Whether you’re a full-time copywriter or only write the occasional business email, competent writing skills are a must for just about every professional position.
No matter what it is you write, you want to ensure you’re conveying your thoughts in a way that’s concise, engaging, and completely free of fluff.
There are also many different writing styles, including academic writing, creative writing, copywriting, blogging, and many more – each with its own set of rules and standards. As such, writing can seem like an intimidating endeavor if you don’t have much experience.
Yet, anyone can learn to become a better writer if they employ the right techniques and are consistent with practice.
So if you’ve been assigned some business writing tasks at your job, fear not, as it’s entirely possible to learn how to write better, even if it’s your first time.
According to ZipRecruiter, writing is also a lucrative career for many, with the average freelance writer’s salary standing at $63,213. Technical writers can earn even more, with average salaries of $80,000 and above – so mastering the art of writing can become quite profitable.
That’s why we’ve put together this extensive guide on how to write better for beginners, intermediates, and advanced writers. No matter what your experience level is, great writers realize there’s always room for improvement.
Read on to discover candid writing tips that will take your skills to the next level.
Writing Tips for Total Beginners
For new writers, the first step is to get a solid grasp of the basics. As such, these first few rounds of tips are for newer writers who have yet to produce so much as a short story.
If writing has long been your kryptonite, it’s time to face your fears. You’ll soon find that by learning the basics, you’ll have a much stronger foundation to work from than you did before, which will supercharge your progress.
That way, you can start tackling simple blogs, non-fiction essays, and short stories in no time.
#1: Believe in yourself
There’s a stigma surrounding writing that you either have it or you don’t. In other words, writing is an inherent talent that some people have, and others do not, and there’s no way to learn how to improve.
Of course, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Yet, this stigma is especially damaging to aspiring writers who don’t strike immediate success with their first blog or short story. They feel as if they just don’t have it, so they give up.
That’s a shame because next to nobody starts out as a great writer from birth. While some people have a healthy amount of natural talent, it still takes quite a bit of practice and nurturing to become a truly effective writer.
Don’t believe us?
Do some research on your favorite writer, and you’ll likely discover that they struggled to get published in the beginning. In fact, J.K. Rowling’s initial idea for Harry Potter was rejected 12 times by various publishers.
However, she was not discouraged by these rejections, and her books would go on to sell more than 450 million copies worldwide.
Stephen King‘s Carrie, a legendary horror book that was later adapted into a movie classic, was rejected a whopping 30 times before it got picked up.
The moral of the story? Always believe in yourself as a writer.
#2: Read instead of watching Netflix
To really improve your writing skills, you need to become an avid reader. Besides being a bookworm, any reading will help you improve. That means magazines, blogs, brochures, and even things like comic books and manga will help.
What’s most imperative here is that you not only read what you enjoy but what you intend to write as well.
So if you plan to write horror novels, read as many as you can to get a feel for them. The same is true for blogs, essays, and sales copy – so don’t be shy about reading your competitor’s work online.
Without even knowing it, reading will help you pick up on things like:
- Sentence structure
- Word choice
- Passive and active voice
These factors will all lead to better writing on your part, so the next time you’re about to binge a Netflix series, pick up a book instead.
If you don’t have a lot of time to read during the day, try bringing a book with you on the bus, or listening to audiobooks during your drive to work.
#3: Start a consistent practice routine
We’ve all heard the adage that practice makes perfect, but without consistency, perfection will always elude you.
Building effective writing skills is similar to developing muscles while working out. If you only go to the gym once a month, you won’t see any progress. Instead, you need to exercise your muscles consistently each week to see actual results.
Writing is the same way. If you only write once a month, don’t expect to see much in the way of improvement.
Yet, if you set aside 1-hour a day to knock out a piece of writing, you’ll start seeing real progress in not much time at all. After a few weeks, you’ll be on your way to producing your first piece of excellent writing.
Previously, we mentioned that Stephen King has a rigorous writing routine that he sticks to – which is why he’s the most successful novelist of all time. However, you probably won’t need to go as hard as King does, as he reads and writes for at least 4 – 6 hours a day (wow!).
#4: Learn how to uncover your inspiration
Many new writers struggle with finding inspiration, leading them to procrastinate. After all, how are you supposed to sit down and write for hours if you aren’t inspired?
Well, the good news is that you can learn ways to discover inspiration all around you.
Inspiration is truly everywhere if you know how to look for it, from random conversations at the bus stop to a news story on TV. Instead of blindly going through your day’s motions, stop and look around.
In particular, pay attention to the people around you every day. Is a friend of yours in a particularly humorous situation? Why not use it in a script or novel?
