Writing is difficult; there’s no doubt about that. We all want to express ourselves cleverly with words that come easily, but that seldom happens. Maybe it’s writer’s block. Maybe you just feel like you don’t know which words will help you say the right thing.
Yet for some people, writing is effortless. Perhaps these individuals write poetry every day, or are even professional copywriters.
However, a lot of us still have to write on a frequent basis even if we’re not ‘writers,’ since writing isn’t confined to its own private world. Sometimes, we have speeches we need to create. Or, a report to be sent to a client.
If you’re someone that hates writing because you get stuck with it or because it takes a long time, this guide is for you.
Writing at its root is all about communication. When you train yourself to write well, you’re simultaneously teaching yourself to approach problems with an action plan in mind, to order your thoughts in a logical sequence, and to express yourself clearly.
We’ll begin by going through some writing tips. After that, we’ll go into the writing process step by step. So whether you’re writing a performance report, a blog post, or a presentation, you can use this guide to help you write captivating content that your readers will enjoy.
Tips to improve your writing
While there is no one-size-fits-all for every writing situation, there are a couple of best practices you can keep in mind that will serve you well regardless of what it is you’re writing. Follow these tips to improve your writing’s readability.
1. Keep it simple
If you can tell it in 10 words, why would you tell it in 15? Use short sentences. They’re better. To begin with, go through your writing, and remove any unnecessary words that don’t add anything. Ideally, you want to keep your sentences to no more than about 20 words each. Likewise, unless you’re writing for people that are experienced with your topic, avoid complicated jargon that people might not understand.
2. Be consistent
Take a look at these 2 sets of points that could appear in a blog article. Which has a better flow, and seems altogether more congruent?
- Do create a list.
- Have a plan in place
- Make sure that you stay organized
- Create a list
- Have a plan in place
- Stay organized
Whatever conventions you use in your writing, make sure you follow them. If you’re not going to use full-stops at the end of bullet points, make sure that’s the case for every bullet point. Furthermore, if you’re going to start your bullet points with verbs, make sure they all start with verbs. Above all, keeping your writing consistent helps your readers understand your content better.
3. Use proper English
There is nothing worse than reading something full of grammar and spelling errors. In fact, they can be very costly. They make the writer seem incompetent, and make the readers leave in search of a more credible source of information. To be a good writer, you must have a good understanding of proper English. Use correct syntax (sentence construction), punctuation and perhaps even software like Grammarly to check your writing for errors.
4. Be original
If you’re doing research for your writing, it can be tempting to copy what that other people have written. After all, they expressed it so perfectly! Similarly, you might even consider reusing what you’ve already said before, either earlier in the same piece of writing, or from an external document.
The problem is, this comes across as lazy! Even worse, plagiarism can get you in serious trouble. So, rather make use of other sources of writing for inspiration only. Your writing should reflect you and your thoughts, not someone else’s.
To be extra safe, consider using a plagiarism checker.
5. Keep your writing punchy and fresh
Don’t repeat the same words close to each other. Try online dictionaries or a thesaurus to prevent your sentences from being boring and repetitious:
“The performance of the Hiring Manager was detailed in the February Performance Report. It was found that he performed adequately.”
“The Hiring Manager’s work was detailed in the February Performance Report. It was adequate.”
Your writing needs variety to maintain your reader’s interest. This could also include breaking up walls of text by using bullet points, tables or lists.
6. Use conjunctions
Conjunctions are a really important group of words. They help your readers understand how sentences and ideas relate to each other in a simple, concise way. Thus, you can use them to help make the connections between thoughts or sentences more apparent. Here are just a few examples:
- But, yet and however can be used to introduce an opposing idea.
- Thus and consequently are great to indicate that something follows on because of something else.
- Additionally, finally and moreover are great for listing points or adding to an idea.
7. Choose the correct tone
The tone of a piece of writing correlates to the emotion someone experiences when they read it. The tone could be humorous, or it could be formal. Or it could be any other adjective.
So, a good way to think about tone is to think about how you would read the piece of writing aloud; does the writing make you want to talk in a friendly and conversational manner? Or is the writing more fancy, and in need of a praising tone?
