Writing about how to improve writing, very meta right?
For one, I am someone who personally loves to write. I find writing a nice way to express myself and that’s a big reason why I am writing in this blog. I think writing gets across what I’m trying to say well. Despite this being something I enjoy, in life generally writing is an important skill – whether in education, career or otherwise, written expression is embedded into many of our everyday lives and tasks. Learning to write to a high standard is a process and one of practice, just like any craft. Trial and error, practising and perfecting. I think everyone can benefit from learning how to enhance their writing skills.
I’m no expert yet, just someone who likes blogging, surprisingly enjoys writing essays and someone who is constantly seeking ways to improve themselves. This post includes some of the things I have found extremely useful for improving my writing over time, so I thought why not share? Here are my top tips and tricks:
1) Listen to more debates & engage in more debates
One tip I would advise for boosting your writing skills is consciously taking out more time to listen to debates. And when I say debates, I mean actual thought-provoking, conducive debates and not the tedious debates sucked in the repetitive Twitter cycle of “TL topics” such as, “Who pays for the first date?”. More productive debates to say the least. When listening to debates you expose yourself to new ideas and different ways of thinking. This is an amazing thing because it allows you to stretch your thinking to look at things from new angles and enhance your knowledge in a variety of different subject areas.
By observing debates, these offer moments where you can listen to other people sharing their perspectives and presenting their arguments. Through listening to these communications over a period of time I have often found that you can learn new, different ways to express yourself and eloquently present arguments as you may hear others fluently expressing their points. Therefore, I feel that listening to debates enables you to find new ways to express yourself more coherently and as a result, this can enhance your written expression.
Listening to podcasts is also a great way to gain more knowledge in a variety of different subject areas, for example, I like to listen to podcasts in topic areas that intrigue me such as psychology, health and lifestyle, for entertainment purposes too but I also try to make time to listen to podcasts which discuss societal issues and current affairs. I find listening to discussions through podcasts where people delve into topics is also very beneficial. I have personally found that as my knowledge starts to increase in many areas, I can find deeper meanings in things and as a result, my writing has much more depth to it because I can make more interesting links across subjects.
In addition, I would say challenging yourself to engage in more debates allows you to practise expressing yourself in ways that make sense and the better you get at doing this and organising your thought processes the better I feel it translates when you transfer these thoughts into written form.
Debating regularly allows you to practice being clear in your expression as you have to get your point across to other people. You may also learn the art of persuasion. Even if you casually debate topics amongst your friends or family you’re likely to gradually begin to organise your thoughts better, similarly to how you have to organise your ideas before a written piece like an essay. In a debate, you have to make your case to people, similar to essays where you have to make your case to the reader.
A channel that I find has some gripping debates is ‘The Grapevine’ on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/TheGrapevineTV/videos
Here are some of the podcasts I find really interesting – they are not all debate-ey but I find that they touch on interesting topics and get me thinking – all available on Spotify & Apple Podcasts
2. Read more & read widely
In my opinion, reading more is imperative for writing better and in particular, reading much more widely across a variety of genres and mediums. I would also say challenging yourself with texts outside of your comfort zone. Similar to my point regarding debates, reading widely exposes you to many new ideas – things that you may agree with and disagree with, stories you love and hate, new phenomena, theories, history and more. This all contributes to enhancing your knowledge in many areas and this is very valuable for your writing.
When you read in general, as well as devouring a fantastic book for entertainment value, information or advice it allows you to see how information and descriptions are expressed in writing. You get to delve into many descriptions of sights, places, people, feelings and get to explore different presentations of information. Even if unconsciously, consistently consuming different texts can enable you to learn how to structure your writing better.
Furthermore, reading widely allows you to discover new vocabulary which can be added to your bank of knowledge. I would advise always looking up vocabulary you don’t understand when reading and if you want to take it the extra mile, take a note or highlight them to get them to stick a bit further in memory. As you diversify your reading I feel like it is extremely likely that your bank of words will grow and these become available to excitingly decorate your writing in the future, making it much less bland.
