7 Tips on how to build and enhance your writing skills

By Churchill Masheti

Writing is a skill and talent that enables one to communicate through spoken words. Be it for professional purposes or daily communication such as text messages, emails, and posts on social media, writing is embedded in your life as a journalist in one way or the other. If your career does not necessarily include writing, communicating effectively in written form is vital for success in the current competitive job market. The truth is, some people are naturally gifted with excellent writing skills and if you are not one, worry not; it is something that you can improve on by being disciplined and willing to learn. To do that, consider the following tips:

1. Practice writing everyday

Practice makes perfect. There is no exception to writing. For you to become a good writer, honing your skills regularly is necessary. Make a constant effort to become a better writer. It does not have to be writing about a specific topic, but rather anything you can imagine. Writing about various subjects will help you maintain or improve your skill and give you experience. For a freelance writer's case, practice will gradually boost your portfolio with time. In this modern digital era, you can also incorporate writing in your day-to-day life by, e.g., posting on your social media or blog. Like an update containing a few sentences just to let people know what you are working on or otherwise promoting." Thereby you're improving your ability to choose the right words, and you can get creative with how to express what you want to say in different ways.

2. Read what others write

Everybody learns from examples. By reading what various talented journalists and authors have written, you can understand the different ways in which people convey messages through text and take valuable elements of their writing into your own. There is nothing wrong with tailoring your writing style in line with those you resonate with. Your word and vocabulary range increases through reading, too, which will be helpful when you work on your pieces. If you only wish to concentrate on one particular niche, it is advisable to read what others in the same area write. You will also be able to see their choice of words used together with how sentences are constructed. Find a way of including reading in your writing sessions. It could be summarizing what you just read on a piece of paper.

Reading widely expands your vocabulary and exposes you to different writing styles (Christina Morillo/Pexels)

3. Learn how to create an outline for your writing

Whenever you start writing, come up with an outline of what you want to put on paper. There is no joy or added value in reading an article that is poorly written, incomplete, or without a logical structure. Therefore, you should plan what you are supposed to write and cover every required detail. Brainstorm about what you want to write about, come up with sub-topics, bullet points, and further dive into ideas that you want to include. This will give you direction when you write and ensure that the piece comes out as intended.

4. Always remember first drafts don't have to be perfect

Writing is an iterative process to ensure the quality of the outcome. By reading what other people have already written, we think that the writer effortlessly came up with the piece just like that. But this doesn't happen. You will realize that your first draft will not be the final masterpiece, which is fine. Getting rid of the pressure only to write down perfect sentences can also protect you from frustrating writer's blockAllocate enough time to rework your piece until you are satisfied with the final version. If you are working under an editor, don't worry too much about how your first draft will come out, especially if you are new to the game. Just read through the needed corrections, write down the points and concentrate on cleaning up the piece before resubmitting it. And make sure to remember the feedback for your next draft to prove your enhanced writing skills with every new story.

Writing partners will help you improve on your weaknesses (Zen Chung/Pexels)

5. Ask for feedback on your writing

Whenever possible, get together with others with whom you share a common interest. Just as you may agree, the pursuit of a specific goal as a team stands a higher chance to succeed than a solo effort. The good thing is that you do not have to be a seasoned writer to join a writing workshop or find another author to partner with. Professional development and meet-ups have become a trend in today's world, and it is possible to find some seminars near you. Select a topic, write about it, and then ask your colleagues for feedback. This enriches your writing by helping you understand different ways in which you could have written the story and ways in which you can improve on it in case it wasn't optimal. Moreover, you will have the rare opportunity to meet experienced authors and learn from them on specific aspects of writing. Likewise, you can opt to have a writing partner to improve your writing skills, especially if the person is as good or relatively better than you. While it is true that writing is a solitary activity, learning and getting feedback from another person is equally recommended.

6. Use simple words when writing

Well, you may think the use of complex words makes you appear more competent. This might hold for scientific papers. But if you want your texts to be appealing to broader audiences, the rule is elementary – use simple words when writing. Think about it: would you rather write your blog post in a complex language that will negatively influence the traffic or use simple language that many readers can understand? You already know what the answer is. You shouldn't write as if your readers are dummies; we only recommend writing well in a coherent form and to the point, which will testify to your command of the language. Your writing will appear natural and probes your readers to engage in the narrative actively.
Furthermore, you need to figure out your style and authentically. Do not try to imitate how somebody else writes; only look for inspiration and always keep the audience you are writing for in mind. Also, be flexible enough to adapt to different writing styles suitable for the topic and target group.

7. No writing without editing

Editing your work is a crucial component of your writing. This may either come after you have completed or during the process. You clearly wouldn't want to put out work prone to errors, something that occurs even to experienced authors. Depending on the type of tool (e.g., "Grammarly") that you may prefer, tuning your work to perfection is a concern. An editing tool will also enhance your understanding of the language regarding correct spelling, sentence construction, and the overall choice of words. Self-proofreading or by a friend is often just not enough.

Are you an established writer or wish to start writing but haven’t figured out publications to write for? Look no further. We at The Story Market help to connect you to the best magazines in the world. And you can resell your stories through us in an effortless manner. We also offer further tips, e.g., on writing great stories efficiently and how to become a freelance journalist.

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