29 Ways to Improve Your Writing Skills and Escape Mediocrity (2023)

29 Ways to Improve Your Writing Skills and Escape Mediocrity (1)
Feeling overwhelmed by all the writing advice on the web?

Perhaps you’ve read a couple of books to improve your writing skills. And you’ve subscribed to the most popular blogs on writing.

But still …

It’s hard to know where to start, right?

You’re not alone. One of the most often asked questions in my inbox is: How do I improve my writing skills?

Let me answer that question and give you a clear action plan.

Are you up for it?

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Step I. Understand the principles of deliberate practice

Learning to write better can feel like an overwhelming task.

But just like a chef learns how to fry an egg and how to fillet a fish—and just like a violinist practices a difficult passage over and over again—writers can practice specific writing techniques to improve their skills.

These principles of deliberate practice help accelerate your learning:

  1. Establish your main writing weaknesses. What exactly do you want to improve? For instance, you may want to focus on choosing the right words or writing simpler sentences.
  2. Read the work of other writers to understand how they apply writing techniques. If you’d like to write with more simplicity, study Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. Or if you’d like to improve word choice, see how Ray Bradbury uses strong verbs in Zen in the Art of Writing; gather all your favorite examples in a swipe file—a collection of writing examples to learn from.
  3. Practice a specific writing technique, and compare your writing to the examples in your swipe file, so you can see how to improve further.
  4. Get out of your comfort zone—don’t use the examples to put yourself down; instead, challenge yourself to get better and enjoy the learning experience—nurture a growth mindset.

As Anders Ericsson, author of Peak: How All of Us Can Achieve Extraordinary Things, suggests:

In pretty much any area of human endeavor, people have a tremendous capacity to improve their performance, as long as they train in the right way.

Part 2. Think before you write

Before you cook a meal, you need a plan of action.

Who’s coming for dinner? What do they like to eat? You create a meal plan, get your groceries, and decide in what order to cook the dishes, so each dish will be ready in time.

Just like a good dinner party needs some planning, good writing starts with thinking, too:

  1. Who are you writing for? Good writers have a pathological interest in their readers and understand their dreams, fears, and secret wishes.
  2. Which reader problem will your article help solve? Or which aim will you help achieve? Good content has one clear purpose—to inspire a reader to implement your advice.
  3. What’s the roadmap to help your readers solve their problems or achieve their aims? The roadmap is the basis for a clear and logical article.

As a good writer, you’re a mentor to your reader. You tell her you understand her problems, explain how to solve them, and encourage her to implement your advice.

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Part 3. How to structure your writing

Imagine you’re planning a 4-course dinner to entertain your guests:

  • A starter to whet their appetite—how about a spicy chicken galangal soup?
  • The main courses—pineapple stirfried rice, ginger-flavored steamed fish, and stirfried morning glory—to nourish your guests
  • A dessert of mango with sticky rice to satisfy their sweet tooth
  • Coffee, tea or cognac with perhaps a chocolate to enjoy the conversation a little longer

Good writers plan their content as a 4-course dinner, too. And each part has a clear purpose to keep readers captivated from the first to the last word:

  1. A powerful headline uses power words or numbers to attract attention in busy social media streams, and it mentions a specific benefit to entice followers to click to read more.
  2. A captivating opening promises readers you’ll help solve a problem so they feel encouraged to read on.
  3. A valuable main body shows, step by step, how to solve a problem or achieve an aim.
  4. An inspirational closing jumpstarts readers into action—you only become a true authority when readers experience the difference your advice makes to them.

Your first task as writer is to write with a specific reader and purpose in mind, and to structure your content to achieve that purpose.

Next, learn how to communicate with clarity and power …

Part 4. The 7 basic writing skills everyone must master

A chef needs to learn chopping, sautéing, roasting, boiling, and grilling.

But what are the basic writing techniques you should practice?

