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Last updated on 1/15/19

Become a better writer

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Becoming a great writer takes time and practice. Even the best writers don't always get it right the first try. It takes editing and revision to get to the best result. Whether you consider yourself a writer or not, having basic writing skills can help you in any field.

Tips and tricks for becoming a better writer

Reading is one way to help hone your writing skills. Regardless of what you're reading—Medium articles, industry books, novels, newspapers, magazines, or more—you will pick up a lot about grammar and word choice. It can also be helpful to look at how other companies write and talk about themselves. Storytelling is very much a part of how companies talk about products, so be sure to consider which stories you encounter as you read. Keep thinking about how you can "show, don't tell" to get your message across.

The more you write, the better you will get. You can practice by writing blog posts, working on short paragraphs to describe each process (which you can later adapt for case studies), or take an existing text and rewrite it. Even seemingly simple text can be reworked and refined. Some people like to get it all out to start and revise at the end, while others edit as they work. The later is fine if it works for you, however, if you find yourself becoming too much of a perfectionist and getting stuck sometimes you may need to step away. Keep in mind that even for professional writers words don't come out perfect the first time; it's a process for them too!

Pair writing

All too often, writing is considered a solitary activity, but it doesn't have to be. Writing with other people can be an enriching experience, and help ensure you're covering all your bases and taking a user-centered approach. Pair writing is a helpful method that content designer Sarah Richards recommends.

To start, pair up. Even if the other person claims not to be a writer, remind them that two brains are better than one and you value their input. It can be helpful to put your user or job story in front of you so you can see it and refer to it while you're working on your text. Make the text on your screen large so you're not distracted by anything else on your screen and you can focus on the words.

Don't worry if what you start with isn't great. Once you have something on the page, you'll have a point for conversations where you can ask more questions, talk it out, and refer back to your research. As you work through your text, always keep asking yourself: is this what the user wants/needs to hear at this moment?

Pair writing also is a good way to help speed up the process and make it more collaborative. Because you're integrating other voices early on (say, from a different department), the content is more likely to get approved quickly.

Ask for feedback

Once you get to a place where you're pleased, get others to review and critique it, or even do some usability tests. Don't think of this step as finding the faults in your work, but as a way to attain the best results.

The same qualities we explored in the chapter give and receive feedback of the course Manage creative projects apply to getting feedback for writing projects as well. Feedback is one of the best ways to help you grow as a professional, while also taking your work to the next level.

Think like an editor

One of the best secrets of an editor is to read the text aloud. Not only will you hear how it sounds, but it will be easier to find awkward grammar or word choice. As you do this, you want to make sure that you get your message across. Remember, humans are at the receiving end, so you want to make sure that your words sound like something a human would say, and not a robot.

Ultimately, you want clear, concise, simple sentences. Getting to this point is often easier said than done. Don't forget that the best writing didn't start that way—it's a process of revision and refinement. Practice makes perfect. Even if reading your work out loud to you may seem silly at times, remember, it's a technique many professional writers use too.

You also may want to bring in a copy editor or proofreader before any new copy gets published on your site or app. This person may be someone on the team, or a freelance editor you hire. It's always a good idea to have another set of eyes to look over your work. Their role is not to change content at this phase, but to make sure you've written complete sentences, and there are no grammar or spelling mistakes.

Let's recap!

  • Reading will make you a better writing.

  • Practice writing to improve your skills.

  • Pair writing is a productive way to work together to create text that is user centered.

  • Reading your text aloud is a great tactic for editing your text and making sure it sounds human and conversational.

Example of certificate of achievement
Example of certificate of achievement