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5 Basic Writing Skills – and How to Improve Them

Writing isn’t just a job; it’s an artform that takes more than talent. Whatever the words, writing can be grueling, sometimes seeing you stay up late to get that last paragraph just right, proofreading the same paragraph a dozen times, and constantly racking your brain for new ideas.

Writing requires certain skills that, as with any profession, can be harnessed and perfected overtime. The saying, ‘practice makes perfect’, could not be truer for writers – because the more you write, the more you improve your skills, and the more experience you gain.

In addition to practice, practice, practice, there are five basic writing skills that writers should have to master their craft, so we’ve set out to share what they are and how you can improve them!

1. Research Well

Researching happens before and during writing, and it’s probably one of the most important skills you can develop. It doesn’t just mean inputting keywords into a search engine and taking the resulting information as it is. Rather, it is the extensive capability to factcheck and piece together accurate information in a way that’s easy for the reader to understand.

Improving your research skills is an ongoing process that requires practice, and you’ll find that the more you do it, the better you’ll become. Here are three tips to get you started:

  • Start with the basics. Inputting your topic into a search engine may not always yield the best, or the most accurate, results. Don’t let this overwhelm you! Start with a broad scope that allows you to narrow it down as you go.

  • Identify quality sources. This involves looking at whether a source is credible, and if the author is an expert in the field you’re researching.

  • Factcheck. Avoid taking information at face value without verifying it with other sources.

2. Identify a Premise – and Follow It

Outlining a structure for your writing can assist with the flow of content. It’s easy to get lost in the rhythm of writing and risk repeating something you’ve said in a previous paragraph or find that you’ve completely veered from the brief. Setting an outline can help you maintain a logical structure without leaving anything important out of the piece.

Here are three easy points for outlining a structure:

  • Whether you’ve chosen your topic, or you’re following a brief, establish the purpose of the piece and always refer to it throughout.

  • Identify your main points and embellish from there. Start by highlighting your focus and then add additional information to ensure you stick to the topic.

  • Revision and adjustments are consistent parts of the writing process, and they’re necessary to perfect your writing skills, so always make room for changes.

3. Edit – and Then Edit Some More

As a writer, it’s important to take a stab at being your own editor first. Even though there may be a chain of operation or a designated editor, try edit your work before its submission. All your writing should undergo some level of editing, even if it’s just checking for spelling or grammar errors before it’s sent to the next person.

You can improve your editing skills by picking up these three habits:

  • Edit line-by-line. After working on a copy for hours, it’s possible to take it for granted that your writing is perfect, so try editing a line at a time to see what could have slipped through. Some writers even change the font of their writing in order to better see errors that may have slipped through previous checks.

  • Read out loud or use the voice dictator. Hearing your copy can help you pick up any mistakes, such as the use of the wrong word or a confusing phrasing.

  • Edit with a fresh pair of eyes. Try setting aside a day specifically dedicated to editing. This allows you to approach copy with a clear mind.

4. Read to Understand

A large part of being a good writer involves reading, and the ability to quickly and clearly interpret written work can go a long way for a writer. Comprehension doesn’t only mean understanding briefs, but also extends to how you relay the information.

You can improve comprehension by undertaking these four strategies:

  • Actively improve and expand your vocabulary. When you have an extensive vocabulary, you can better understand copy and as a result, write more clearly and effectively.

  • When reading, try to identify the main ideas of the copy. This helps to improve your own writing because you can more easily find the focus of any written work and apply it to your own.

  • Break the copy up into smaller sections to ensure you remain focused and able to understand what is being communicated.

  • Remember to take your time and pace yourself. This is an effective habit in mastering reading to understand.

5. Time Management Matters

When writing a body of work, managing your time is key. Writers often fall victim to spending too much time on research or over-editing, which can steal a large chunk of time that could be used for writing. Know your weak spots and manage the expectations of others to avoid this.

A good writer manages time and expectations effectively, and you can improve this vital skillset with three easy habits:

  • Avoid distractions. These disrupt your thought process and can throw you off track, making it harder for you to regain focus and potentially wasting valuable writing time.

  • Time your work. Work on an hourly basis during which you allocate a certain word count or certain point you would like to reach at the end of each hour, which will assist in meeting deadlines.

  • Prioritising is key. Give importance to tough or urgent tasks to give yourself the mental room to tackle other activities. Leaving this for last can create a distraction in the back of your mind and make it harder for you to get the words out.

A writer’s growth is never complete because there is always room to work better, learn more, and write more. By honing these basic writing skills, you’re taking a big first step towards becoming a better writer.

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