Famous comedy writer Larry David is renowned for this, as many humorous scenarios and conversations from the popular sitcom Seinfeld originated from his personal life.
According to an interview he did with Forbes, he would carry a pen and paper wherever he went and found inspiration from “dinner parties where there’s a lot of social interactions, regrets, and faux pas. When people get together like that, it’s fraught with tension.“
David’s method is great for turning on your ‘inspirational awareness.’ Suddenly, everything that takes place in your life can serve as a form of inspiration. Something as simple as your commute to work can generate a ton of writing ideas.
If you’re writing blog content for SEO, conducting keyword research is the most reliable way to find inspiration (as it will clue you in on what your audience is searching for the most).
#5: Write about what you know
Are you having a hard time deciding what you’ll write about?
If so, take a minute to think about your life experiences. What are your primary interests in life? What do you have the most experience with? Are you an expert cook with years of experience? Then blogging about the culinary arts is a perfect fit.
It’s always best to stick to writing about what you know.
That doesn’t mean that you have to only write about your boring day job, though. Writing about what you know can be as simple as writing about a feeling you know all too well.
Have you ever gone through a rough patch in your life where you had to reinvent yourself to come out of it? Or have you ever used your career skills to overcome a massive challenge in your life?
These are all great topics to write about because they relate directly to your life experiences. As such, you’ll have more passion in writing about them for the simple fact that you’ve been through it.
This rule is also meant to be broken, as it’s often impossible to ONLY write about things you know. Yet, when researching new topics, you’ll probably find a way to relate to them in some way through a similar experience.
For instance, if you have to write about graphic designers but have no experience as one, perhaps you can relate to their passion for their craft as you do for another hobby, such as writing.
#6: Rewrites and edits are inevitable (and a good thing)
Many new writers assume that their first draft is perfect and ready to be published in its current state.
However, that’s not the way the writing process works, even for simple online blogs.
Instead, the writing process involves drafting, redrafting, and polishing a piece of writing until it’s as perfect as humanly possible.
The first draft is more of a jumping-off point than a finalized piece. As such, you should never submit your first draft as a complete piece. Rather, the first step after writing the first draft is to read the entire thing out loud to yourself.
Why is that?
It’s because when you’re focused on writing a draft, it can be incredibly difficult to consider the bigger picture of the piece as a whole. As a result, first drafts often have a lot of repetition, proofreading mistakes, and an awkward flow.
When reading the draft aloud, take note of how well the writing flows.
Almost immediately, you’ll probably notice ways to shorten sentences, simplify phrasing, and correct any errors.
You should also be on the lookout for unnecessary words that contribute nothing to the overall message.
If you’re writing a blog for the internet, a professional editor will likely take a look at your work for further refinement. It’s completely normal to go through a few drafts before a piece is ready, so don’t let that discourage you.
#7: Create the perfect writing atmosphere for yourself
Every great writer needs a dedicated space to practice their craft. That means designating a writing space somewhere in your home or office.
Ideally, you want to write in a quiet space that’s completely free of any distractions. In other words, trying to write at the kitchen table while your spouse blares the TV and your kids play in the corner isn’t the best idea.
Try to find an isolated area where you can write in peace.
Even if you have a quiet office with a computer you can use for writing, temptations can still seep through. For instance, the temptation to waste time on social media and YouTube may prove to be too great at times, causing you to procrastinate and tank your productivity.
That’s why many authors find it beneficial to disconnect the internet when they write (or use a dedicated writing laptop that has no internet or apps). That will ensure you have no way to give in to the temptation to waste time, as you’ll have no way how.
Can you not stand to write in total silence?
If so, don’t torture yourself. Writing while listening to gentle music in the background can be highly beneficial for some.
Be wary of listening to ‘busier’ music genres that involve lots of singing and lyrics (such as pop hits), as they can cause your brain to ‘ping-pong’ its attention between the music and your writing, which can slow you down.
Writing Tips for Intermediates
Have you been writing for a year or two now? If so, you’ve probably got a pretty solid grasp on the basics.
You know how to come up with topics and write a complete piece. Yet, you may still struggle with some grammatical issues, certain writing styles, and other intermediate issues.
Here are some writing tips that’ll help you hone your skills to the point of becoming an advanced writer.
#1: Know your reader base (target audience)
You always want to consider who you’re writing to, and this applies to bloggers, authors, copywriters, and even those who only type business emails.
It’s marketing 101 to know your customer, and writing is the exact same, but with readers.
Knowing your audience will influence the type of language you use, your tone, and even the topics you choose.
