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Writing Skills

how to improve your writing

How to Improve Your Writing Skills: A Guide By Professional Writers

For people who want to begin improving their writing, for personal or professional reasons, it can feel daunting sifting through all the different resources and “How-To” articles online. 

So, this guide aims to not only be useful for veteran writers who want to really hone their craft, but for entrepreneurs who want to write their business copy, and for anyone who’s just starting to put pen to paper.

10,000 Hours? There’s A Better Way to Become A Good Writer (Or How to Practice Deliberately) 

Have you ever heard that achieving mastery in a skill takes 10,000 hours? While putting 10,000 hours into anything will probably make you an expert, it isn’t exactly necessary for improving your writing skills. 

See, the quality of your practice techniques plays just as important of a role in your growth as the number of hours you dedicate to your skill. If you instead prioritize the skills that will help you see the biggest results from your efforts, you’ll become a better writer that much faster. 

Define Your Writing Goals: Get As Specific As Possible!

So, all this to say – define your goals! 

What kind of writing do you want to create? Are you just wanting to improve your email communication skills? Put together better blog articles? Rewrite your business’s website copy? Or simply learn how you’re feeling at the end of a long day? Of course, there are a lot of other writing goals you might have. But clearly defining these goals helps you create a plan of action. 

Once you have a goal in mind, try to go even deeper. For example, if you feel like you’re always looking for the right word, get familiar with a thesaurus. Or maybe you want to write stronger titles and subject lines. 

Whatever your goal may be, honing in on what you want out of your writing will not only motivate you to keep practicing, but it gives you a sense of direction. This means you can avoid the experience of overwhelm when you start Googling around. 

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Adopt A Growth Mindset 

Before we go any further, let’s get the hard truth out of the way: there’s no magic bullet to becoming a master writer in a short amount of time. 

Spanx didn’t just become a $1.6 billion company overnight. It took 21 years to accomplish that. 

Like building a recognizable and valuable brand, becoming a better writer takes practice, time, and effort.

This isn’t to deter you from writing but instead is a gentle reminder that whatever you put into your writing is what you’ll receive out of it. 

So with that being said, embrace the journey! 

Try to accept that improving your writing won’t exactly happen overnight, but remind yourself that you WILL become a stronger writer as long as you keep showing up. By doing this, you’re equipping yourself with a powerful mindset – one that is invaluable for accomplishing your writing goals. 

Even though it’s discouraging at times to not progress as quickly as you’d like, that isn’t a reason to give up completely! A growth mindset acknowledges the reality that everyone grows at their own pace; and that any progress is far better than no progress at all. 

[Related: Tackle The Lies Imposter Syndrome Tells You]

It’s Better To Go Slow Than Fast 

When we want to learn a new hobby or skill, it’s tempting to dive headfirst into as many resources, learning materials, or books as we can. Eventually, your bookmark folders are so full of links and pages you don’t even know where to start. 

You load up on so much information that now it seems like there are too many paths open for you to take and it’s hard to nail the right one down. 

Well, this has a term: it’s called analysis paralysis. When you don’t know what option is best because there seems to be a plethora, your progress in the skill you’re working on slows down dramatically. 

But here’s the thing: you do want to go slow, but not because you’re spending all of your time trying to decipher what you should learn first. 

Consistent, daily efforts are the real goal here. So, try to start with a few strategies instead of many. 

How To Be Consistent

If you’re wanting to write the copy on your website, follow our how-to guide, and write thirty minutes to an hour each day for a week. 

The same goes for any form of writing, though. You’ll improve your writing much faster and more meaningfully if you choose just one thing to focus on each day rather than trying something new every time you sit down to write. While you do want to try new strategies, (more on this a little later), you need a solid foundation first. Practice specific skills every day, and you’ll see measurable results from your work as time goes on. This is another area where having clearly defined goals is also so important. 

When you try to do too much, it can feel overwhelming and impossible to get to the result you’re reaching for. Think about when you were in the high school band, played sports, or any other activity that required you to practice. 

If you were presented with a challenging piece of music, you might have initially been turned off from it completely or felt like you would never be able to learn it. But breaking the score down into smaller parts allowed you to slowly learn how to hit all the notes, tempo changes, and eventually, play the whole piece. 

Improving your writing skills is no different. 

Break it down, go slow, and you’ll be surprised how much your writing develops!  

