Become a Better Writer / Editor

Here are some tips that can help you improve your writing, and develop a better eye for editing.

1.  Read more, and read quality work. This doesn’t mean you have to invest hours by diving into the Classics (though that would be great). Frequent readers become better writers, but be careful what you read. The Wall Street Journal is written well; some other news outlets (hard copy or online) are less credible.

2. Look up words you don’t know; see how choosing the right word increases the sentence’s texture. The ability to draw from a vast vocabulary engages readers and keeps their interest. Websites like Word-A-Day Wonder make learning new words fun!

3. Invest in some books that  are targeted at improving writing. Some examples include:  How Not to Write by William Safire; The Elements of Style by Strunk and White; The AP Stylebook, published annually by the Associated Press.

4. Follow some writing and editing blogs that help you understand the differences in word meanings. I recommend Daily Writing Tips for a start.

5. Learn your parts of speech if you don’t remember how to use them. Know the difference between and adjective and an adverb. Rent “Schoolhouse Rock” videos, or borrow them from your library. You’ll be singing along before you know it, and learning at the same time.

6. Write simply. Long, complicated sentences only spell trouble. Stick with sentence/verb/object construction until you’ve mastered it.

7. Avoid Passive Voice. What is Passive Voice you ask? Consider the following two sentences: “I threw the ball.”  “The ball was thrown by me.”  The first sentence is Active Voice, in which the subject, “I”, is taking action. The second sentence demonstrations Passive Voice, in which the object, the ball, is being acted upon. Simple rule: stick with Active Voice until you’re more comfortable with it.

8. Ask someone else to read your work. A fresh set of eyes can make a world of difference.

9. Don’t rely on spell-checkers. When you meant “public” but typed “pubic,” the spell-checker won’t pick it up.

10. Eliminate meaningless words. Words like “really” and “very” and others like this can be eliminated without really changing the meaning very much.

11. Make an outline. Outlines help you organize your thoughts and keep you from going off on tangents.

12. Take your time. Good writing doesn’t always happen quickly. Be sure to give yourself enough time to put the work aside and come back to it later. You’ll have more and better ideas the second (and third!) time around.


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