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5 Tips on How to Read Like a Writer

For writers, reading is something more intentional - an art, a passion, a source of joy. As we flip each page, we become more deeply immersed in the process of interpretation - every word is studied for its meaning; every paragraph scrutinised for context; and every page examined with a fine-toothed comb for greater understanding.

This art of reading like a writer, much like the process of writing itself, takes practise and a little time to perfect. And the good news is the benefits are many! From helping you strengthen your storytelling skills, to enhancing your persuasive skills, increasing your ability to identify main themes, and expanding your concentration and vocabulary, reading like a writer is a skill all aspiring and accomplished scribes ought to hone and possess.

And to help, we’ve put together 5 tips to help you read like a writer. So, go on, get reading:

1. Read More and Read Widely

Avid readers can be guilty of sticking to reading the same genres and authors, sometimes snubbing their noses to what they deem ‘poorly written’ work or writing that doesn’t interest them. Although there are learnings to be found in reading the same authors and genres repeatedly, it’s a good idea to expand your scope beyond what you know you like, because this enhances your ability to comprehend according to context.

When reading books with writing you find you don’t enjoy, take the time to analyse why you don’t enjoy them, as this can encourage you to discover specific aspects of certain styles of writing that may annoy you as a reader, and potentially, other readers too. For example, you’ll may find that run-on sentences and overly descriptive language make a read less appealing, and this in turn, will ensure you are more conscious of this in your own writing. Do this with books you enjoy as well, analysing why you enjoy them, so you can consciously apply the learnings to your own writing.

2. Break the Writing Down

When reading, writers constantly break the writing down – whether they’re aware of it or not! This doesn’t just help you follow the passages and narrative progression, it also allows you to consider every passage as a singular portion, and what it contributes to the rest of the work.

It can sometimes be overwhelming to understand a book or essay in its entirety, so sectioning it out by breaking the writing down will help to clarify the theme and enhance your ability to observe how the writer develops it throughout. This skill also teaches you to break down your own writing and re-emphasise what the purpose of each particular piece is, ensuring you follow the theme while writing to avoid a confusion and craft a comprehensive text.

3. Annotate

To read like a writer is to expand on sentences in ways that you think could make it a better read. By making use of highlighters to remember important text, circling words you are not familiar with, and making notes in the margins (or a notebook, if you are hesitant to leave your mark upon the page), you decipher how a piece of work is written. Once you have learned to do this to other written pieces, it can be immeasurably beneficial to apply this skill to your own work. These steps will enable you to remember why you’re writing in the first place, to determine if the purpose of the text is coming across in the overall message, and to figure out what important points you could be leaving out by accident.

4. Study Grammar and Expand Your Vocabulary

In order to read like a writer, you must have a comprehensive understanding of grammar in context. It is important, while you read, to take note of how other writers make use of punctuation, the order in which words are placed, and how tense impacts the reader’s experience. When you see how other writers are doing it, you can learn fundamental components of writing and writing well, such as how to structure sentences for maximum impact, or where a comma would be most effective in heightening the drama. In addition to refining your grammar, reading like a writer also expands your vocabulary. While stopping to look up the meaning of a word may interrupt your reading flow, it can allow you to pick up on new phrases, words, and terms, that you can then use in your own writing instead of repeating the same expressions.

5. Ask Questions

When you come to the end of a piece, sometimes whatever question you may have for the author about a text remains unanswered, so it is important to ask yourself questions as you read, engaging with the words in the same way you would engage the author in an interview. This way, you’re able to take this mindset to your own work, read it the way an outsider would, and note any questions you’ve left unanswered in your work and, well, answer them!

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