  1. Use the 4-course meal plan to create a logical flow without distractions, so readers stay on track.
  2. Learn how to use vivid language to make abstract ideas concrete so readers easily grasp and remember your message.
  3. Learn how to write bite-sized, simple, and meaningful sentences—a good sentence is the basic ingredient of good writing.
  4. Compose smooth transitions so readers glide effortlessly from sentence to sentence, and from paragraph to paragraph.
  5. Practice how to write clearly and concisely so your message becomes strong.
  6. Discover how to avoid weak words, gobbledygook, and cliches; and spice up your writing with power words including sensory phrases.
  7. Understand the basics of keyword research and on-page optimization to increase organic search traffic.

Remember, to become a good content writer, you don’t need to turn yourself into a Stephen King, Ernest Hemingway, or Margaret Atwood.

Instead, aim to communicate your ideas with power, and make tiny ripples to change the world.

Part 5. The 5 advanced skills to write with personality and pizzazz

Once you’ve learned how to communicate with power and clarity, it’s time to create your signature style:

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  1. Learn how to use the zoom-in-zoom-out technique to weave tiny stories into your content.
  2. Discover how to pace your stories and hook readers with tiny cliffhangers.
  3. Cook up fresh metaphors to add flavor to rehashed and boring topics.
  4. Write long sentences without running out of breath, and discover how to use rhythm to put music into your writing.
  5. Experiment with word choice and try a more conversational tone so readers start recognizing your voice.

Don’t overthink these writing techniques. Instead, write from the heart, and readers will sense the enthusiasm in your writing. That’s how you engage and spark action.

Part 6. Develop sticky writing habits

How did you learn how to cook? By watching TV and reading recipe books? Or by practicing in the kitchen?

To learn how to write, nurture a regular writing habit. Here’s how …

  1. Make writing a choice, and book time in your calendar for writing—if you don’t plan time to write, then it won’t get done.
  2. Set a tiny goal—like writing one paragraph or writing for 10 minutes a day, so it’s almost impossible not to write.
  3. Create a productive relationship with your inner critic, so you can become a more joyful and prolific writer.
  4. Start writing, even if you don’t feel motivated—your muse will reward your hard work and your words will start to flow.
  5. Eliminate distractions and practice how to focus—focus is your productivity super-power.
  6. Chop up the writing process into steps—outline, first draft, revision, final edit—and spread the work over several days so you can take advantage of percolation; review your writing with fresh eyes so you can make it even better.

Lofty goals don’t help you create a writing habit. Instead, put in the work, sentence by sentence, and paragraph by paragraph.

Over time, you’ll build your stamina and boost your confidence.

And your body of work will grow piece by piece.

How to start improving your writing

Feeling a tad overwhelmed?

Here’s your 3-point plan of action to become a better writer:

  • Define the purpose of your writing first, and know whom you’re writing for.
  • Get the content and the flow right—that’s the most important part of good writing.
  • Pick one basic writing skill to practice this week; after you’ve mastered the basic skills, try the advanced writing techniques, one by one.

Rather than strive for greatness, aim to be consistently good enough because that’s how you’ll improve faster.

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Your readers are hungry

Your readers crave your ideas.

They want to hear from you. They want to be comforted and inspired by you.

So, what are you waiting for?

Want to improve your business writing skills?
Click here to join the 16-Part Snackable Writing Course and learn how to write better marketing copy (it’s free!)

29 Ways to Improve Your Writing Skills and Escape Mediocrity (2)

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29 Ways to Improve Your Writing Skills and Escape Content Mediocrity, courtesy of Henneke at Enchanting Marketing

PS This post is an expanded and updated version of an article originally published on March 24th, 2015. The infographic is new.

Want to improve your writing skills further?

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  • Learn how to cure sentence bloat and avoid irritating your readers
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Recommended reading to improve your writing skills:

How to improve your business writing skills
31+ best books on writing
Learn copywriting: A 5-step system to teach yourself copywriting

FAQs

What exercises can I do to improve my writing skills? ›

The best exercise
  1. #1 Transcribe another author's work.
  2. #2 Funnel real reactions into writing.
  3. #3 Describe an in-person setting.
  4. #4 Try vocabulary builder prompts.
  5. #5 Develop a freewriting habit.
  6. #6 Brainstorm multiple headlines.
  7. #7 Edit other people's writing.
  8. The best exercise.

