You never stop learning how to improve your writing. The art of writing is a craft, and the more you write, the better it gets each day.
Every writer wants to learn more and hone their writing skills. But there are so many facets to creative writing that it can be a little overwhelming.
If you are writing a novel or an article, you don’t want to agonize over grammar, syntax, or lexis. You want your words to flow as naturally as possible in the writing process.
However, there are simple ways to keep improving. If you can keep the following ten points in mind as you write, they will help you turn average writing into excellent writing.
10 Quick ways to improve your writing
These are not strict rules that you need to obey with every word you write.
But they can help you with clarity, consistency, elements of style, and accuracy. You want to get your story or message across to your readers.
But most of all, you want your readers to enjoy or gain value from reading the words you’ve written.
What you have to say is essential. But how you say it is where you can improve your writing.
By keeping the following ten points in mind as you write, your writing will continue to improve.
1. Find your writing voice
Your writer’s voice is unique. It’s you.
Your voice in writing is similar to how you speak. Being you is about your beliefs, emotions, and personality.
It’s about syntax, which is your word choice, the way you put words together, or how you structure phrases.
But you change the way you speak in different situations. So you can change your writer’s voice too.
You use a different speaking voice when you talk to a friend in a bar than in a job interview with a prospective employer.
Your speech patterns are different when talking to a young child than how you speak to a doctor.
Your voice is unique, but you have situational variations.
Finding your writing voice and perfecting it takes time. But the easy way to get there is to remember that it’s personal.
It’s about being you and only you.
2. Use active voice, almost always
It is the easiest good writing habit to apply when learning how to write well.
Passive forms are generally weak, and it’s easy to change almost any phrase into an active form.
For example, the house was surrounded by police is passive. The police surrounded the house is active.
Anytime you see the verb to be in any form followed by a past participle, fix it.
Once you get into the habit of using the active voice, your writing will become much clearer and more descriptive.
3. Keep your register consistent
Register in English defines the level of formality we use in speaking and writing.
Once you recognize the differences, you need to avoid mixing them.
If you start writing using informal structures and then suddenly change to formal, it can confuse a reader.
Here’s a simple example.
You start writing a piece using contracted forms such as, I think it’s raining, so I won’t go out today.
Then you write, I am very sorry I will not be able to go out today, due to the inclement weather. You now have mixed formality.
Register is an important element you can use to modify your writer’s voice. But be mindful of how and when you use it.
You can read more about register in writing.
4. Watch out for homonyms
Every writer can make a mistake with words that sound the same.
It always pays to do a quick check, even if you think you know some of the commonly confused homonyms.
Here are a few examples of words that are easy to get wrong.
Pore over and pour over.
Advise and advice.
Capital and capitol.
Principal and principle.
Ensure and insure.
Getting words like these wrong is embarrassing for a writer.
Always take a minute or two to check and make sure you are using the correct word.
5. Go easy on adverbs
But adverbs exist in grammar to help modify other words. There is no golden rule that says you can’t use adverbs.
But using them too often weakens your writing, message, and story.
If you are writing a novel or a short story, pay attention to adverbs with dialogue verbs. It’s better to keep them to a minimum.
The easy way to do this is to have your radar set for any words that end in LY. Watch out for words like angrily, happily, modestly, or aggressively.
Always check to see if you can replace them with better and more descriptive vocabulary.
You can always do a quick check with the Hemingway app if you’re unsure how to identify adverbs.
6. Check the comma
If you are pedantic about punctuation when you are writing, it will slow you down.
You can always take the time to check for punctuation mistakes or improvements when you finish writing your piece and start editing and proofreading.
One of the great writers, Oscar Wilde, famously said, “I spent all morning putting in a comma and all afternoon taking it out.”
Yes, commas can be tricky. But it can help if you develop a basic understanding of commas.
There are a lot of comma rules. But the best one to learn is when joining independent or dependent clauses.
It’s easy once you get the hang of it.
A good example is a comma with but. You use a comma to join two independent clauses. But there is no comma if you join an independent and dependent clause.
But be careful when using commas with because in a subordinate clause.
7. Research and check your facts
Trusting your memory with facts is a trap for a new writer or author.
It is especially true for day, date, and year historical references in a novel or nonfiction work.
If you are referencing historical events in a book or even a blog post, always double-check your facts.
Another tip is to watch out for typos with dates. It’s easy to mistype 1719 instead of 1619 or 1993 instead of 1939.
8. Understand tone in your writing
Tone in writing is how you say something.
The best way to explain tone is to think about how you use emoticons in messages. You add one to say that you are happy, pleased, angry, or surprised.
In writing, you can’t use these icons. You need to show and express emotions in your words.
You can do it easily by choosing the appropriate vocabulary to express any emotion.
Here’s an example of expressing sarcasm.
Oh, fantastic. You bought me a pair of socks again for my birthday. You’re all heart.
Tone is one of the most powerful tools a writer has in the toolbox.
If you are writing a novel, you can use different tones to develop your characters’ personalities.
9. Reduce your writing tics
Every writer uses tic words or phrases without thinking.
I know for me, it’s the words just, so, and very. I use them far too frequently and spend my time chasing and deleting them after any first draft.
But I get rid of most of them as I’m writing.
Another tic can be using the grammatical expletive too often.
If you write a lot, knowing your tic words and phrases can be a big time saver.
It also makes you think as you write because you need to find better vocabulary or structure alternatives.
10. Know your readers
For me, this is one of the biggest writing tips for any writer.
If you can imagine the people you think will read your writing, you can write for them.
It depends on what you are writing. If it’s a novel, what age group or demographic might be interested.
A paranormal vampire romance would likely attract younger readers, and perhaps mostly, young women.
A World War 1 novel about early fighter pilots and biplanes would generally be ideal for an older male reader.
It’s the same logic for a blog. If your main theme and subjects are beauty and makeup, you are unlikely to gain too many male readers.
When you know your readers, you can adjust your voice and tone and your subjects and topics to suit.
The best way to improve your writing is to imagine who will read it.
You don’t need to be a slave to the writing points I have noted in this article.
But they can help you with improving your writing skills if you keep them in mind.
Writing every day is good advice too because you will develop good habits faster.
Try to develop new and positive writing habits that, after a while, you don’t need to think about. They will come naturally to you as you write.
You might have noticed that I didn’t mention a lot about grammar, spelling, and punctuation correction.
These are technical issues, and with all the grammar checkers and online tools available now, it’s easy to do a check and find mistakes.
Sure, checking can help. But it doesn’t improve the quality, emotion, tone, voice, and communicative value of your writing.
These are the areas where only you as a writer can improve your writing.