How to Improve Writing Skills

Kate Miller-Wilson
typing on a laptop keyboard

No matter what type of writing you're doing, it pays to work on improving your craft. Once you've mastered the basic writing skills, it's time to take things a step further and ensure every piece you write meets your highest standards. These seven tips will help.

1. Be Clear About Your Topic or Theme

Most writers have had the unpleasant experience of beginning to write about one thing, only to find that the real theme of the piece is something totally different. You can save yourself time and reduce the amount of revision needed by being clear about your topic from the beginning, and you'll see major improvement in your end results. There are lots of ways to do this, including the following:

  • Write a topic sentence or thesis before you start. Then, put it where you can see it, such as on a sticky note next to your screen.
  • Come up with three words to describe the themes you will include throughout the piece. Repeat them to yourself every time you sit down to write.
  • Ask yourself why you're writing this. Is it explain something, entertain someone, or something else?

2. Don't Skip the Outline

An outline can feel like a waste of time but the truth is, it can also save you lots of revision headaches and wasted hours. If you don't generally use outlines, give it a try. Writing an outline doesn't have to be a boring chore. It can be a fun experience that will deliver immediate results in the quality of your work. You can improve your outline-writing skills by experimenting with different formats and levels of detail.

3. Get to Know Your Audience Better

One of the most effective things you can do to improve your writing skills is getting to know your audience. When writers fail to consider who will read their work, they are missing the chance to make their writing truly compelling. Don't just settle for a simple description of your reader; ask yourself some detailed questions about him or her:

  • What does your reader want from this piece? Why is he or she reading this instead of doing something else?
  • What kind of background does your reader have? How much education and experience does this reader have in your topic?
  • Are you trying to change your reader's mind? What does he or she currently think about this topic?

4. Improve Your Transitions

Transitions are another way to take your writing to the next level. Carefully guiding your reader from one part of your writing to the next will make your work feel more fluid and professional. Improve your transitions by finding new ways to connect one section to the next.

5. Work on Hooks

Hooks are attention-grabbers that help you connect with and keep your audience, and it pays to practice your hook-writing skills. Putting a great hook in your introduction will draw the reader into your work even more effectively, and you can also use hooks to keep the audience engaged throughout the piece.

6. Tighten Everything Up

Making your writing more concise is a conscious decision that will pay off immediately. There are lots of ways to tighten things up, but one of the most effective is to identify areas where you are vulnerable to wordiness and practice these tricks to make your work more concise:

  • Highlight all the adverbs. Then see if you can change your verb to make the adverb unnecessary. For instance, instead of "walk slowly," you can say "stroll."
  • Look for empty words and phrases. Be on the lookout for "that," "very," "basically," "in order to," "as a matter of fact," and any others you know you use regularly.
  • Check for sentences you don't need. Try removing them and see if it changes the meaning. If it doesn't, they have to go.

7. Go Beyond Proofreading

Proofreading your writing is essential for any good writer. However, go beyond looking for typos and spelling errors. Take your proofreading a step further by looking for repeated words too. Some words, especially those that are unusual, should only appear once in your work. Others can show up a few times, but they shouldn't be too close together. Switch them for the most effective writing.

Writing Takes Practice

The biggest thing you can do to improve your skills is to write regularly. Like any skill, writing takes practice. You'll get better with every piece you write.

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How to Improve Writing Skills