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Improve Your Writing Skills

Do you remember when you first started writing? I don't mean writing stories, but when you were first taught to hold a pencil and write letters that later formed words and then stories, that first act of writing. Do you remember the sense of achievement the first time you wrote the letter 'O' and the ends met perfectly? Your first letter 'S' that didn't look like a '5' or when you mastered the difference between 'b' and 'd' so that from then on you got it write every time?

People will tell you that you are so lucky to be able to write or that you are clever or gifted. In truth writing a book, a story or a poem is not so much a talent but a craft, just like when you learnt to write those letters so many years ago, you must practice to perfect your craft and hone your skills of writing. Effectively, writing is a technical skill, not a gift and as such you can improve your mastery of it to allow you to communicate more effectively. I hope the suggestions here may help you with that.

Amongst the most important foundations of writing in a way that will be understood is to make sure that your command of grammar and spelling are secure. These form the foundation of good writing. When a piece is written using proper grammar and spelling you communicate your attention to detail to your reader and this makes your writing easier to understand. It helps if you learn how and when to use less-common punctuation, like colons, and semicolons as this can unlock ways to structure sentences and elevate your writing. 

Of course, use of correct spelling does not prevent you from using slang words or colloquialisms in your work, just make sure you use these in appropriate places (usually in direct speech or for emphasis) and that your spelling is consistent.

I believe fundamentally that the importance of reading cannot be underestimated for writers. This allows you to be aware what a finished piece of writing should look like and this can guide improvement of your own writing.

For example, if you’re writing a humorous scene or short story, read works. When writing a book review take note of how they’re structured. Whereas if you work on an assignment or technical paper, you should look for examples of successful pieces to study their style before completing your work.

Indeed, it makes sense to have reading as part of your everyday life because this will improve your writing. You could make a point of reading news articles in the morning or reading a book before you go to bed.

If you have not been in the habit of reading regularly, it makes sense to start with topics you’re interested in, or ask friends and family for recommendations. It won't take long before you find the subjects, genres, and authors you enjoy.

When you get to the point of writing for those other than yourself, it can be tempting to submit your piece as soon as it is complete. However, I would urge you against this. Take time to re-read what you’ve written. This allows you to notice any errors and correct them. Also, often reading your work out loud allows you to catch awkward phrases, repetition or parts where the writing doesn't flow as well as it could.

Even if a text is grammatically correct, you may be able to make it more dynamic and interesting with some polish. There may be ways to do this that are more easily noticed a while after your work is completed. Examples of this are to choose stronger verbs than you used at first (perhaps 'sprinted' in [place of 'ran'), avoid using the passive voice and vary the length of your sentences.

One of the most useful (and nerve-wracking) ways to improve your writing is to get feedback on your work. To do this you might engage a professional editor but, if your can't afford the cost of that, approach another writer and suggest a mutual exchange or an instructor or leader of a writing group. Writing groups are an excellent way to practice your craft. If there is not a local writing group, consider forming one or joining an online writing class.

Once you have got into the habit of reading regularly, make writing a regular part of your routine because like all crafts and skills, one of the best ways to improve your writing is to practice. You can do this by taking small steps for example by writing a journal or a blog sending letters or emails to family and friends or putting together letters or opinion pieces for your local newspaper or a magazine you enjoy.

When you have more confidence, start practicing free writing, descriptive or character paragraphs and maybe then join that writing group or online class which seemed too terrifying just a while ago.

Enjoy your writing and improving your skill.

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