Educators and especially university professors often lament the decline in written communication skills among today’s students. The digital era, many people assume, has robbed modern people of a literary tradition and ability. Spell checkers and writing tools do the work for us.
While there is some truth to this, there are still plenty of great writers out there and several ways for those interested in improving their writing ability to become better written communicators. With that in mind, below are 4 tips to improve your writing.
Improve Your Vocabulary
Writing is about the conveyance of ideas and, naturally, how well you are able to put ideas into writing depends on your vocabulary.
There are various ways to add to your vocabulary, but one of the most popular and easiest is to incorporate word games into your daily or weekly routine.
There are plenty of free word games you can play right from your cell phone, but by far the most popular continues to be Scrabble.
You need to rely on your verbal intelligence to play scrabble, which to some extent is fixed, but people who have spent time building their vocabulary have a big advantage. If you are playing against others and find you are struggling, tools like Unscramble X help you arrange and rearrange your tiles into all possible word permutations. You can use this tool while you learn the game so you can begin to memorize different uncommon words that you can use to rack up points and learn to play more strategically.
Use a Writing Tool
You have likely heard of writing tools like Grammarly even if you aren’t currently using one and if you are wondering, the answer is “yes, they really do work.” Grammarly has both a free and paid version, with the latter delivering much more in the way of corrections and recommendations for grammar, sentence structure and vocabulary.
If you are not that confident in your writing, you might want to consider a tool like Grammarly (at least the free version) and perhaps even the paid product.
Not only will it add to your written communication abilities right away, but these tools also provide a language education as you go.
You get explanations and breakdowns of your errors and the recommended alternatives and fixes that give you better insight into both your own writing as well as better writing in general. Over time, you should start to see the number of “errors” and recommendations decrease as your writing improves.
Keep in mind that there are alternatives as well as complements to Grammarly, including Reverso, SentenceCheckup, Hemingway App, Slick Write, Ginger and many others.
Good writers are good readers and vice versa; there is really no way around that. If you really want to improve your written communication abilities, however, you need to read like a writer. This entails paying close attention to the persuasion tactics used by the writer, the metaphors, their language choice and asking yourself whether the propositions they make and premises they assume are actually correct.
It is easy to relax your critical faculties when reading something, especially something you like or that you assume is mindless, and allow poorly fleshed out or false ideas and sloppy uses of language to pass unchallenged.
If you commit to reading everything that comes across your screen and desk with a critical eye, you end up paying much closer attention to the language, and therefore leave with a better understanding of the English language, how to use it and how not to.
Follow Orwell’s Advice
One of the most powerful and trenchant writers of the 20th century, George Orwell was a powerful advocate for clear, concise, meaningful writing and he developed 6 rules that we could all follow in pursuit of it.
These rules include inducements to avoid cliches that we are used to seeing in print; to use short words whenever possible and avoid overcompensating with long ones; to cut words out whenever possible; to avoid jargon and foreign phrases when unnecessary; and to break these rules before saying or writing anything terrible or untrue. Above all, Orwell stressed clarity as the primary objective of all writing.
Improving your writing is a life-long process. The more you work on your writing skills, the better you get–there is very rarely a plateau. This is especially the case for non-writers–people who write because they have to for work or occasionally for personal administrative reasons, but who otherwise don’t make it part of their life or living.
The important thing to bear in mind is that anyone can improve their writing skills over time. Keep the above tips and considerations at the forefront the next time you sit down at a keyboard, look at a screen or pick up a pen and you will continuously improve your grasp and use of the language over time.