During college, I tutored students in writing.
I had several students who returned on a regular basis during the semester.
Throughout those three months, I watched their work become stronger.
They relied less on the passive voice, used more concrete evidence to prove their arguments, and divided their thoughts into cohesive paragraphs.
I no longer tutor writing, but I think often about what it takes to become a better writer.
As we start the New Year, it’s a great time to pick up a new skill or sharpen skills you have.
Bettering your writing skills is key for improving as a PR professional and communicator.
Refresh on the basics
No one can claim the Oxford comma debate or correct semi-colon use are the most thrilling topics, but good writing requires proper grammar, punctuation, mechanics, and spelling.
Most of us haven’t taken a class or read up on these topics since high school, but lots of good outlets offer useful refreshers, as well as tips you may not have previously known.
Any writing question you’ve ever had can be answered by Purdue Owl. From research and citation information to tips on mechanics and grammar how to’s, you’ll leave their site with knowledge to benefit your writing.
It’s also never a bad idea to refresh yourself on the basics with the go-to reference book of writing and grammar, William Shrunk Jr.’s The Elements of Style. You likely read it at some point during school and probably haven’t picked it up since. At just around 100 pages, you could easily reread the whole thing, or just a few sections on particular topics that trouble you.
We’ve talked about it before on Media Bullseye, but reading more leads to better writing skills.
Routine reading exposes you to proper grammar, new ideas, and creative syntax, which can bleed into your own writing.
If you already read voraciously, improve your reading routine by diversifying the type of work you read. Introduce business books to your rotation if you typically stick to fiction or try poetry if you have avoided it in the past.
For good recommendations, check out blogs’ reading lists, like this one from Spin Sucks. These lists introduce new books you may not have heard of otherwise.
Good Reads is also a very helpful to resource for reading. Good Reads was established to address the “discoverability problem” of our digital age by exposing readers to new books and authors they would enjoy. The site, which also has an app, lets you create lists of books you’d like to read, books you have read, and the book(s) you’re currently reading. Users can also access reviews, discussions, and recommendations.
Similar to more reading, writing more, of course, makes you a better writer.
Consider writing and reading as exercise for your mind.
Whether you keep a journal, write letters, or take notes on things that interest you, such as a new TV show you’re watching or the books you’re reading, adding regular writing to your personal routine will lead to stronger writing in your professional life.
The more often you write, the more natural it will feel to put pen to paper. A routine provides a familiarity and ease with writing that you may lack if you only write when required for work. Although it won’t guarantee seamless, error-free composition, you’ll be more likely to crank out a first draft that can then be edited.
Additionally, adding more frequent writing to your routine will produce more material that can later be reworked. Most of your personal writing will remain personal, but as you create more work, you may find a sentence or idea of particular interest. This idea can then be repurposed as part of your professional work, such as a blog post.
Write first, edit later
This may seem like common sense, but it’s easier said than done.
It’s tempting and easy to backpedal and edit a sentence you wrote, especially when writing with the convenience of a backspace button on a computer. (I’ve done it twice while producing the first draft of this sentence.)
Allow yourself to create a full draft before correcting word choice, syntax, and grammar. Stopping to correct errors interrupts your thought process and can staunch your flow of creative ideas.
If you struggle with this, try producing your first draft in longhand. Without the temptation of a backspace button, you can keep moving forward with your draft. After completing this first draft by hand, you can type it onto your computer, allowing you to do initial edits for grammar and clarity.
As we move further into the New Year, try integrating these changes to your routine to strengthen your writing.