What are the 12 steps to improve writing skills? ›

12 Tips to Improve Your Writing Skills
  1. Know the basic principles of writing.
  2. Read more.
  3. Sketch out a solid outline first.
  4. Develop a clear message.
  5. Be straightforward and don't ramble.
  6. Experiment with word choice.
  7. Portray your personality in your writing.
  8. Eliminate overly complex words.
1 Apr 2022

What are the 7 strategies of writing? ›

Elaboration: 7 Writing Strategies
  • Describe a Place in Detail. ...
  • Use Specific Words to Paint Pictures. ...
  • Show How Something Feels, Smells, Tastes, Sounds or Looks. ...
  • Compare Two Different Things Through Simile or Metaphor. ...
  • Use the Exact Thoughts or Words from a Person. ...
  • Describe How Someone or Something Moves.

How can I improve my weak writing skills? ›

Summary: How to Improve Your Writing Skills

Write like it's your job and practice regularly. Read more so you develop an eye for what effective writing looks like. Find a partner. Ask them to read your writing and provide feedback.

How can I improve myself as a writer? ›

Practice. Like any skill or practice, the more you work at something, the better you will get. Just as musicians and athletes have to practice regularly to improve, so do writers. Set aside time each day to write, both for your course assignments, but even if it's only freewriting or writing in a blog or journal.

How can I practice writing everyday? ›

Daily Writing Exercises
  1. 1: Answer these Questions. See if these stimulate you. ...
  2. 2: Write a Letter To Your Younger Self. ...
  3. 3: Imagine a Scene. ...
  4. 4: Write a Story Someone Once Told You. ...
  5. 5: Write From a New Point of View. ...
  6. 6: Write About Someone Who Inspires You. ...
  7. 7: Write About Someone You Know. ...
  8. 8: Free Write.

What is the quickest way to improve writing? ›

13 Tips for Becoming a Faster Writer
  1. Write every single day. Writing is like a muscle—the more you exercise your craft, the stronger, leaner, and more efficient it will be. ...
  2. Give yourself a topic. ...
  3. Create an outline. ...
  4. Gather information. ...
  5. Get rid of distractions. ...
  6. Set a challenge. ...
  7. Start a timer. ...
  8. Revise later.
19 Nov 2021

How do you write beautifully? ›

How to Have Beautiful Handwriting
  1. Choose a style. Writers who work by hand can choose from a variety of handwriting styles. ...
  2. Choose the right pen. Modern calligraphy tends to rely on fountain pens, which lend themselves well to cursive writing. ...
  3. Practice consistently. ...
  4. Use the proper grip. ...
  5. Take a formal class.
7 Jun 2021

What are the 6 traits of good writing? ›

The Six Traits of writing are Voice, Ideas, Presentation, Conventions, Organization, Word Choice, and Sentence Fluency. It creates a common vocabulary and guidelines for teachers to use with students so that they become familiar with the terms used in writing. It develops consistency from grade level to grade level.

How do you improve focus in writing? ›

Five Ways to Stay Focused on Writing and Improve Productivity
  1. Set Daily Writing Goals. ...
  2. Give Yourself a Break. ...
  3. Find Your Ideal Writing Environment. ...
  4. Remove All Distractions. ...
  5. Don't Self-Edit. ...
  6. Prepare to Focus.
29 Jan 2020

What are the 8 writing strategies? ›

Stephen King Used These 8 Writing Strategies to Sell 350 Million...
  • Tell the truth. ...
  • Don't use big words when small ones work. ...
  • Use single-sentence paragraphs. ...
  • Write for your Ideal Reader. ...
  • Read a lot. ...
  • Write one word at a time. ...
  • Write every day. ...
  • Write for the joy of it.
25 Mar 2016

What is the 70/30 rule in writing? ›

The 70/30 and 15% Rules: The 70/30 Rule says that approximately 70% of the written content should be original words and ideas from the student writer, with up to 30% from outside sources. The 15% Rule is that student writers should never use more than 15% of direct quotes from sources.

