Writing is a valuable skill on the job market. Here are some simple ways to improve your writing skills and increase your chances of career success.
Writing skills consistently rank as among the most valued by employers. Written communication is important for career success, even more so today, now that so much of our interaction happens remotely.
No matter what industry you’re in, and no matter whether you’re writing a 50-page report, a social media post, or an email, you will benefit from becoming a better writer.
Here are eight simple ways to improve your writing skills.
Read fiction and non fiction. Read articles and short stories. Read daily. If you’re not the sort to automatically pick up a book, set aside 30 minutes a day and force yourself. Read books about writing. A popular classic is On Writing Well, By William Zinsser. Read it. To be a good writer, or even an OK writer, you have to read.
Learn to use grammar and punctuation
Know the basics of grammar and punctuation. If you don’t know them, learn them. Take a basic course or online workshop. That does not mean you always have to follow the rules, but one should know the rules before breaking them.
Take a writing class
Beyond basic grammar and punctuation, consider an online course in business writing, academic writing, creative writing, freelance writing, or all of the above. There are a lot of options out there.
Don’t try to sound smart
The harder people try to sound smart, by using big words and complex metaphors, or making attempts at sophisticated references, the more they risk sounding less smart by misusing words, mixing metaphors or using the wrong reference. Even when you get it right you risk losing your audience. Homo sapiens do not customarily verbalize in such a manner, so you shouldn’t write that way either.
Keep it simple
Good writing is not complex. It’s simple. Beyond not using ridiculous words, don’t pepper your writing with modifiers and adverbs. Keep sentences short and be clear in what you are trying to communicate.
Edit, edit, edit
After you’ve written something, go through it and trim the fat. Cut unnecessary words, like “that” or “very,” two of the most common. For example, “She said that she would have it done very quickly” loses nothing when you change it to “She said she’d have it done quickly.” “Basically” and “essentially” are two more. Do this to 100 sentences and you’ve cleaned up a lot of mess. Cut unnecessary sentences. Are you repeating yourself? Do you say something once and then say the same thing differently in the next paragraph? Cut it.
Read it out loud
Read what you’ve written out loud and see how it sounds. Does it make sense? Does it flow? This is an even more important step when you’re going to have to present something or read it in front of people.
Get someone else to read it
Everyone should have their writing read and critiqued by someone else. Even professionals make a lot of mistakes they don’t catch when going over their writing. That’s why reporters, journalists, and authors have editors. The other person won’t always be right but it’s crucial to listen to what other people have to say about your work. The only way you’ll ever improve your writing skills and be a good writer is by turning to someone else for input, and graciously accepting criticism.