Other helpful tips

01.02.2016 |

Episode #10 of the course “The basics of English writing” by Sarah Stanley


You made it this far! Congratulations on not only reaching the end, but taking serious steps toward improving your writing game. You’ve got a lot of new tools in your arsenal that I hope you can use to improve your creative, professional, and educational writing. To conclude this course, here are some tips and tricks to up your writing game.

Accept and appreciate criticism. Everyone needs an editor. Whether you use a professional editor at work or your mom, always be willing to let others read your work and offer feedback. Negative criticism may sting at first, but it will ultimately make you a better writer.

Write quickly; edit slowly. When you’re in the zone, stay there. Write as long as the words flow through you. Don’t stop because you think there’s a comma splice in the third paragraph. After you get your first draft on paper, then slowly go back through and check for correct grammar.

Have a writing routine. Some people journal before bed. Some columnists write the first draft of their column before they open their email in the morning. Find the best time in the day for you to write and make it a daily habit to stick to writing at this appointed time.

Always keep a notebook handy. You never know when inspiration hits. Maybe you’ll see a phrase in a magazine ad that fits perfectly in the op/ed you’re working on. Maybe you’ll get a brilliant idea for a short story while you’re on the bus. Maybe you’ll hear a talk show host simplify a difficult concept. Wherever new knowledge or inspiration strike, keep a journal or notebook ready for such situations.

Disconnect the distractions. How many times have you started a project, thought, “Let me check social media for 2 seconds…” and 3 hours later you’re still scrolling and no closer to the end of your project? Disengage from the internet and your phone and put your focus and energy into your writing.

Kill your darlings. This is a hard one. You’ve written an article and it’s wonderful, but it’s too long. There’s a paragraph halfway through that is magnificently written, but it doesn’t really fit with the overall message of the article. It takes something away from the rest of the article. Silently weep, then hold down the backspace key until the paragraph is gone.

Show, don’t tell. Which is a more interesting thing to read? (1) Horace was angry at his driver. (2) The color in Horace’s face changed from pale to red; his eyes bulged as he clenched his fists and started to scream at his driver. They both get the point across, but sentence (2) does a better job. Trust your reader to figure out what happens when you describe a scene rather than spelling everything out.

Leave excuses at the door. Helen Keller was blind and deaf and she wrote prolifically. You literally have no excuse.


Recommended book

“On Writing” by Stephen King


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