Writing is an art. I believe that. I breathe that idea. I would never bring the art of writing down to a simple set of rules (cough, cough).
It’s an art that few have mastered, though many have starved in the attempt.
But there are a few (very easy) tips that will help anyone instantly become a better writer. They’re simple tips; things you can implement immediately and quickly see the improvement.
For anyone looking to “hack” writing, this’ll be a good place to start.
1. Avoid Using The Same Word Twice In A Paragraph
If there’s an easy way to spot a bad writer, it’s in his or her word choice. There’s nothing more telling to this end than seeing the word “similar” repeated in two consecutive lines, for instance. Or “however” leading off two consecutive sentences. It suggests a lack of creativity, a lack of voice and it just highlights an amateur writer before one even gets started. Of course, there are words you’ll re-use: and, I, the, etc…..And in writing about a specific subject matter, you’ll probably have to reuse words. But as much as you can avoid repeating a word, the better off you’ll be.
Pro Tip: This doesn’t mean run to your thesaurus. Keep that for times you’re in a crunch or doing a crossword. Simply just rethink the word in the larger sentence it’s in; think of a different way to say it.
2. Understand The Power of Short Sentences
We’re in an age of brevity — our attention spans are constantly being pushed toward truncation. Somewhat ironically, this has translated into a looser grammar that sends our sentences spiraling toward no end. Too often do I receive an email that has a paragraph of one four-line sentence that could have been split into three. So it becomes all the more important to understand when and how to use the short sentence. Do not waste this opportunity. You’ll come to realize with practice that in an ocean of long, rambling sentences that seem to go on and on, the short sentence is like a dagger to the heart. It brings all those words into one concentrated place, often in an aphorism or takeaway phrase that’s easy to remember. The New York Times even just had a long opinion piece on the power of these quick punches.
Pro Tip: Think about which sentence in that paragraph stuck out.
3. Read Everything Out Loud
Editing can be a bitch. Writers are always looking to find their “voice”. We want our paragraphs to sound natural, to flow, to move in a rhythm the reader can attach to. These are consistent challenges every writer must face. And yet most are easily solved, at least to an extent, with one simple addition to your writing process. Read everything out loud. Just do it. When in doubt, when sure, anytime. Reading it out loud is going to accomplish so much. Editing? Check. You’ll find errors. Finding your voice? Check. You’ll truly realize how the words “sound”. Flow? Yep. Watch yourself stumble over a phrase and you’ll remember your readers will too. Too many benefits to ignore.
Pro Tip: If you have a willing friend, have him or her read it out loud to you. It will show you how another person might read it and your focus is solely on just listening, rather than reading too.
Three simple tips and you’re on your way to improving your fiction, emails, or blogposts. Go forth and write!