If you love writing, and you do it a lot, you probably know where most of your shortcomings are. Maybe you don’t develop a plot as well as you can, you leave out facts too often, or you just have some minor issues sentence structure and paragraphs.
The tough part is improving your writing, without taking out your unique style or sterilizing it. The good news is that it’s actually pretty hard to destroy your style. It’s more about refining it. It’s really easy to imitate others, and difficult to find your own voice. If you have already found your own voice, just think about what makes it yours, and don’t let it go.
There are a few things you can do that will help you improve without taking anything away from your writing. It’s mostly small tweaks that will make your content more readable, without removing what makes you unique.
Keep it Simple
Sometimes there’s a tendency to try and do a little too much with your writing in an effort to sound a little more intelligent. This can actually make things worse. To make your content readable, it’s often suggested that you write to readers at a 7th grade level of reading comprehension. This isn’t a hard and fast rule. It’s just a rule many authors follow.
Your audience will dictate your writing level, just be aware you may be writing at too high a level. This means not using overly complicated words. Simplify your language and only use familiar words.
You’ll also want to take a look at your sentence structure. Ask yourself if there is a way to say what you want in fewer words. There’s often a tendency to over describe with adjectives. You only want to use the most important ones. Start crossing some of them out, and see if it changes the tone (your voice), or if it still means the exact same thing. You may be surprised.
You’ll also want to void over explaining. You’ll need to accept that sometimes the audience knows a few things that you just don’t need to say. For example, “Half of the world’s population is made up of women. What is surprising is that only ten percent of bus riders are female.”
You could eliminate the first sentence entirely, without losing any impact of the second sentence. There’s not always a need to explain common-sense things. You only want to do this with a little known fact. For example, “The village is only made up of twenty percent men. What is surprising is that only ten percent of bus riders are female.” This is where a qualifier is important.
It’s Not Always About You – Even When It is
Writing in the first person is a great way to share your perspective, but you’ll want to avoid referencing yourself too often. This includes starting sentences with “I think” or “I feel”. They reader will know this is the case, even when you don’t outright say it, as you’ve already established (or should have) that you’re the writer.
For example, “I think the state of the economy is terrible. I can’t even buy a house.” This is no more effective than this: “The state of the economy is terrible. I can’t even buy a house.”
It’s also easier to read the active voice than the passive one. This is especially important if you’re writing in the first person. For example, “I like Bob” is easier to read than “Bob is liked by me.” It’s a small tweak that shouldn’t change your unique voice, but can make your content flow better.
Get Specific in Your Writing
A lot of writing hinges on how specific it is. This doesn’t change your unique style at all, and could actually enhance it quite a bit. We’ve used some of this technique in this article. It’s not enough just to make a statement of though, but giving an example of what you mean.
We did this above when talking about using the active voice over the passive one, then giving a specific example of what we meant. The statement about the economy also offers an example: “The state of the economy is terrible. I can’t even buy a house.” We gave an example of how the economy is terrible and affecting people.
By doing this, the reader doesn’t need to make broad assumptions – maybe incorrectly – about what you mean. They can just focus on reading, and not guessing what you’re writing about.
Getting specific also means getting it right. You’ll want to avoid always using the masculine when describing generic positions.
“A chef is expected to work hard. He’s up by 5am and headed to the market.” Unless you’re talking about a specific chef, inputting “he” into the second sentence is the wrong pronoun to use. It may seem natural, but that’s exactly the problem. Try to be gender neutral by using they, them, their, etc.
There are many ways to improve your writing, these are just a few ways you can do it without losing your unique style. It has more to do with enhancing your voice, than strangling it with rules.
As always, you’ll want to practice to get it right. It’s the only way to truly become a great writer.
Norman Arvidsson is a passionate author who was born in Sweden but then moved to the United States with his family. Now his goal is to share his experience with others through blogging. He is familiar with such areas as web dev and design, marketing, blogging, freelancing, startups, small business, self-development, and eLearning. Considers personal growth as the main goal in his life.