However, although learning new vocabulary is great it’s important to learn the correct context for using particular words. It’s no good dumping in every fancy word you know into a piece of writing if it doesn’t add value, cluttered writing can be painful to read. So also be mindful of this.
Read things in different forms – read a combination of books, blogs, journal articles and news feeds. Get inspired by your favourite authors and writers and immerse yourself in the beautiful art of writing.
Engage in the art to help create the art.
A useful task I would suggest doing after reading an interesting book is to try to write a short summary of what you read and perhaps try to detail one of your favourite aspects of the book. After your summary is written, give it to someone else to read and ask them if they understand the main ideas that you are trying to convey about the book. I feel that this is a good way to practice writing concisely and it also allows you to perfect the clarity of your written expression. Good writing is understandable.
3. Make it a habit – Write, write & write some more
Although this may sound quite obvious, I think to get better at writing you have to go through the inevitable process of practising. Writing things over and over and over. There isn’t any magic potion that I know of that is going to help you to write better overnight. It’s a process. The more you practice and the more you produce, the more you get comfortable with expressing yourself in written forms. I can definitely say writing is a craft that has to be worked on continuously and gradually through doing this I’ve started to feel my flow over time.
A great technique that I like to use to practice writing, especially in everyday life, is journaling. Although my journal entries are not always coherent, formal essay-like pieces of writing, I feel like journal writing is a great way to train yourself to get your thoughts written down into words. Journaling allows you to express yourself, for example, your feelings and thoughts and/or gives you opportunities to describe events. Even in some cases, you may choose to write letters to your future or past self.
I feel like journaling is a really good way to make writing a regular habit even if it’s in a casual, light-hearted way. It enables you to practice conveying ideas and translating your thought processes into words. Journaling can also allow you to practice key skills such as evaluation and self-reflection. For example, reflecting on where you went wrong and how best to improve. These skills are transferable and can be applied when you are writing and thinking of valuable ways to upgrade your work.
Some reflective journal prompts I like to use to help me write:
- Describe how you are currently feeling in your life right now
- Write a letter to your past self and discuss some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned
- Describe how you would like your future to ideally look like
- Describe some of the best moments you’ve experienced and describe why you loved them so much
4. Get rid of your ego & take on board critique – Know better to do better
To write better you 100% have to be willing to take on board feedback and use it to improve your future writing. If there is anything I’ve learnt during my time in education, it’s to take on board feedback and utilise it to do better the next time. I practised this continuously at university and it did not fail me when it came to improving my writing structure and style. To grow in life as a whole and move forward you have to recognise your faults too. I feel like this applies to writing too.
Sometimes you might feel extremely proud of a piece of work that you put a lot of effort in and it hurts when it just doesn’t make the cut. Seriously, it stings when you thought you were acing that essay and the marker was significantly underwhelmed or you thought you were the next hit writer in town. Of course, in many ways, “good writing” can be subjective depending on personal taste but sometimes we just need to swallow our pride and understand where we may have gone wrong.
Get other people to read your writing and give you their honest feedback about where and how you can improve. Getting others to read your writing allows you to understand how what you are expressing is being digested and comprehended, especially if you are writing for it to be read by others. Are you a serious waffler that needs to be more succinct? Does your writing make sense? Does your writing need some spice? Consider how to tackle your weaknesses and use critique to your advantage to make it much better.
A useful tip I would suggest is to keep a record of your weaknesses by simply listing them down somewhere such as a notebook or digital document. Listing them down somewhere and having them archived allows you to be more aware of your writing downfalls and as a result less likely to repeat your mistakes the next time you write as you have physical reminders. Also, write down your positive feedback too, use this to motivate you when you are writing and remind you to keep on implementing these positive elements into your writing.
Overall, I wish you the very best in your writing endeavours, even if it’s just something you want to improve for everyday life. Here’s to leveling up and honing our skills – *cheers*