Find A Writing Mentor 

Even if your mentor of choice is from the last century, studying the work of a writer you admire can have a profound effect on your growth. When you find a writer whose style you’re particularly drawn to, take a step back and think about what it is about their work that you find so enthralling. 

Do they make every word count? 

Can they seem to breathe life into the smallest of details? 

Does their writing light a fire inside of you? 

Whatever reason it may be, something is pulling you to their work. Try to uncover what it is, because once you figure it out, the reason speaks to what kind of writer you want to become. 

It doesn’t matter if you’re writing poetry, short stories, or putting together an email campaign for your eCommerce business – collecting samples of writing you love and that inspires you is key for not only your development as a writer, but for your motivation to keep showing up and putting words on a blank page. 

Understand Your Audience 

If your audience is just for you and you alone, then that’s okay! But if you’re writing for your own business, it’s helpful to understand who your audience is. Because once you know the language your audience speaks, you can write directly to them!

So, dedicating more time to studying your target audience’s problems, wants, and needs will give you a stronger foundation for writing copy that resonates.  

The Art of Self-Editing

While you could consider self-editing less important to improving your writing than, well, writing itself, self-editing is a fundamental skill every writer should hone. 

Editing your own work can be challenging. Mostly because as writers, we can be invisible to our blind spots. There might be areas where our writing falls short of our goals and expectations, or there are parts where we just aren’t as clear as we should be.

Learning how to self-edit is about teaching yourself where your weaknesses might be or showing you the places where you can improve and become a better writer that much more quickly. Because if we don’t know where we might be struggling, we could continue to make the same mistakes over and over again. So understanding where you are and where you can improve is like equipping yourself with a personalized manual on how to reach your writing success. It’s also helpful to remember that a first draft will almost always need refining. But you have to have a draft to start with first! 

How do you become a better self-editor? 

Read Your Writing Out Loud! 

Reading your writing aloud is perhaps the single best editing strategy a writer can practice. When you read your writing out loud, you catch punctuation or spelling errors much more easily, and of course, you can hear how your writing sounds. 

This is especially helpful because when you read something out loud, it’s almost as if you’re reading it as the reader and not the writer. It allows you to experience your writing with a fresh perspective. You’ll be able to catch where the writing sounds awkward or gets jumbled up or where sentences carry on far too long.

Print Out Your Writing 

If you mostly write using your computer and keyboard, try printing out your work. In the same way that reading aloud can give you another perspective on your writing, so can holding a physical copy of a document. 

Printing your work out allows you to make marks on the page, which engages your editing skills. It’s also an incredible tool for organizing your writing. Instead of scrolling up and down a page, cutting and pasting sections until they’re organized logically, being able to refer to each paragraph instantly can help you put the pieces together. 

Done Is MUCH Better Than Perfect 

Though self-editing is a great skill to pick up on as a writer of any level, try not to get too carried away with the revising process. It can be surprisingly easy to keep editing your work and rewriting sections, hoping to get everything just right – until you’ve spent much more time on the piece than you intended. 

So, all this to say, try to put in a hard deadline to finish the piece. 

That way, you’ll actually hit “Publish”! 

Write In A Different Genre Or Format

Challenging yourself to write something completely different is a great way to spark new inspiration and creativity. By branching out to different writing styles or content pieces, you could end up finding new ways to express yourself.

When you experiment with new genres, you’re actively broadening your writing knowledge. This allows you to pull from a variety of different styles to create unique pieces. And, this helps you refine your own style as well.

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Read: The Real Secret to Improving Your Writing 

Reading is the number one habit any writer can practice to see their writing grow. No matter what kind of writing you want to improve in, there is content available to read! 

From movie scripts, literary novels, Social Media ads, promotional emails, and more, when you read the content you want to create, you’ll start to pick up on how different writers approach the writing process. You’ll also learn new words, refine your punctuation and grammar, and get a sense of how to create a writing voice. 

So, pick up a few books or start collecting pieces of writing that you like and save them for your reference! 

Hand-Copy To Learn Copywriting

When you were first learning how to draw, did you ever trace pictures? It can be a helpful tool for learning how to draw because you can get a sense of how to form shapes or lines. 

Well, hand-copying writing is very similar. When you hand-copy a piece of writing, the goal is to slow down and consider each word that the writer is using. 

This exercise is best done by hand with a pen and paper because writing by hand helps you remember the information you’re copying down. Think of hand-copying writing as a way of taking notes like you would in class.

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