You Don’t Need to be a Journalist to Write Well – Tips to Improve Your Writing
In today’s world, we’re writing constantly. Texts, social media, emails – they all involve writing, and you don’t have to be a professional journalist in order to do it well. At A.wordsmith, writing takes up a large portion of our day. Whether we’re authoring a blog, white paper or press release, it’s important that we follow best practices. Below we’ve shared some tried-and-true tips to improve your writing, no matter what content you’re creating.
Check your grammar
Re-learn common/overlooked problems.
Certain grammatical rules are difficult to remember and trip up the most seasoned writers. The best way to avoid making these mistakes is to constantly remind yourself of the common problems. Below are some of the frequent mistakes that cause writers to stumble. Take a look, but don’t stop there – everyone has personal blind spots in their writing.
Affect/Effect – To “affect” is to influence, an “effect” is a result of something.
Ex: Drinking beer will negatively affect your writing.
Ex: The effect of drinking beer is a questionable choice in words.
Its/It’s – “Its” is belonging to someone, “it’s” means it is/has.
Ex: The cat wanted its owner to snuggle.
Ex: It’s great to snuggle with your cat.
Than/Then – “Than” shows comparison, “then” indicates sequence.
Ex: Portland is better than Seattle.
Ex: Portland is her favorite city, then it’s Seattle.
Whose/Who’s – “Whose” means to belong to someone, “who’s” means who is/has.
Ex: Lisa bought lunch from the farmer, whose gluten-free selection was expansive.
Ex: Lisa, who’s gluten free, could only buy food from select places.
Compound sentences – A comma should separate two or more independent clauses with a conjunction in between.
Ex: The girl moved to Portland, and she started working for a PR firm.
Ex: The dog’s name was Mikey, and he howled too much.
Introductory elements – A comma should separate words and phrases that are introduced before the main clause.
Ex: Just in case I’m late, the meeting is in room 304.
Ex: In her spare time, Addy enjoys wakeboarding on the river.
Implement a free grammar tool.
When writing on your computer, it’s easy to forget a comma, use an incorrect word or forget to include an apostrophe. Luckily, there are free tools that catch these problems for you (thank goodness for spell check!) We recommend Grammarly, an AI-powered writing assistant.
Proofread, then do it again
You won’t catch every mistake by proofreading your writing only once; you should read through at least twice to ensure that you find everything. Another helpful trick is to read your writing aloud – oftentimes you’ll find phrasing that doesn’t sound quite right. The more you read something, the more mistakes you’ll catch.
It’s also useful to find an editing buddy – someone who will critique your work honestly and kindly. At A.wordsmith, it’s common for us to share our work for review. An extra set of eyes never hurts, and it helps both parties improve their skills.
Read more books
Reading exposes your brain to new words, new subjects and new ideas. Don’t just read fiction, try an autobiography, historical nonfiction or a book of poems. The more reading you do, the more you’ll pick up on grammar, powerful descriptions, plots, conclusions and more. Plus, it’s fun! In a recent A.wordsmith blog, our team listed some of our favorite books – take a look for some inspiration.
Lastly, enjoy yourself! Writing doesn’t always have to feel like a job (even if it is). View writing as an opportunity to get the creative juices flowing, challenge yourself and tell a story. No matter how long you’ve been writing, there’s always something new to improve.
“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.”
— Louis L’Amour