A few months back, I wrote a post on how to be a better blogger. Today, I bring you some advice on how to be a better writer.
THIS ISN’T JUST FOR BLOGGERS!
Everyone has to write during their day to day life:
- Tweets and Facebook statuses
The list goes on.
So this is advice for writing as a whole from a guy who happens to have a college degree in writing. I mean, I should really be charging for this. Instead, you get it for FREE!
“But I hate words and the process of combining said words into sentences!” you say. Don’t worry, this list honestly could not be easier.
And it will work!
1. Read It Out Loud
When you read through your writing, read it out load. You don’t have to do this in front of anyone. Just read it to yourself. It’s amazing how many errors you can catch simply by vocalizing your words.
Also, if what you wrote is stupid, it will sound stupid when you read it out loud. If it’s good, it will sound good.
2. Change or Remove Overly Repeated Words
I truly hope that you grasp the true meaning of what I am truly attempting to say here.
See how I managed to cram some form of “true” into that sentence THREE TIMES? Yeah, that’s bad. Don’t do that. Avoiding word repetition is one of the easiest things people can do to make their writing better.
When someone overuses a word they:
- Lessen the impact of that word
- Make their writing feel repetitive and lame
- Give the impression that their vocabulary is worthless
- Leave the reader with an odd sense of déjà-vu
You’d be surprised how often you repeat things like “suddenly”, “in fact”, “however”, “of course”, etc. When you finish writing something, scan through it and make note of certain words (especially descriptors) you used multiple times.
Then change those words.
3. Keep Your Sentences Short
This is especially true if you aren’t the most articulate person out there. It’s easy to ramble. In the world of writing, rambling is BAD.
Precision is king!
Get to the point. If you have a sentence that is really long, read over it, single out every word that is not needed, and remove those words.
4. Talk Like a Real Person
Don’t try to sound smarter than you are. It’s obvious, awkward, and can make your writing completely nonsensical. At the same time, write like an adult.
I once had to grade a college student’s paper that included sentences such as “Um, well, I guess if I like had to pick something…”
Don’t write like that. Ever.
5. Remove Unnecessary Jokes and References
Everyone wants to be funny and relevant, but that doesn’t give you an excuse to insert random jokes and references in your writing that have nothing to do with the subject. It’s great that you love Star Wars, but that doesn’t mean you have to talk about it in the middle of a paper on leadership.
As for irrelevant jokes, just remove them. They probably weren’t that funny to begin with.
6. Avoid Excessive Punctuation (Mostly Just Commas)
Nothing, throws off a sentence like, the odd placement of commas (see what I did there?).
For some reason, people like to throw in commas just about everywhere. I think it’s a defensive reaction sprung from grammatical doubt. If you have a hard time remembering what sort of clauses and phrases get commas placed after them, think of it this way:
A comma is simply a moment of pause, a breathing spot for the reader. If you have a comma placed in a spot where it feels completely unnatural to pause at, get rid of the comma. This is one of those areas where reading out loud really helps.
7. Don’t Confuse Words
There are a lot of words that are pronounced the same but are NOT actually the same. It’s a little embarrassing when someone writes something like “This is are house”. So in case you aren’t clear….
“Your” is a possessive. “You’re” means “you are”.
“There” is a place. “Their” is a possessive. “They’re” means “they are”.
“Its” is a possessive form of “it”. “It’s” is a contraction of “it is”.
“Affect” is typically used as a verb. “Effect” is typically used as a noun.
That last example can actually get a bit tricky. The English language as a whole is known for having a lot of weird rules which brings me to my final tip:
8. When in Doubt, Google It
This solution works for pretty much everything these days, but it’s especially great for grammar. Any question you might have has already been Googled by thousands of people. Seriously, go type “Affect vs. Effect” into Google.
You have no excuse to be wrong.
And now that you know these things, you are one step closer to being a writing master. Welcome to the Matrix.