These days, everyone needs to be a competent writer. I work with many clients, helping them to hone their writing skills and become proficient.
If you need to write online, but aren’t comfortable with it, you can develop the writing skills you need.
These five tips will help.
1. Practice every opportunity you get — it’s all practice
Writing is a muscle. Just as with every other muscle, to strengthen it you need to practice.
At times, getting the words out is hard, even for professional writers. Only practice makes writing easier. If you need to write for your job, set aside 25 minutes every day, just to write.
Writers know that writing can be fixed. Stop trying to write well. Write anything… just get something down.
Writing is a process:
Some writers draft before they outline, others outline first, then draft. To “draft” is simply to get something — anything — on the computer screen. You can’t fix it, until it’s written.
2. Write a description of each writing task
Writing tends to morph. You set out to write a blog post about 10 ways to do something or other, and before you know it, you’ve gone off at a tangent to write something else.
You need to corral your thoughts. Do this by writing a brief description of what you want to write. Indeed, a writing “brief” is just that, a description of a writing task. Your brief can be long or short. I like to write a brief as soon as someone gives me a writing project. I send the brief back to the client, asking: “is this what you want?” When the clients says “yes”, I know that I have the scope of the project.
3. Create a list outline
A “list outline” is a list of the points you will make in the article; if it’s a book, it’s a tentative list of the chapters in the book.
Nothing is set in stone at this stage. It can and will change.
Write something, anything. Writing is always discovery — you won’t know what you think, until you write it down.
I’ve found Sondra Perl’s composing guidelines useful for my students:
These writing guidelines will help you discover more of what is on your mind and almost on your mind. If they seem artificial, think of them as “exercises.” But they are exercises that will help you to perform certain subtle but crucial mental operations that most skilled and experienced writers do naturally.
4. Read the kind of writing you need to do
Read. Read what you want to write. Read anything and everything, from poetry, to prose, and graphic novels. Read the classics — 100 best books will get you started.
Read as much as you can. Read instead of watching TV — read.
5. Use spell and grammar check in your word processor
The spell and grammar checking utilities in your word processor aren’t perfect. They’re just useful, so use them. If you’re not sure of grammar, sites like this one can help.
Big tip: if you’re writing for a commercial site, rather than a personal website or blog, hire an editor to proofread your material. This is money well spent. Nothing destroys trust as quickly as dodgy word use and grammar on a commercial site, or in email.
Over time, the more you practice and read, the more comfortable you’ll become writing. If you need specific help, contact me.