But not everyone can write well.
There is a world of difference between poor-to-average writing and great writing. Unfortunately, most content on the Internet today are poorly written. If your content isn’t getting as much engagement as you hoped, either the topic is boring or the writing falls flat. Perhaps both.
Fortunately, you can easily learn how to become a better writer. Once you put in the work over time, your content will get more hits and boost reader engagement.
Three Keys To Learning How To Become a Better Writer
The journey to becoming a great writer is not easy, but it can definitely be done using the tips in this article. But before we get into the specific tips, there are three important keys to becoming a better writer:
- Read a lot!
- Write a lot!
- Edit a lot!
Reading all kinds of content, literature, and books — both fiction and nonfiction — helps stretch your mind, learn what great writing looks like, and gives you ideas and inspiration for your own writing. The more you read, the more you learn about a variety of topics and are better able to narrow down your interests to a few areas.
The best way to thrive as a writer is to write about a topic you have the most knowledge about. Read a ton and become an expert on that topic. It helps enormously if you have passion for that field. If a topic does not interest you, writing about it will become a chore, your readers will sense this, and your piece will fall flat. If you’re excited about a topic, your words will flow naturally and your passion will seep through, drawing your readers in.
The only way to get good at writing is to write a lot. Have other people read it and comment on it. Check your ego and receive feedback and constructive criticism graciously. Edit your pieces over and over again until you cannot edit them anymore.
Structured Approach To Writing
Good writing flows like water gently ambling down a curvy stream. Readers easily slide down a slippery slope when they read good writing. They should not have to stop to wonder what your piece is about, nor should they scroll up and down to figure out what you’re saying.
The secret to good writing is that it requires a structured approach with these steps:
- Brainstorm topics and ideas
- Narrow down to a single message
- Create an outline
- Write it all out
- Edit, edit, edit
Instead of jumping right into writing, have a brainstorming session first.
Get your ideas out on paper, no matter how ridiculous they seem. Do not worry about sounding coherent at this stage. The most important thing is to not lose great ideas when they pop into your head. You can always eliminate or edit them later.
Narrowing Down Your Message
Once you finish your brainstorming session, decide on a single message for your piece.
There should only be one underlying message per piece, otherwise your writing will get convoluted. Eliminate irrelevant ideas. Gather relevant ideas. Trim them down to a single and coherent message.
Creating An Outline
An outline keeps you accountable as a writer.
To keep yourself from jumping around from one idea to another, write out an outline to give your piece a logical structure that flows easily from start to finish.
You will keep your writing organized, catch your own writing mistakes, and add clarity to your piece. This will make it easier for others to read all the way through — as if they’re sliding down a slippery slope.
Writing Your Piece
This is where you flesh out the meat of your piece.
Let your writing flow, but don’t force it. If you get the dreaded writer’s block, try fleshing out a different part of your outline, or just take a break and come back to it later.
You will make spelling and grammatical mistakes as you write, but don’t fix them while you’re just getting your thoughts out on paper. Try not to get too hung up on the perfect draft. Just get it down on paper. You can always start refining from there.
Specific tips on writing will be discussed in the next section.
Edit Until There Is Nothing Left To Edit
You’ve done all the right steps so far. You’ve brainstormed some ideas and narrowed it down to one topic. You wrote an outline and fleshed it out into a nice piece that flows well.
Here is where most writers make a crucial mistake — they publish it right then and there. They don’t edit.
Publishing without editing is like finding a diamond in the rough and taking it straight to the display at the jewelry store. The stone needs to be cleaned, cut and polished first.
Editing works exactly the same way — it is how your piece with average writing turns into a polished superstar. Take several editing passes on your piece. Clarity is the most important goal here. Cut out anything confusing or tangential. Add anything necessary to support your points. Rearrange paragraphs if it improves logical flow.
Five Actionable Writing Tips
As you are writing your piece using your outline, use these tips to bring your writing to the next level and grab the attention of your readers.
1. Write For Clarity and Flow
Both clarity and flow are vital to great writing. Without one or the other — or both — readers will not make it through your piece.
For best clarity, focus on writing what you want to say in a clear manner. Forget about style, fancy words, or being witty. Take note how you actually think about the topic in your mind, and write some variations of your thought process. Feel free to bounce your ideas off others and ask them if the way your writing conveys your ideas clearly.
The second thing to focus on is the flow of your piece. You want your readers to fall down a slippery slope when reading your writing. When people read, they follow a natural and logical thought process. The more you align your writing with that expected thought process, the better your writing flows. Make sure your piece is structured in a way that it flows logically, and naturally, from one thought to the next.
2. Don’t Reach for Fancy Words
A common mistake by aspiring writers is using flowery language to make themselves sound more knowledgeable about the topic. The problem is such bigger and fancier words are not used naturally in face-to-face conversation.
Good writers write like they talk.
For example, why use a fancy word like “infinitesimal” when you could use a simple word like “tiny”?
Some writers overvalue big words like these, but that only makes their writing more awkward and less clear. Many people, even if they know what each big word means, would have to slow their thought process down to absorb what they are reading. Using simpler words helps readers flow easily through your writing without getting interrupted by fancy words.
3. Use Smart Punctuation and Shorter Paragraphs
Good punctuation and well-placed paragraph breaks helps your piece flow better. Punctuation makes a sentence easier to read, and paragraph breaks makes the overall piece flow smoothly.
Sentences that get too long, or run-on sentences, are hard to follow. Periods, commas and other punctuation marks help break up the sentence into easily digestible pieces for the reader.
When a paragraph gets too long, it is best to break it up into two or three different paragraphs. No one likes reading a wall of text. Break up long paragraphs to keep the attention of your readers.
Download the AP Style Guide Cheatsheet PDF and use it to make your writing clean and easy to read.
4. Tailor Your Message To Your Audience
Good writing isn’t just a well organized group of words on a piece of paper or on a screen. The key to great writing is knowing your audience.
Before you write about a topic, figure out who your audience is and what message you want to give them. This is best done during the brainstorming part, and fine-tuning your message is done just afterward.
Once you get to know the demographics, age range, education, and typical preferences of your audience, distill your audience into one single imaginary person. Write as if you are talking to that person face-to-face over a coffee.
Be careful about assuming too much about your audience. Don’t assume they know as much about the topic as you do. Conversely, don’t waste time writing about things they do know (e.g. don’t write about basic first aid to paramedics).
5. Show Why Your Audience Should Care
Just as you don’t assume your audience knows as much about the topic as you do, you also shouldn’t assume they know why they should pay attention to you.
It’s not enough to simply show a bullet list of reasons your readers should care. Your writing has to be engaging and your presentation needs to be interesting. There are many ways to do this and it all depends on your audience. One thing is for certain, however. You cannot get away with either boring your audience to death or paralyzing them with information overload.