Believe it or not, writing, apart from the spoken word, is one of the world’s oldest forms of communication that still exists today. Think about it; while we may no longer invest time in sending letters to one another, our daily communication is always accompanied by some form of writing, be it in text messages, daily emails, or posts you make on your social media accounts.
In the university space, academic writing is a whole other ball game and often takes on a very different form to other types of writing out there, but the simple fact is that you cannot achieve a high level of college writing if you don’t know how to improve your basic writing skills!
Image by Carole Raddato.
One of the earliest known examples of writing dates back to 3500-3000 BCE, to the ancient Sumerians of Mesopotamia. This form of writing is known now as “Cuneiform”, which involved the engraving of various pictorial figures into stone as a means by which to communicate with others, record numbers, among other functions.
Even if your chosen career path doesn’t necessarily involve writing as a form of income, being able to communicate effectively is incredibly important to ensure success in today’s competitive international job market. Think about email-writing; it hardly looks professional if you send an email to your boss or colleague that isn’t well thought-out and contains many errors.
Here are 6 simple tips to improve your writing skills!
1. Make Writing a Daily Exercise
Practice really does make perfect! If you compare writing to a skill like cooking, or even playing a sport, you cannot expect to improve if you don’t practice – it’s like expecting to become a pro football player after one practice with your team.
Try to set yourself daily writing exercises – they need not be long-winded and time-consuming, even just committing yourself to writing a paragraph a day is enough! You can even partner up with someone else who also wants to improve their writing skills and read each other’s paragraphs to see where changes need to be made.
2. Read, Read, and Read Some More!
We learn best by example, and gaining writing skills is no exception to this rule. When we read, we learn how other people write to convey their messages in the best way possible, and we start to adapt our writing styles to those that we resonate most with.
Incorporate daily reading into your writing exercises; maybe even make your practice paragraph a review or summary of what you read that day, taking different elements of the author’s writing style to develop your own voice.
3. Be Succinct
Try not to use any complicated, long words in your writing. They often confuse the reader and make them disinterested in what you have to say. Keep your sentences short. Never over-use filler words like “very”, “really”, “just”, etc.
They tend to make sentences long and unnecessarily take up your reader’s cognitive space.
4. Never Underestimate the Importance of a Thorough Editing Session
Editing is a part of the writing process that is completely underrated and that is frequently overlooked. Errors in your writing are likely to take attention away from the message you are trying to convey and decrease your reader’s trust in your viability as a writer.
The human brain often overlooks certain small errors during the proofreading process, so using an online editing tool, like Grammarly, comes highly recommended.
5. Develop a Clear Message
There is nothing more frustrating than a piece of writing that doesn’t get straight to the point. Think about what you want to say, what message you want your reader to take away with them, and make sure that that you make this message clear from the very beginning.
It is also important to think about your audience; what do they want to hear, and how would they like it to be conveyed? Do you need to take on a formal, or a more informal tone? Would using humour help develop your message, or should you get straight to the point in a more businesslike fashion?
These are important considerations that need to be taken into account before you even begin the writing process.
6. Sit Down and Write!
Sometimes the most difficult step in the writing process is the act of actually sitting down and getting the writing done. By this point, you should have a clear plan of what you want to say, and a general idea of how you want to say it.
It may seem daunting, but remember that the hard work is now done! All you need to do is convince yourself that you are capable (which you are), sit down in front of your n0tebook or computer, and execute your communication!