That’s especially true if you’re writing content to market products and services to a certain niche.
For instance, if you’re writing sneaker blogs for a hip crowd – taking a more casual, informal tone (and even using slang) is the way to go. That will ensure that your audience relates to your copy, making them more likely to engage with it.
Conversely, if you’re writing case studies to sell business professionals the value of your project management software, a more formal, professional tone will yield more success than staying informal.
Even if you write fiction, you still need to consider the needs of your fanbase when constructing your stories. If your writing resonates with your fans deeply, it’s crucial to uncover why that is, so you can continue to deliver.
#2: Shorten your sentences
While this tip is primarily for bloggers and copywriters, long sentences in novels can also become quite cumbersome.
On average, a sentence should contain no more than 30 words, with 15 words being the ideal length.
That’s because longer sentences are much harder to read and can muddy the message. A series of short, concise sentences will always be easier to read than one long one.
Check this out; which do you think is easier to read?
- A good writer always knows how to hook the reader in while holding their attention, all while building a sense of suspense before the ultimate, satisfying payoff that ties all the loose ends together.
- A good writer knows how to hook you and hold your attention. They then build suspense before delivering a satisfying payoff that ties everything together.
Both sentences convey the same message, but the second one is more concise and easier to read. The first sentence not only goes on too long, but it contains a lot of unnecessary words.
A great tool for learning how to write shorter sentences is the Hemingway Editor. Named after famed writer Ernest Hemingway, a sentence will turn yellow or red if it starts to go on for too long. After using the editor for a while, you’ll start to write shorter sentences by default.
#3: Learn to use CTAs (calls to action)
If your writing has a goal (newsletter sign-ups, product sales, lead generation), you need to master the call to action (CTA).
While your content may have a few different purposes (educating customers and building brand awareness), a CTA doesn’t beat around the bush regarding what you want from your readers.
If you want to increase sales for a particular product, your CTA could look something like this:
- If you’re ready to kiss (general problem) goodbye forever, don’t wait to try out our (product name and link) today.
It’s quick and to the point, but it encourages the reader to take the desired action you want in no-nonsense plain English.
Here’s a quick tip to remember – only ever include ONE call to action in each piece of writing, as more than one is overkill and will only serve to complicate things.
Writing Tips for Advanced Writers
Even if you’ve been writing professionally for years, there’s always room for improvement.
Writing is something you can do your entire life and still learn new things about, so there’s no shortage of ways to refine your skills.
#1: Vary your word choice
It’s normal for writers to rely on their ‘favorite’ words and terms – i.e., the ones that they use the most often.
It’s the literary equivalent of a comfort zone.
Yet, repeating the same words and phrases is a surefire way to make your writing grow stale, especially if you write to the same readers.
Make a conscious effort to mix up your word choices. First, start by making a list of the words and phrases you tend to repeat the most, and come up with two or three alternatives for each one. After that, start peppering in the new words and phrases into your writing.
To be honest, you should do this every couple of months to ensure that your writing stays fresh, engaging, and unpredictable (your readers shouldn’t be able to complete your sentences for you).
Also, use the thesaurus heavily, as it’s an excellent way to learn new words consistently.
#2: Use bucket brigades
For online content, you’ve got to hook the reader as soon as you can and in as many ways as possible.
Why is that?
It has to do with the average internet user’s faltering (and ever-decreasing) attention span. The average website visit lasts a whopping 15 seconds, so you need to do what you can to improve retention.
Bucket brigades are a great way to hook readers in and engage them with your writing. They’re simple phrases that encourage the reader to learn more. Examples include (there are plenty in this blog, too):
- Best of all:
- Here’s why:
- Why is that:
- What does that mean for you:
You can also develop your own bucket brigades, so feel free to experiment.
#3: Analyze instead of summarizing
Many writers fall into the habit of summarizing research articles they read online and doing little else.
That quickly leads to stale writing that provides no new insights on a particular topic. That’s why advanced writers learn how to analyze something instead of summarizing it.
Analyzing means you’re actually learning something and paying attention to how it works. Analysis can also involve conducting your own experiments and research. That way, the writing you come up with will be wholly original, and you’ll be able to provide unique insights that readers won’t find anywhere else.
Final Thoughts: How to Write Better
Writing well takes time, so don’t get discouraged if you aren’t on Stephen King‘s level by your third week.
Instead, hunker down and commit to a consistent writing schedule. By following the tips in this guide, you’ll start improving your writing skills in no time. Whether you plan on writing novels or business emails, staunch writing skills are a plus in every scenario.
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