How can I write fluently? ›

Tips on How to Improve English Writing Skills
  1. Read as much as you can. ...
  2. Keep an English dictionary. ...
  3. Brush up your grammar. ...
  4. Check your spelling before and after writing. ...
  5. Keep a diary in English. ...
  6. Learn how to expand your basic sentences into more elaborate ones. ...
  7. Learn how to organize a paragraph. ...
  8. Write an outline.
14 Jun 2017

What are the 4 keys of writing? ›

  • Identify your audience—who will read what I write?
  • Establish your purpose—why should they read what I write?
  • Formulate your message—what do I have to say to them?
  • Select style and tone—how can I best communicate to them?

What causes poor writing skills? ›

Writing difficulties occur because of poor command of English tenses and grammar, lack of inventive ideas, teachers' unproductive teaching methods, inadequate vocabulary, weak sentence structure, inexperienced teachers, inappropriate use of vocabulary and rhetorical convention.

How do I stop being struggling with writing? ›

To stop being so hard on yourself, you have to block out thoughts about how your readers might react to your work, and just focus on the writing. While you're writing for your readers, you're also writing for yourself. Try switching projects, starting a new project, or freewriting.

How can I make my writing more advanced? ›

Here are some tips.
  1. 1 Make sure you're clear on the concepts you're writing about.
  2. 2 If the message is complex, outline it.
  3. 3 Anticipate your readers' questions.
  4. 4 Don't over-explain.
  5. 5 Go easy on the prepositional phrases.
  6. 6 Eliminate the filler words and phrases.
  7. 7 Don't pad weak words with adverbs.
11 Sept 2020

How many hours should I write a day? ›

Consistency Is Most Important

It's better to write only a couple of hours a day everyday than to sporadically write for eight hours. Also, remember that writers work even when they are not writing. You probably think about your story when you're driving or commuting. You have ideas throughout your day.

What is the most efficient way to write? ›

With that said, here are some tips for writing a quality draft quickly.
  • Use short sentences.
  • Use bullet points and numbered lists.
  • Connect the dots for the reader logically.
  • Use topic sentences. (This type of sentence expresses the main idea of a paragraph.)
  • Use transition phrases.

How do you write without distractions? ›

Here are 12 tips for distraction free writing:
  1. Prepare your writing environment. ...
  2. Get in the flow and concentrate on writing. ...
  3. Schedule Your Writing Time and Hang a Do Not Disturb Sign. ...
  4. Turn off notifications on your devices. ...
  5. Use Minimalist Hardware. ...
  6. Use Word Processing Devices and Software.
24 Nov 2021

Which handwriting is best? ›

The cursive and continuous cursive handwriting styles are largely considered the best handwriting style for students.

What are the 5 types of handwriting? ›

Types of Handwriting
  • Cursive Handwriting. Cursive handwriting is 'joined-up' writing where letters are connected, making it faster to write as you needed to take your pen off the page less. ...
  • Print Handwriting. ...
  • Modern Cursive. ...
  • Letter Shapes. ...
  • Letter Size. ...
  • Letter Spacing. ...
  • Letter Angle.
9 Oct 2020

What handwriting increases brain power? ›

Researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) published a study this year that found cursive handwriting helps the brain to learn and recall information better. “The use of pen and paper gives the brain more 'hooks' to hang your memories on,” study author Audrey Van der Meer said.

How can a 12 year old improve handwriting? ›

5 Ways to Improve Your Child's Handwriting
  1. Make Practicing Fun. Offer your child a special pencil or a rainbow of colored ones. ...
  2. Encourage Drawing and Puzzle Games. ...
  3. Pinpoint the Problem. ...
  4. The Right Tools. ...
  5. Writing Outside the Box.

