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Six quick and easy ways to improve your writing

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February 14, 2017

Everyone wants to write better. Better writing means more viewers; more viewers means more money. (And if there's no money involved, there's still more people seeing how damn clever you are.) 

So with that in mind, here are some ways to improve your writing with hardly any effort at all.

1. Read your work back. 

Your ideas are great and you want to get them out there as soon as possible. But wait. Read the whole article back to yourself - out loud if possible. Reading aloud engages a different part of your brain so you can more easily tell if things sound strange or clunky. But even if you're reading silently, always go over your work before you hit post - you might spot a typo or a word you've missed. 

2. Read more widely. 

Read other people's writing, in general - every good writer reads widely. Read good sports writing in particular. Notice what makes it good and what style of article the author is writing - News? Opinion? Previews or reviews? You don't need to copy their style exactly, but taking some bits which you think could work for you and using them in your writing will make you more readable. Plus you can find out what other people have to say about a topic.

3. Cut, cut, cut. 

Making your work shorter is hard, but it will help you avoid some of the worst sins in writing - redundancies, overwriting, and waffle. Make every word the simplest word, and make sure every word is working hard. Good writing is often sparse, so when you've written an article, try an impose a limit of 50 words less than your total and see just how much you can get rid of. 

4. Know your tools. 

Your work consists of only 26 letters and a handful of punctuation. Know how to use them. Know what words mean, the origins of idioms, the elements of style. Read books and articles about language and writing. Take pride in being a stickler for good grammar. Learn what you weren't taught in school, or what you've forgotten since leaving. To be a writer all you have to do is write. To be a good writer, you have to know what you're working with.

5. Embrace criticism. 

So, you've asked for feedback and it's negative, or some editor has taken the red pen of death to your work. It's very tempting to get defensive, take critique personally, and generally believe that your work is perfect. 

First - no one's writing is perfect. Second - critique helps you get better. While a comment like "you suck" has no value, anything which suggests changes or improvements is something you should think about. You may decide those changes don't work for you; but often if you take feedback on board with an open mind, you find a better way of saying something you already thought was brilliant. 

6. Do it by hand. 

Okay, this is less quick, but it's certainly easy - draft your articles with pen on paper. Particularly if you're struggling to find the right way to say something or to articulate a complex idea. Like reading aloud, handwriting engages a different part of your brain than typing does - by changing your medium you're literally changing the way you think. The bonus is that when you type up what you've written you can make your writing tighter. If you don't have time for a whole article, draft the structure, the main points, or particularly difficult paragraphs by hand. Taking five minutes away from your keyboard can be the difference between mediocrity and greatness.

Then once it's all on the new post page, read it over one more time before you hit post. And maybe after you hit post to check the formatting is how you wanted it to be. 

Seriously, read it over. Your writing will thank you.

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