It is possible to show someone the basics of WordPress in just a few minutes. Most blogging platforms are just as easy as learn. Due to this, anyone who can use the internet can technically write a blog post; however, as we all know, all content is not created equal.
The vast majority of content online is poorly written. Most articles are rushed, have not been researched thoroughly, do not convey a message, and do not cite sources. A large percentage of articles have also been spun specifically for search engines; which means the quality of the article was never even a consideration.
There is a myth that I encounter frequently that you are either a good writer or a bad writer. I do not believe this to be true.
I am living proof that someone can vastly improve the quality of their writing if they work hard at it. Throughout school, I excelled in numeracy based subjects. This continued into University, where the thought of writing a ten thousand word dissertation continued to scare me to death.
My writing skills only started to improve when I began to blog every day. This got me into the habit of writing and, perhaps more importantly, reviewing my writing more. To this day, I continue to review my writing and improve upon what I consider to be my weaknesses.
In this article, I would like to share my experience and give you advice on how you can all improve your writing skills. I hope you find them useful.
1. Make Writing a Habit
Writing is no different to any other skill in that you need to gain a lot of experience before you reach a certain level of competency. As the old saying goes: Practice Makes Perfect.
You should try and get into the habit of writing most days. I do not believe that your writing will improve much by writing one or two short five hundred word blog posts a week. You need to write frequently and reach a point where writing becomes second nature.
2. Get Back to Basics
If English is your native language, you should be able to speak English and read English comfortably. This is perhaps why many people do not take the time to learn grammar rules. It is not like you need to know the difference between a preposition and a conjunction to watch a film or read a newspaper.
Writing English is a different story. If grammar rules are not followed, an article can be very difficult to understand and follow. Grammar provides the building blocks of language, therefore a missing comma or a misplaced period will change the flow of an article.
Those of you who have considered freelance writing for others should know that most website owners place a lot of emphasis on basic grammar rules being followed. As a blog owner, I have personally rejected hundreds of articles because they were littered with basic spelling and grammatical mistakes.
I also recommend purchasing a reference book on grammar that you can refer to at any time. For example, I have a copy of Oxford A-Z of Grammar and Punctuation next to my computer that I refer to almost every week.
3. Proofread Your Articles
Every single writer makes errors when writing; whether it be misspelling a word, omitting a comma, or forgetting to close a parenthesis bracket. Whilst the odd mistake does sometimes slip through into a published article, there is no excuse for not proofreading your writing.
An article that is full of errors is evidence of an article that was rushed and not proofread. You should therefore consider the first draft of every article just that: A First Draft.
Always read over the article thoroughly and correct any mistakes that you made. Proofread the article again, and if you find any more errors, correct them and proofread again. This process may seem repetitive and boring, however it will ensure that the quality of your content remains high.
4. Remove the Filler
Do not fall into the trap of believing that longer articles are always better. There is no point saying something in one thousand words if it can be said in one hundred.
When you want to say something meaningful, be concise and get straight to the point. Seth Godin is a blogger who epitomizes this; which is why his books and blog posts are quoted so frequently.
Be conscious of this concept during the proofreading stage and remove any parts that could be considered filler. This will tighten your article and make it easier to read.
5. Evaluate Your Writing
Evaluating your articles is a great way of looking at areas in which you can improve. Ideally, you can arrange for a friend or associate to review your articles and give you an honest opinion on what could be improved. A blogging or writing forum is a good place to meet a blogger who can do this for you.
Alternatively, you can evaluate your articles yourself.
I will be the first to admit that it can be difficult to read your own writing objectively and give an honest critique. This is particularly true when you are reading an article you have just completed, as the memory of writing the article is still fresh in your mind.
If you review an article that you had wrote a few weeks or months in the past, you should be able to see it in a different light. This will help you address parts of your writing that may be weak and could be improved upon.
You may also notice problems during the writing stage. For example, I sometimes struggle to write the introduction of an article. It is not uncommon for me to spend as much time writing the first two hundred words than I do writing the next eight hundred. I have therefore been reading about this issue online in the hope that I can remove this problem and increase my productivity.
6. Be an Avid Reader
It should be no surprise to you that most passionate writers are also passionate readers. You can learn a lot about your craft by reading regularly.
Pay attention to what other writers do, how they do it, and why they do it. I recommend reading books on subjects that are close to your heart. You should also subscribe to blogs of authors and bloggers you enjoy. This will help you learn new writing styles and new words.
7. Establish Good Writing Habits
When you are writing frequently, it becomes important to establish good writing habits. This will help you improve your writing and become more productive.
- Research, Research, Research – Every topic you cover should be researched thoroughly. This will improve the quality of your content and ensure that the arguments you put forward are strong. Both of which will raise your profile as a blogger.
- Take Notes – Taking notes is an essential part of blogging. Get into the habit of taking notes every day through your phone, tablet or computer, so that good ideas are never lost. I also recommend carrying a notepad and pen with you at all times. This ensures that you can take notes if you lose power.
- Bookmark Useful Writing Tools – Bookmark any tools and services that you use regularly to aid writing. This will save you a lot of time during the writing process.
- Cite Sources – Your credibility will be higher, and your points will carry more weight, if you cite the sources that helped shape your view. Doing this also avoids many plagiarism issues and could also connect you with the people you cited.
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