I was told once that to be a better writer, all I had to do was keep writing.
That's sound advice, right? To get better at anything – like riding a bike or throwing a football through a tire in your backyard – you need practice. Writing isn't any different.
Well, sort of.
There's more to being a writer than simply writing lots of stuff. In fact, I am constantly looking for ways to be infinitely better at what I do. Over the years I have experimented with the type of content I produce, my writing style, different mentors for advice, and unique ways to capture a reader's attention. I also study the English language like a hawk, and the result has been a drastic improvement in my writing.
My thirst to be a better writer than I was even a day ago is unquenchable. Like a kid who already knows how to ride a bike, I want to learn how to pop a wheelie.
Here are 10 writing tips and techniques that have worked for me over the years:
1. Be concise – Keep your writing simple and get to the point quickly. If you can eliminate words without changing the meaning or tone of a sentence, then do it.
2. Use a conversational style – There are times to be formal, but you should write the same way you speak. It's easier for the reader to understand, it will likely be read by more people, and you build rapport and credibility as a writer.
3. Don't limit your writing – I love sports writing, but I'm not afraid to branch out and tackle different topics (news, human interest, etc.). It's that ability to write about almost anything, and to engage almost any audience, that makes me a more complete writer.
4. Use the human element – I won an award last year for a piece on new concussion technology. The judge pointed to my choice to use a high school football player as the hook for the story. In doing so, I gave what could have been a dry and technical story on a common topic the human element it needed to be more impactful for readers.
5. Ask for feedback – Always bounce your content off someone else before going to print. Not only can that person catch potential typos, but they can ensure you are on the right track and that what you've written is understandable.
6. Write down every idea – Some of the best ideas I've had did not spring into my mind while I sat in front of my computer. Keep a notepad handy, text them to yourself, use the recorder on your phone if you have to. It all makes for a better story for down the road.
7. Be better at interviews – I wrote a blog last week on tips for writers who want to be better at interviews. If you ask the right questions, and you listen, you can dig deeper to find elements to a story that readers truly care about.
8. Read your writing out loud – Reading your article out loud will help you get into the mindset of your readers. If you find yourself stumbling over longer sentences, shorten them. If the article sounds robotic, rewrite it. Then read aloud again.
9. Avoid Generalities – Avoid using hasty, unsupported generalizations. I have always been big on adding facts and figures, or anything that will add perspective, to my writing.
10. Read, Read, Read – One of the best tips I can give any aspiring writer or journalist is to read as much as possible. Read novels, read poetry, read the work of other great writers and journalists. There is always someone out there worth learning from.
There are plenty more tips where these came from, and perhaps you are thinking of a few right now that I've left out. But if you start with these 10 tips, your writing will improve.
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*STEVE GAMEL is the Owner/President of Edit This, a writing and editing services company located in Denton, TX. Along with being a sports writer for the Denton Record-Chronicle, Steve handles anything involving the written word. Give him a call today to help give your business a clear voice.