No matter why you are writing, whether for academic purposes or for pleasure, doing so to a high standard is extremely important. It is the mode by which you transmit your ideas, findings, opinions, critiques, and knowledge, so it’s vital that you are always looking to improve. If you are a student, clear written communication is as important as anything else. Students with better ideas often do not get more marks than students with superior writing skills; you cannot get high marks in an essay off the back of good ideas alone. So, let’s go through 10 essential writing tips you can use to boost your writing straight away.
Essential Writing Tips #1 – Punctuation
Punctuation is a good place to start when looking to improve writing, as it allows us to give meaning and form to our words and sentences. Without punctuation, comprehending writing of any length would be nigh on impossible. This is the point of punctuation – to aid understanding. It is NOT used to show where the reader should pause or ‘breathe’.
Another reason to begin by looking at punctuation is because its rules are mostly set in stone. For academic writing, personal style should not affect how you use punctuation – at least not too much. Each punctuation mark has its own specific use, which helps to convey a specific meaning within a sentence.
Having said this, if you are writing creatively, you may wish to break some of these rules in order to curate a deeper sense of style. While good punctuation should always provide the framework of your writing, don’t let over-strictness inhibit you from certain decisions about things like the voices of characters or lucid descriptions.
Essential Writing Tips #2 – Consistency
Now for one of the most important tips for improving your writing: maintaining consistency. What is meant by this, is that you have to make a timetable and commit hours in the week to your writing. This is especially true if you’re working on a long-term creative project. If you don’t put in the time, you simply won’t fulfil your writing ambitions.
Similarly, don’t be disheartened if you don’t feel like you’re making fast enough progress on your project. Stumbling blocks are part of the overall writing process that every writer experiences. If you still believe in your original idea, then you will eventually pass through such slow periods using enough graft and perseverance.
Essential Writing Tips #3 – Perseverance
To expand on this idea, let’s now discuss perseverance in a slightly different way. While you should obviously persevere with projects themselves, it’s also important to do so in-between projects. For example, let’s say that you have been working on a writing project for months, but after having tried everything, you decide that it’s time to cut your losses and move on.
These difficult decisions to ‘give up’ unfortunately make up a necessary part of any writer’s career. So, it is very important that you respond to these situations in the right way. Of course, this is where perseverance becomes involved again. So, after such a setback, take some time out to assess what went awry and for what reasons, but then don’t be afraid to get back to your desk and get going on your next idea.
Essential Writing Tips #4 – Comfort
On a slightly lighter note, another important thing for a writer to consider is the physical space in which they work. Make sure your writing area is as comfortable as possible, and set up in a way which compliments how you best work. For most writers, it’s important to have a specified writing area where they do nothing but write.
This might mean they have a space at home or work, or it could mean they prefer a more public space such as a library or coffee shop. Perhaps they also leave phones at the door and work in silence, or maybe they’d rather listen to music as they write. In any case, find out what makes you comfortable and adjust accordingly. Don’t underestimate what a few changes in this area could do for productivity!
Essential Writing Tips #5 – Confidence
Being confident in your own abilities is incredibly important when writing. This is because maintaining self-belief will reap numerous rewards. Firstly, having confidence will allow you to make clear-cut decisions during your writing process – you won’t sit on the fence when deciding the fate of a character or how to bring your plot to a close. This will allow you to make demonstrable progress.
Confidence will also allow you to take your writing where you want it to go. It will allow you to create and start posting to a blog, or send out drafts to potential clients or publishers. Of course, confidence will come once you’ve written something you’re truly proud of, but you’ll also need some at the start of your process before you’ve written a word.
Essential Writing Tips #6 – Openness
Related to this, being open about your work will help immeasurably. In other words, don’t be afraid to share your work with others! No matter what type of project you’re working on, getting the opinions of those around you should represent an important stage. This is because it’s easy to get too close to a piece of writing and potentially lose sight of its strengths and weaknesses.
So, even if you don’t agree with every bit of feedback you get, amassing the opinions of several people you trust will undoubtedly allow you to build a more accurate view of your work. This will also allow you to take a step back and discuss your work – something that will shed light on different perspectives and spark ideas.
Essential Writing Tips #7 – Read
One thing that should undoubtedly be a part of your daily routine while writing is reading; it is impossible to overstate how important this is. Immersing yourself in other works will allow you to pick up grammar rules, increase your vocabulary, and get accustomed to different registers and styles.
Luckily, there’s no correct answer to the question, ‘What should I be reading?’ Of course, depending on what you’re working on, some forms of writing may be more relevant than others. However, if you’re reading, you’re working to improve your writing. What’s more, dipping into a variety of genres, fiction and non-fiction titles, and a mixture of formats can only serve to make your findings broader and more rounded.
Essential Writing Tips #8 – Research
Whatever you may be writing, in-depth and relevant research has to be part of your thinking. Of course, if it’s an academic essay you’re tackling then this is obvious – you will need to cite sources and build upon established criticism or data. However, should it be creative writing that you’re working on, it could be equally important.
Say you are writing a novel which is set in Exeter. You should thoroughly research the area in order to create vivid descriptions, as well as for general accuracy. In a perfect world, you should even visit the city and draw from some first-hand experience. Better still, set your piece of writing an area you know well. The authenticity of your descriptions and impressions will improve the quality of your work immeasurably.
Essential Writing Tips #9 – Editing
One thing that is said to be underestimated by writers is the amount of editing and proofreading that should go into their work. No one expects you to be able to produce a perfectly polished masterpiece at the first time of asking – that’s what second, third, fourth, fifth (and beyond!) drafts are for. At the end of a writing session, you should go through your work in forensic detail, aiming to cut out all unnecessary words and mistakes.
Having said this, it is possible to go overboard with edits and reedits. Make sure you don’t spend too long chopping and changing in one sitting – don’t be afraid of taking breaks and returning to your work with a clear mind.
Essential Writing Tips #10 – Purpose and Audience
Even before you set about doing any writing, it’s important to gain a clear understanding of what’s motivating you to do so. Are you writing to learn more about yourself or others? Are you critiquing anything in particular? Do you just have a really good idea for a story? There is no ‘right’ answer to the question of ‘Why are you writing?’ but make sure that you have one. Clear aims and objectives will serve to focus all of your future travails, and keep you motivated throughout the process.
As well as the question above, you should ascertain who it is you’re writing for – who do you expect to get the most from your writing? Again, the answer to this could be you, which is fine. However, if you plan on sharing your work (which you should!) you need to consider some demographics. Are you writing for children or young adults? Are you aiming to resonate with certain genders? Or even: are you aiming to fulfill the conventions of a particular genre? Of course, not knowing this from the outset could mean that your work may end up without direction, or even a point. Planning in this way will also make writing a lot easier – you’ll be able to maintain a clear focus.
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