How to (Like, Actually) Improve Your Writing

You don’t need a graduate degree in English. You don’t need to memorize Strunk and White. These simple practices will really help you become a better writer.

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Even if you aren’t a writer per se, proficient writing skills are highly valuable in plenty of careers. Often overlooked, the amount of writing workers do on a daily basis via email, text, and instant message is sky high. Add to that the occasional report, write-up, analysis, presentation, or performance review, and it starts to become clear how much of a writer you really are.  

If effective communication is so integral to so many professional roles, why aren’t we better at it? High school students in the American education system regularly struggle to master the fundamentals of writing on a sentence-by-sentence level—only 24 percent write at a proficient level, while a mere three percent are advanced. Many educators believe that the standard writing curriculum needs comprehensive reform, with a much higher emphasis on the basics.  

As an adult, you have the power to make this positive change on your own. Taking small steps to improve your writing allows you to organize your thoughts and make a good impression with colleagues or clients. Plus, you may feel inspired to dabble in some personal writing unrelated to work. This new hobby could help you creatively express your feelings, find a healthy outlet for stress, and even get to know yourself a little better! Learn how to do this and more the write way.  

Writing tips you can start implementing today 

It doesn’t have to be a slog—your writing improvement journey can begin right now with these helpful hints and simple solutions.  

1. Make outlines your ally    

It may seem like adding extra work at first, but your patience and thoroughness is well worth the reward. Sketching out the general structure of your communication helps you avoid that rambling, how-do-I-land-this-plane kind of writing that leads to headaches and crunched-up papers being thrown in the trash. 

2. See your sentences as bodies of work  

You know that an essay typically has an introduction, body, and conclusion. You should approach your sentences with a similar idea, although the components are a little different. After you write a sentence, check to make sure it has clear subjects (the who), objects (the what), articles (like the versus a), and verbs (the action). If you’re unsure about your sentence construction, read it out loud. Does it sound natural to you, like something you would really say? If not, it needs some tweaks. 

3. Choose clarity over length every day 

Longer doesn’t always translate to better or smarter. You don’t have to sprinkle your communication with obscure SAT words to impress readers. Your audience (professional or otherwise) will appreciate clear ideas stated simply. When you can, opt for short words and short sentences. They hit harder.  

4. Edit, edit, edit   

“The only kind of writing is rewriting.” So stated Ernest Hemingway in his memoir A Moveable Feast. As perhaps the most influential writer of the last hundred years, let’s take his word for it. It is totally normal to finish a first draft, read it over, and find it’s full of errors. Don’t get down on yourself—those errors are just room for improvement. Over time, you’ll learn not to keep making the same mistakes.   

5. Read more 

If you were a musician, you’d seek out great music to help teach and inspire you. So expose yourself to writers who excel at the craft, whether that’s your favorite poet, your favorite journalist, or your favorite fashion blogger. Pore over good writing that you admire, and ask yourself what specific qualities make that piece of writing so appealing. Then, try imitating those qualities in your own work.  

6. Share your writing with someone whose feedback you trust 

Writing is often a solitary act. When you’re having trouble with it, you could end up feeling really isolated. 

Have you ever been here? You keep going over and over the same piece of writing—feeling like something’s wrong but not knowing what it is—and you wish you had another pair of eyes. Connecting with other writers gives you perspective and insight from people who understand the process and its challenges.  

7. Expand your horizons with a writing community 

There are so many people writing together on Meetup—over 2.7 million of them across more than 3,800 groups! You’re sure to find a community that suits your particular interests. 

There are groups for holding yourself accountable to your writing goals, like Shut Up & Write!® NYC, as well as groups for specific writing niches, like PhDs and PostDocs in LA: Writing and Networking. You might even consider a public speaking group, like the Flatiron Toastmasters, because verbal communication and written communication skills go hand in hand!   

Even accomplished writers have room to improve: there’s a reason why you find so many of them in workshops! It’s a lifelong pursuit that can be extremely rewarding personally and professionally. You can easily create your own writing group and invite others to join you on the journey.

Last modified on January 29, 2024