Your tone will depend on what situation the piece of writing is for and on who your audience is. Thus, if your tone seems off, revise your diction (word choice) and change the necessary words to make the tone of the writing appropriate.
Signposting is a process that helps structure the logic of your writing. It gives your readers an indication of where you’re going to go in your writing. For example, a table of contents helps your readers see at first glance all the major points you’re going to be covering.
Signposting also helps to improve your writing by establishing your content’s focus. In your introduction, you might say something along the lines of “This presentation will examine the relationship between A and B.”
It’s a good idea to indicate when you’re done with a particular thought and are moving on to the next. Providing a brief summary of the points already discussed and highlighting what you’re about to move on to will help your reader’s follow the flow of the writing.
Signposting includes the use of conjunctions but also incorporates relating larger ideas to each other. Here are some examples:
- Link to another point: “Having finished analyzing X, I will now move onto Y.”
- Reintroduce something: “As was discussed earlier,”
- Adding more detail: “Additionally,” or “Adding on to that point,”
However, it is important to not overdo the signposting. It becomes obvious when that happens, and will make your writing too wordy.
And there you have it; simple points to keep in mind for your next piece of writing. While keeping them in mind, let’s now learn about the actual writing process from start to finish.
The writing process step by step
It’s important to start your writing with a plan in mind, otherwise you’re more likely to go off topic or not know what to say. That’s why following these steps will save you time while writing your content.
Initially begin by creating a mindmap. Write down your topic idea in the center, and segments for your introduction, conclusion, and major points.
Then, start adding in detail: jot down whatever comes to mind when you think about the topic. You can also note what points might benefit from a study or external links.
If you have a word count that you’re working towards, it can be useful to divide it up on the mindmap. Accordingly, assign a certain number of words to the introduction and conclusion, and then divide the remainder by the number of points you have. This gives you a rough approximate to work towards for each point.
2. Make a rough draft
With your mindmap in hand, create your very first rough draft. Oftentimes, simply starting is the hardest part of the process. To combat this, take 20 minutes to write the draft from start to finish. But don’t worry about the quality of what you say or about trying to hit the word count – the goal here is just to get your brain firing and the ideas flowing.
At the end of the 20 minutes, you will have something foundational that you can work on. Something solid. Something there.
3. Add in detail
To begin with, do some research, and start adding in detail to flesh your points out. Try to reach your word count so that this draft is essentially ‘complete’, but is just missing the finishing touches that will elevate it.
4. Edit, edit, edit
Now it’s time to go through your writing again, keeping the writing improvement tips discussed above in mind. For instance, take out the unnecessary words, check that you’re staying on topic / answering the question, and that your tone is correct. Additionally, ask yourself if the flow of the writing seems logical, and if anything could be better explained for your readers.
Then, check your spelling, grammar and punctuation. There should be no errors.
Finally, start checking the formatting of the document. If applicable, add in a picture. People retain visuals much better than they do text or oral –based information.
By using smart formatting, you’ll certainly boost the readability of your writing and make it more memorable! Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Different font sizes indicate headings and subheadings
- Emboldened and italicized text creates emphasis
- As discussed before, bullet points and numbered lists break up information
- Consistent spacing helps group / differentiate ideas
What you’re essentially doing making it easier for your reader to digest the information you’re presenting to them.
And that’s it! A step-by-step process to help you write from inception to final draft. However, just remember that writing can take a long time, so it’s okay if the process is slow! For most people, 500 words in 1,5 – 2 hours is about normal. The more work you put into it, the better it will be.
Hopefully by now you might feel that writing isn’t actually such a daunting process. It can be surprisingly quick and easy once you’ve got a solid plan in mind. The most difficult part is just getting those first few words down, but once that happens, the rest typically fly out at an unstoppable rate! Also, try not to just jump straight into your writing, but rather, use good writing practices and smart tools like mindmaps in order to create the highest quality writing that you can. You’ll improve your writing in no time!
In conclusion, the major takeaways from this guide are to keep your writing simple, to be logical, and to think about the person that will eventually read you work. You’re on the right track if your work will give them value or provide them with knowledge they didn’t have before, in a readable, understandable way.