What are the 10 qualities of powerful writing? ›

10 Important Qualities of Good Writing
  • 1 Simplicity.
  • 2 Unity.
  • 3 Focus.
  • 4 Authority.
  • 5 Grammar.
  • 6 Word Choice.
  • 7 Conciseness.
  • 8 Style.

What is it called when you can't write neatly? ›

Students with dysgraphia may also be accused of being sloppy or lazy because their handwriting isn't neat. This can affect self-esteem and lead to anxiety, a lack of confidence, and negative attitudes toward school.

How can I sharpen my focus and attention? ›

There's no one answer for how to improve focus, but the following tips can help.
  1. Eliminate distractions. ...
  2. Reduce multitasking. ...
  3. Practice mindfulness and meditation. ...
  4. Get more sleep. ...
  5. Choose to focus on the moment. ...
  6. Take a short break. ...
  7. Connect with nature. ...
  8. Train your brain.
3 Feb 2021

What are basic writing tips? ›

8 Simple Writing Tips for Beginners
  • Understand Basic Grammar. ...
  • Actually Write Something. ...
  • Give it Structure. ...
  • Keep the Purpose in Mind. ...
  • Set the Tone. ...
  • Find Your Voice. ...
  • Don't Forget Formatting. ...
  • Edit.
22 Jan 2018

What are the 6 writing skills? ›

The Six Traits of writing are Voice, Ideas, Presentation, Conventions, Organization, Word Choice, and Sentence Fluency.

What are the 3 essential writing skills? ›

Many people may be able to get by with two out of three, but the greats have all three. These components are: grammatical skill, compositional skill, and domain knowledge.

What are the 5 elements of good writing? ›

The following is a brief description of five qualities of good writing: focus, development, unity, coherence, and correctness.

How do you write neatly and beautifully? ›

How to Have Beautiful Handwriting
  1. Choose a style. Writers who work by hand can choose from a variety of handwriting styles. ...
  2. Choose the right pen. Modern calligraphy tends to rely on fountain pens, which lend themselves well to cursive writing. ...
  3. Practice consistently. ...
  4. Use the proper grip. ...
  5. Take a formal class.
7 Jun 2021

What qualities make a good writer? ›

6 Characteristics Every Great Writer Has in Common
  • Attention to Detail. Great writers are observers, always taking mental notes and noting subtle changes around them. ...
  • Discipline. ...
  • Clarity. ...
  • Strong Vocabulary. ...
  • Open to Changes. ...
  • Passion for Reading.
4 Mar 2016

What are strong written skills? ›

Skills like research, planning and outlining, editing, revising, spelling and grammar, and organization are critical components of the writing process. In the workplace, writing skills examples include: Documenting a process for someone else to learn it.

How can I become a beautiful writer? ›

If you want to become a beauty writer or editor, start sharing your content on social media, show snippets of your writing, connect with other writers and interact with the brands, magazines and publications that you would aspire to work with/for. You never know when you're going to be noticed on social media.

What is the beauty of writing? ›

Beautiful writing makes you feel something

Think about a book that made you laugh recently, or cry. A book that can make you do something like that is a work of art. If it incenses you, evokes tears, or makes you feel something so strongly you end up thinking about it even when you're not reading it, that's amazing.

What makes a story beautiful? ›

The best story is a well-told tale about something the reader feels is relevant or significant. The best stories are more complete and more comprehensive. They contain more verified information from more sources with more viewpoints and expertise. They exhibit more enterprise, more reportorial effort.

What are the 10 basic writing skills? ›

In the course students review:
  • grammatical and stylistic conventions. usage. punctuation. spelling. mechanics. diction. voice. sentence variety. transitions.
  • practice writing well-organized, specifically developed paragraphs and brief essays.
  • practice writing paragraphs and essays in an in-class exam setting.

What are the 10 features of writing? ›

The 10 features of academic writing are: complexity, formality, precision, objectivity, explicitness, accuracy, hedging, responsibility, organization and planning.

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