Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Improve your writing skills by doing what good writers do

In the writing classes I teach, I discuss the five habits that most good writers share:

  1. They read good writing to get a feel for the rhythm of language and to learn how to use all the tools: words, punctuation, paragraphs, etc. (And “good writing” doesn’t necessarily mean classic literature. Every issue of People and Sports Illustrated includes good--and sometimes great--writing.)
  2. They write a lot, putting what they’ve learned into action by getting words down on paper. And they’re willing to make mistakes and learn from those mistakes.
  3. They revise. Good writers know that the first draft shouldn’t be the final draft. They’re willing to work on their writing until every unnecessary word is cut, and until their writing is as precise as can be.
  4. They solicit feedback and have others proofread their writing, knowing that it’s worth seeking out the objectivity that comes with a fresh set of eyes.
  5. They look stuff up. They know that not even the best writer is perfect, so it’s all about limiting errors and learning by taking the time to look stuff up, both when reading and writing. Words they don’t know. References to people, places, and things they haven’t heard of. Rules of grammar and style they’ve forgotten or never knew in the first place.
If you want to improve your writing this year, start by looking at this list and considering where your time is best spent. If you're already a good writer, the quickest way to get even better is to focus on #5. And to make it even easier for you to find answers, here’s a short list of lesser-known resources that are just a click away:

Can anyone else recommend some great online writing and reference tools?


Cerpicio said...

It's not an online resource, but anyone serious about writing should read William Zinsser's "On Writing Well." Here's an excerpt.

whiteshark0121 said...

Great article, I always keep myself looking for new tips and ways on how to improve my writing and one of my favorite mentor on learning how to write a book is Mark Victor Hansen, co-author of Chicken Soup for the Soul.