Become a Better Writer
July 28, 2009 1 Comment
Here’s a cool article I happened to stumble upon yesterday (no, not using StumbeUpon). 73 Ways to Become a Better Writer is a great list of, you guessed it, ways to become a better writer. Up until recently, I had no desire to improve my writing. I wrote a great deal of essays and reports while in university and I got sick of it near the end. I found that, writing for quantity instead of quality, and squeezing your ideas into a specific number of pages (or words) that your professor dictated, really bothered me. I would often find myself stretching an argument so much that I would repeat the same points using different words which I found using the synonyms function is MS Word (thanks Microsoft).
I took a few writing/English courses in high school and university that focused on structure and persuasion. They taught me a lot about conveying ideas and organizing thoughts. However, they made me think that, in order to become a better writer, I would have to enroll in more courses and study things like Shakespeare plays. That is why I like this article. It really gives you 73 dead-simple ways to improve your writing. Here are some of my favorite tips and some extra notes:
11. Learn a new word a day.
This one is very easy. The best way to do this is to simply add a “Word of the Day” widget to your iGoogle homepage. Learn that word and use it in a sentence at least once that day.
22. Go back and cut 10% from your word count.
This is a great way to get rid of the “fluff” in your writing. Try using the AutoSummarize feature in MS Word (go to Tools>AutoSummarize) and set the Percent of Original anywhere between 75-90%. It’s not a perfect summary, but it gives you an idea of which things to cut out.
24. Listen to how people talk.
Compare the language that different groups of people use. Listen to how your parents speak, your friends, co-workers. Then watch a few presentations, either live or on the internet, of people speaking on stage. Stand up comedians usually have a very diverse vocabulary. Also, check out TED talks for a slightly more intelligent experience.
32. When in doubt, cut it out.
If you don’t know whether a sentence makes sense grammatically, then simply remove it. I proof-read quite a few essays back in the day, and it was clear when someone did not know how to phrase an idea. Even if you don’t know how to phrase the sentence, write it in a way that you understand, then highlight it and return to it when you are proof-reading.
39. Tell everyone: “I’m a writer.”
Telling people you are a writer puts pressure on you to write well because those people will probably seek out what you wrote. Be sure to put your money where your mouth is.
42. Comment on your favorite blogs.
I love comments. I usually spend more time reading comments about a news story/picture/video/comic/etc than the actual article. Granted, comments on some websites like youtube can be painful to read and full of pointless rants. I would suggest digg.com if you want a good experience reading comments. Stupid comments are “Buried” and you don’t have to waste time reading them. The best comments receive “diggs” and make them more visible. People vote on which comments are the most interesting, most relevant or funniest. I also read comments to get a different perspective on the story or even a link to more information about something.
This article might inspire you to write or start a blog yourself. Check it out!