How to improve your skills as a writer
Whether you are a highly experienced and skilful writer or are just starting your career in writing or journalism; you can always benefit from trying to improve and further your writing and editing skills. Actively seeking ways to enhance your writing abilities will not only ensure that you are creating high-quality work that is relevant and up to date with industry trends but will ultimately encourage you to be the best version of yourself.
I have created a short list of tips that helped me as a young writer to improve and enhance my writing skills, enabling me to become a better and more confident writer:
One of the best ways to improve and develop writing skills is by reading. Whether that includes skimming through daily news articles, blogs, or literature in your free time – the more you expose yourself to a wide range of forms and language, the more you will inevitably learn. I try to make sure I am always reading stories and blogs to keep up with the news and the world around me, but reading also benefits my writing, by learning new approaches, use of language, and topics to explore.
Tip – I always make sure I write unfamiliar words or phrases down on my phone if I am on the go (this happens all the time) so I am able to google them later to find out their meaning which in turn, expands my vocabulary.
Try and eliminate filler words, unnecessary clichés and idioms
The English language is wonderful, although it becomes less wonderful when the same unnecessary words and phrases creep into every piece of our work without adding any life or great substance.
Filler words: Linguistically, fillers are commonly used in spoken language and can be identified as a pause or hesitation marker through lexis such as ‘ah’ and ‘like’- which are completely normal in everyday conversation. Although, when they creep into your writing they can undermine and fill your word count unnecessarily. Words such as ‘that’, ‘just’, ‘even’, ‘seem’ or ‘very’ are fillers that should be used sparingly and chosen based on the type of content/story you are writing.
Clichés and idioms: Clichés are phrases which are commonly understood and are typically overused such as ‘time heals all wounds’ and ‘head over heels’. Idioms, however, are less used and can be distinguished through how the figurative meaning differs from its literal meaning, examples of these include ‘so far so good’ and ‘under the weather’. Both clichés and idioms can work depending on the type of piece you are writing, although they are repetitive and overused – and can eliminate the originality of your piece. I had a great lecturer at university named Jeremy Scott – who is an expert in English language and literature. He taught an interesting module on stylistics and creative writing and expressed how the best writers construct their own language. They create new formations of word structure and phrases which is key to creating a successful and effective piece of creative writing. I learned a lot from him, but that piece of advice in particular made me try and eradicate idiomatic language from my writing.
Always read your work out loud
It is normal to make silly errors and mistakes when writing, whether they are grammatical mistakes, or repetition of words and phrases. Sometimes this is because you have been staring at a screen for a long period of time, or you are so familiar with your piece that you cannot notice it when reading. Reading it out loud can help with these issues and it is also helpful to have another person read your work when possible.
Ask for advice and constructive feedback
Finally, a great way to improve your writing skills and your overall work is to reach out and ask for advice and constructive feedback. Whether you are in school, university, or want to begin a career in writing, a fresh set of eyes and perspective will always have a positive impact on your work. This has definitely helped me improve my writing throughout my studies and professionally.
Tip – A great way to seek advice and guidance is through the help of a mentor, as they will not only help you to improve your writing skills creatively and practically – but will also support your personal and career development.
A useful article if you wish to find and choose a mentor – How to choose a great mentor
As a writer, it is important to remind yourself that the more you practice writing, editing, and proofreading, the better you will inevitably become. Hopefully through practice, perseverance, and focusing on these tips and tricks they will in turn, help you become a better and more confident writer.