the art of writing: to say something in a simple and compelling way. This includes using shorter and sharper sentences, plus using everyday language.
TIP: Check the readability score of your writing here. The previous paragraph scored a 71 out of 100, which means it could be easily read by a 13-15 year old.
The close cousin of writing is reading. And, one of the best ways to improve your writing is to directly learn from how other people do it. And, I don’t mean just scanning a blog article. Take the time to really chew it over. Look at the structure, the turn of phrase and put the actual words under the microscope. Analyse what works and what doesn’t. Then apply these lessons to your words.
TIP: Find an article, blog post or book that is written in a style that you like. Then practice writing like that. Find another style and practice that. This will improve your fluency and flexibility.
COMMENT: What other tips would you add to make your writing better?