Why You Should Improve Your Writing Skills … And How To Get Started

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typewriterYes, writing skills. You need to be able to write well if you want to be successful. Regardless of the type of work you do, writing is a part of it. You write e-mails, proposals, and project plans, and you may write blog posts, sales copy and other marketing materials. Ineffective and poor writing can negatively impact your work, reputation and ability to serve your clients.

Here are more reasons you need to write well:

  • Effective writing is one of the best ways to promote yourself.
  • Writing well can make people quicker to trust you.
  • The way you write tells a lot about who you are as a person.
  • When you write something down, it becomes more actionable than an idea in your head.
  • How you write tells others about your intelligence and expertise.
  • The better you are at writing, the more effective your marketing copy will be.
  • Effective writing can be persuasive and entice action.
  • The way you write can help others understand more and be able to form their own questions.

Improving your writing skills may take some time, but it will benefit you for the rest of your life. Not only will you present a more professional and intellectual side of yourself, but you can also win more business. And you’ll spend less time explaining and clarifying, and more time working and earning.

Here are some ways to get started:

  • Spell check and grammar check everything
  • Keep it short and simple
  • Write appropriately for the format
  • Read more books, magazines, articles and blogs
  • Start with an outline and expand from there
  • Take an effective writing class
  • Stop using abbreviations
  • Be consistent with styles
  • Proofread or have someone do it for you
  • Use a thesaurus
  • Avoid being too formal, or too casual
  • Know your audience
  • Walk away for a while, then review again
  • Practice writing in different formats
  • Read what you wrote out loud

How many of those items do you think about when you write? Is your writing effective?

For more tips on improving your writing skills:

A Web Designer’s Guide to Writing Well, Confident Writing
Calling All Designers: Learn to Write!, A List Apart
Writing Well for the Web, Webreference.com
A Guide to Writing Well, Fire and Knowledge
Ernest Hemingway’s Top 5 Tips for Writing Well, Copyblogger
Writing Well: A Short Guide for the Apprentice Writer, Dancing Badger

Image credit: abcdz2000

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  • Vincent

    Ineffective and poor writing can negatively impact your work, reputation and ability to serve your clients.

    I don’t mean to be a jerk, but it should be “…can have a negative impact on…” I wouldn’t feel the need to point out this minor (and very common) grammar mistake, but it occurs in an article about improving one’s writing skills. Otherwise, it’s a good post! :)

  • Cardenus

    Should we avoid contractions?

  • Stevie D

    One of the best guides I have come across is the Guardian Style Guide. Although written primarily for the paper’s journalists, it has a lot of useful tips and points of grammar and style that all writers would do well to bear in mind.

    http://image.guardian.co.uk/sys-files/Guardian/documents/2004/07/15/styleguidepdfjuly2004.pdf

    (Yes, it’s a bit out of date. It looks as though the latest version is available for purchase but not for free download)

  • markfiend

    I never use a thesaurus. Writers who do so frequently make it obvious with their repeated, duplicated, recapitulated and recurring vocabulary. ;-)

  • Anonymous

    @markfiend: On the contrary, a thesaurus allows the writer to avoid repeating terms, by using synonyms for greater variety.

  • Josh

    @Vincent: Actually, I’m not so sure that’s incorrect – although “Poor and ineffective writing” might have been a better way to start the phrase, and “reputation” and “ability” could have been preceded with “your”…

  • guruguy

    @markfiend – A thesaurus is only good to pick out words that you don’t make an immediate connection with. I never use a word from a thesaurus if it is outside of my normal vocabulary. This minimizes thesaurus use for use only when specifically searching for a synonym or similar word, rather than just going through to change up what you are writing

  • http://www.pamil-visions.com Phil Butler

    Alyssa,

    A very nice post, and even I re-learned two things in reading it and the comments. First, since I am the world’s absolute worst typist, checking my work 3 or 4 times is a good idea (tho sometimes I can miss stuff even then). Secondly, there is always someone who will find the most infinitesimally small error (or opinion of one)in one’s work.

    From my readings of the SitePoint posts, and my own included, your articles contain less errors than anyone’s. Appropriate that you should be the one to help everyone. I might suggest everyone, including the other authors, look at your style and take these pointers to heart.

    Thanks for the good advice, and keep doing what you are doing. Including using journalistic style where necessary. :)

    Always,
    Phil

  • Peter

    This is one of the worst posts I’ve yet to read on SitePoint. It addresses the first half of the title, but “And How To Get Started” is not addressed – instead a list of things you should do is provided, rather than how to do them.

    I had high hopes when I read the title, as I am trying to improve my writing skills, and would love to know how to address “Write appropriately for the format” and “Avoid being too formal, or too casual”; this article clearly isn’t the place to find out.