You’ve got a great idea for a blog, or an essay, or even a screenplay. But having that brilliant idea is one thing, and getting it on paper (or on Microsoft Word, as it were) is another thing entirely.
Many people express frustration about not being able to translate their thoughts into writing that flows well and captures a reader’s attention. Even though I regularly write for various blogs, I still have days where I want to catapult my laptop out of the room because I just can’t figure out the exact wording I want. However, when this happens I take a few deep breaths and remind myself that there are relatively simple things we can all do to improve our writing. Here are 5 tips, in no particular order.
1. Know where you’re going. Much like Frodo carrying that ring to Mount Doom, a writer needs to have a clear goal in mind. No matter how long or short the piece I’m writing, I always find I do the best when I have an idea about what the shape of the piece is going to be.
You don’t necessarily need to have a detailed outline—I know plenty of writers who like to let their ideas grow organically as they go along—but have a sense of what you want the piece to do so that you don’t just end up rambling. What is it that you want to get across to your audience? When you finish a piece, ask yourself if you accomplished that goal.
2. Read it out loud. This is something that I always asked students to do when I worked at my college’s writing center, and although I was often met with looks of horror or uncomfortable throat clearing, a lot of the students told me they felt like it really helped!
Reading your writing out loud will not only help you catch any awkward grammar or syntax errors, it will help you figure out what your overall tone sounds like. Do you hear yourself being too stiff? Too flowery? Too much live Vince Offer in the ShamWow infomercials? Rewrite the problem areas and then try reading them aloud again.
3. Know your audience. This is important with any type of writing, but it’s extra important if you want to be a blogger. If you’re planning to write for a certain niche object, read articles on similar blogs to get a sense of the style and types of things that other bloggers are writing about (and that are popular with readers).
4. Don’t be afraid to edit. When you’re writing the first draft of a piece, it doesn’t pay to be a perfectionist. Get your ideas down, let the piece sit for a while, and then go back and edit it. It’s also worth having someone else look over it; even if you’re a great writer, it never hurts to have a second set of eyes looking for typos, grammar errors, or sections that just don’t make sense.
5. Write as much as possible. I know, I know, you’re probably thinking this last tip is a cop-out because it’s the vague platitude that just about everyone coughs up when caught off guard and asked for a writing tip. But I’m including it because I really believe it’s true. Write in a journal, write your own personal blog, write a poem about the things on your grocery list—whatever it takes. The more you write, the more comfortable you’ll get with writing, and the more you’ll be able to develop your own unique voice.