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5 Easy Ways To Improve Your Writing

How To Write Better

1. Don’t use two words when one will do.

I love words, and I’m often guilty of running on and on at the mouth (and on the blog). Sometimes more words works better if you’re trying to make things flow or if it’s a stylistic device. But when you’re trying to convey a point or a message, less is usually more. When clarity is the goal, fewer words can make your message harder to misunderstand.

My second draft of The Knot was performed with this purpose in mind. I cut nearly 50,000 words off, just eliminating unnecessary words.  And it’s still a big book!

2. Read Storyfix

Larry Brooks came over here slumming once with An Ode To Dangling Body Parts. Larry knows as much about writing as anyone. Better yet, while I simply dabble here and there, Larry’s entire blog is focused on getting you writing better. Highly, highly recommended.

Larry is also tall and strong and we’re going to start a band of giants. We need someone on the oboe. If you’re over 6’5″ and you know your reeds, feel free to apply.

Also, his new novel is awesome.

3. Read This

10 Words You Need To Stop Misspelling. I typically read The Oatmeal to laugh at the art and the humor. But even though this article/comic features someone riding a manatee, the grammar advice is right on.

4. Ask someone else to read your writing

Another set of eyes can work wonders. I became blind to my own errors and wondered if anyone else felt the same. Once I tentatively pointed out a typo in a piece written by  David Cain from Raptitude and he was thrilled to hear it. He works really hard on his pieces, but you will never catch all of your own mistakes. Never.

5. Write frequently, read frequently

This doesn’t mean blog frequently or write a zillion words a day. We get better at whatever we do. The more we write, the better we get at it. And the more we read, the more likely we are to internalize the way good writing works and transfer it into our own efforts.

Feel free to add to the list!


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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • David Cain June 9, 2010, 2:01 am

    I second the word-chopping idea. Some of my posts get super long and end up taking hours to write, but my favorite ones are all shorter ones.

    One area where I don’t work so hard is proofreading. By the time I feel like I’m done, my eyes don’t work anymore. I always appreciate typo alerts from readers.

    And Storyfix is great! I’m sure I’ve been there before. Thanks Josh.

  • Todd June 9, 2010, 6:20 am

    Wonderful advice, Josh. I second the awesomeness of StoryFix. While I don’t meet *any* of the criteria for the Band of Giants (BoG), I wish you luck in your musical career. You’re gonna be a big star–a jukebox hero. (for those too young to know what a jukebox is, think iPod the size of a washing machine).

  • Eric | Eden Journal June 9, 2010, 6:31 am

    The one word spell check always catches me on is “definitely.” After reading “10 Words You Need to Stop Misspelling,” I will never ever misspell it again.

    One additional tip. “Let it sit.” I always like to let my posts sit for an hour or a day or a couple days before I post them up on my blog. After a bit of time, I’m able to read them with a fresh set of eyes. By doing this I’m more easily able to review the post for content, flow, and spelling.

    For your band, you need to do something clever to replace the “of” with an “i” word, so we can call you “BiG.”

  • Heather June 9, 2010, 6:36 am

    One you inadvertently missed, but works just as well. . . read your stuff out loud. Got run-on sentences? Using “and” a lot? Are you being downright improper and dangling your participles? Does a sentence just plain SUCK? We teach our seniors to do this with their Senior Quest papers, so that they can write a better final speech. A lot of our kids have found that they can also improve and tighten their writing skills simply by sitting down and reading their papers out loud, either to a good friend or–even better–to and BY themselves, correcting as they go. Sometimes stuff “looks” like it will “read” just fine, but when you HEAR it, it may be a different matter altogether. Just an idea. . .

  • We Fly Spitfires June 9, 2010, 10:37 am

    I would also add “Don’t Overthink Things”. I find that I write the best when I’m not trying to write 😛

  • Mitch Seagon$ June 9, 2010, 3:34 pm

    Josh, you are cool. Thank you.

    • Josh Hanagarne June 9, 2010, 5:44 pm

      Mitch, I’m going to tell my wife that I’m cool now. She needs to hear it.

  • Bryce June 9, 2010, 10:25 pm

    That oatmeal page is hilarious! Excellent post, thanks for the tips. You can tell your wife you’re strong too!