6 tips to improve your writing

Nick Harland
September 2021

Whilst so there's no single easy way to improve your writing, here's are six ways you can start the process.

There’s no big secret to improving your writing. Sorry to disappoint, but you’re not gonna read this blog and get some Eureka moment that turns you into an amazing writer overnight. But there are certainly ways in which you can start improving your writing overnight. Here are six of them.

1. Read and learn from the best

The first way of improving your writing skills is to simply read as often as possible. That might be newspapers, it might be websites, it might be books. The important thing is to take in as much as possible.

If you notice a piece of writing that you like, stop for a moment to quickly analyse it. What did you like about it? Why did it catch your attention? Bookmark it on your computer or make a cutting of it to refer back to later. Eventually, you’ll have a mini library of writing that you can use whenever you need inspiration or simply need help defining your own writing style. Which brings us on to our next point...

2. Find your tone of voice

Your writing inspiration can come from a variety of sources, and you shouldn’t be afraid to plunder the best features of their writing for your own style. However, although you should learn from the best, don’t just imitate them. It’s important to develop your own tone of voice to help your writing stand out from the crowd.

Imagine you were in a band and wanted to write a song. If you just listened to The Beatles and tried to rewrite a song of theirs, nobody would be interested in it. It would be derivative, dull and uninteresting. Instead, it would be better to take influences from several different bands and incorporate them all into your own sound. 

If that sounds complicated, it doesn’t have to be. Because you already have your own tone of voice. Every message, text and email that you send projects it. Everyone speaks and writes in a unique way, so it’s just a case of finding your own voice - and learning how to communicate it.

3. Know your audience

Before you write anything for anyone you need to know and understand your audience. As we just mentioned, it’s important to develop your tone of voice in writing. But that doesn’t mean it can never change. It’s equally important to adapt it depending on the audience that you’re writing for.

For example, let’s say you’re writing a blog aimed at people that are learning how to speak English. It would be a bad idea to employ technical language, idioms and jargon, because they probs ain’t gonna get the gist of what you’re harping on about. Right? 

4. Make every word count

The last time you looked up a recipe online, at what point did they actually tell you the recipe itself? It probably came after a long-winded introduction that took FOREVER to get to the point. The writer is doing it to try and please our search engine algorithm overlords, but it badly affects the quality of the piece (recipe articles are particularly bad for this kind of thing...JUST TELL ME HOW TO MAKE THE DAMNED WAFFLE).

I once read a book about how to write a novel, and one piece of advice has stuck in my head ever since. It was something along the lines of: ‘every passage in your book should do something to advance or contribute to the story.’ And although the author was talking about writing a novel, in reality it can be applied to writing of any kind. Like these recipe articles.

So whatever you’re writing about, consider how every word, phrase and sentence contributes to the overall piece. Is it adding valuable information? Is it clarifying something? If not, then you can cut it. Don’t waffle on, unless you’re going to cleverly refer back to it at a later point in your article.

5. Read back what you’ve written (aloud)

If you’re struggling to make your writing sound natural, or smooth, or like you, try this easy trick. 

Read you writing aloud, back to yourself. Whenever it sounds jilted, or confused, or plain rubbish, go back and rewrite it in your own voice. Keep going through this until you’re happy the piece of writing actually sounds like you.

This is a great way of not only developing your own tone of voice, but also identifying where your writing meanders or when a sentence doesn’t make any sense.

6. Write every day

Take on board the advice in 1-5 and….you’ll probably never improve your writing. Why? Because the single most important thing you can do to get better at writing is by actually writing.

It sounds obvious, but there is no better way to improve. No writer is the finished article, and professional writers weren’t born with some God-given gift. Even the very best had to put the time in to develop their writing skills.

It is possible to improve your writing through hard work. But you’ve got to practice as much as you can - ideally every day. Keep writing, keep editing, keep refining your style, and over time you’ll see the difference.

Nick Harland