Beyond the Rhetoric


5 Tips To Improve Your Writing Ability

September 25th, 2007 by
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I received an email from Serge Frolov yesterday and the gist of his message was to ask how I came to be a good writer. More specifically, he asked, “How did you come up to that level of writing?” in reference to a ReviewMe review I did on John Chow dot Com. I have several of those reviews under my belt, but most of them talk about making money online in some way. By contrast, the Keetsa review was for green tea mattresses. Not exactly the typical fodder for dot com moguls.

Serge asked if there was a particular e-book that helped me improve my writing ability. The answer is no. The truth is that there is no quick and dirty way to improve your writing ability. You don’t go from an incoherent blogger to a professional writer overnight. The email did get me thinking, though, how does one go about becoming a better writer, especially if they want to consider freelance writing as a career? One of the biggest freelance writing myths is that everyone can do it. Some people are just better suited for it than others, just as I’m not particularly skilled in the kitchen.

It’s not possible to train someone to become a great writer through a 500 word guide, just as it’s impossible for a single online university class to turn you into a literary genius overnight. However,what I want to do here today is provide you with five tips that may point you in the right direction.

1. Practice is Everything
The single best way for you to improve your writing is to, well, keep writing. Practice may not necessarily make perfect, but it can help to develop those skills and improve them. Speaking for myself, I write every day for several hours a day. I have a couple longer posts that I do from time to time, but many of them are 500 words or less. I have a machine-gun style of writing for those clients (as well as on this blog). As a result of all this work, I’ve been called a pro blogger. Keep writing, daily if possible. It is only through continued practice that you will improve.

2. Reading Improves Your Writing
If all you do is restrain yourself to your own little mental world, you probably won’t improve your writing. In addition to all the writing I do each day, I also do a fair bit of reading. I check out dozens of other blogs on the Internet, I read plenty of tech news through the usual sources, and I check up on the local paper to see what’s happening in the world beyond the blogosphere. Just through pure osmosis, you will start to collect certain ideas and styles that you can integrate into your own writing. This is particularly useful for people who have English as a second language, because it exposes you to the little nuances that they may not teach you in formal English training.

3. The Power of Free Association
In this respect, I may be a touch on the unconventional side. In school, they teach you that you should prepare a rough outline before you start writing your essay. By and large, I don’t do this. Instead, I just put fingers to keyboard and let the words flow out naturally. By doing this, each paragraph will feel more connected. You should have a rough idea in your head what you want to talk about, but I’m not a fan of formal outlines. After you’re reasonably happy with the length of your piece, re-read it in its entirety to fix any errors and ensure that the article is cohesive.

4. Encourage Feedback
Don’t write in a vacuum. When you produce an essay in school, the teacher will return that essay to you with a letter grade and feedback. When you write a blog post, there is no formal evaluation process to tell you whether you did a good job or not. Sure, there’s the rate my post plug-in that you can try, but actual words are much more useful than a simple “star” rating. I’ve received comments about the calibre of the reviews I do at John Chow dot Com. People say that they’re comprehensive and well-written, but this wasn’t always the case. I remember the first ReviewMe I did on that site was not well received at all. I read the comments and adjusted my style accordingly, keeping the target audience in mind.

5. Write As If You Were Speaking
I find that when some people sit down to write something, they take on an entirely different voice than the one they use when they are speaking. The net result is a body of text that feels contrived and artificial. It feels mechanical and that’s not what you want, especially when it comes to blogging. I’m not saying that you should write like you’re talking with your buddies over a beer, but you want the text to feel as natural as possible. Write as if you were either have a heart-to-heart with someone or you were giving some sort of public speech. My blog words are slightly elevated from everyday speech, but it’s still my voice.

As you can see, there is much more to being a good writer than avoiding grammar mistakes. These tips are by no means exhaustive and they may not apply to all writers, but they have largely contributed to my advancement as a freelance writer. I hope that they have been helpful for any budding writers out there.

  Category: Freelance Writing  

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Michael Kwan Freelance Writer

8 Responses to “5 Tips To Improve Your Writing Ability”

  1. […] of interesting emails in the past week or so. I responded to the first by putting up a post with 5 tips to improve your writing ability, so I figured that I would take a similar strategy with the message that I got from top commentator […]

  2. Grigory says:

    ))) I was just thinking to ask someone- how to improve my writing skills. For sure it depends on the situation but sometimes it’s so hard to make myself to write a sane text. Actually, I myself agree that only the plenty of reading can improve someone’s writing skills.

  3. Serge Frolov says:

    Michael, thank you for sharing these tips. I personally think this topic will be always on high demand. Don’t know if it’s good or not, but I wanted to thank you for mentioning my name and the link in your post.

  4. Eric Elias says:

    this is good source of information. I got to the right place. Well-Orgenized and simplified writing.
    Sometimes you want to say something simple and it comes out so messy.
    Good tips.
    Thank you.

  5. […] other sections that may prove useful: There are 5 letter writing tips to help you out in case my 5 writing tips aren’t enough; and there is a page filled with links to writing sites, “other” […]

  6. […] time back, I provided 5 tips to improve your writing ability, but those were more a matter of expression and flow. Those tips were designed to improve the […]

  7. NAZLI says:

    Dear Michael
    I am working on a research to find out the effects of vocabulary knowledge on writing ability.i wonder if you can help me by introducing sone books.

    I am looking forward to hearing from you.

  8. says:

    Just writing and submitting is not the correct way.
    There is no standard about the word count of
    a sentence, however the ideal is consider till 15 but some writers prefer writing more then 15 as well so
    it depends but no writer exceeds the limit of 35 words per sentence so
    make sure you know this. To become able to develop a high quality dissertation, there are a number of steps that one should
    consider in their mind before writing it.

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