How to Automatically Be a Better Writer

Writing is like singing. Or winking. Or driving. Hypothetically, everyone is born with the ability to do it—but only some people are good at it. However, like all those other things, there are tricks to get better. Here are five of them: #) Read. Nothing gets you in the mood to write more effectively than reading other writers who wrote great things. Read voraciously—read everything. Read ads, read books (classics, not classics, fiction, non-fiction), read the back of cereal boxes. All the text you see was written by someone; some of it is good, some of it is awful. Learn to see the difference, so you can do better when it's your turn.

#) Write constantly. Nobody ever got better at anything without practicing. Writing is like a muscle. If you're not exercising it, it'll be flabby and weak, and all the kids at the playground will laugh when you fall off the monkey bars on the second one (Morbid. Maybe not true. But what if it is...).

#) Let other people read your writing. It's scary. It's daunting. It's opening yourself up to criticism, and worse: what if they don't like it? But if they don't like it for a good reason, then you can make it better. And once the scary part is over, you'll be a better writer. And indebted forever.

#) Write more. So maybe this is a dead horse I'm beating. But maybe, just maybe, it's the most critical aspect of getting better. It takes babies weeks to learn how to walk. They're not experts on the first try. It likely takes longer than that to be an excellent writer—but you never know until you start.

#) Follow the rules. The old adage, "Rules are made to be broken," is not true for learning how to write. Excellence comes from mastery. Mastery comes from practice within the guidelines. Once you're an expert, you can bend and tweak and twist the rules, because you know how they work and what they're there for. Until then, learn them. Practice them. Obey them.

Do these things and you'll become a better writer, maybe without even realizing it.

What other people have said.

Worth Saying Well

"It’s a unique way to process transactions between riders and drivers." This is an eleven word sentence that has absolutely no clear meaning. It could be referring to a "fee of a handshake" that might be imposed on the city buses. Or a new payment system in taxis that enables you to pay with something besides commonly accepted currency—like a five gallon can of gasoline, or a gift card. Maybe it's referring to a dated method of transportation (like horse-drawn carriages) coming back into vogue.

Because there is no defining language, it's almost impossible to judge what the sentence means. If you're going to write stand alone sentences, try to make them crystal clear—not clear as mud. It only takes a word or two more, and sometimes it even cuts the word count:

"Shaking hands to pay for city busses makes riders trust drivers more." (12 words)

"Taxi drivers love the new 'pay with a gallon' method of payment; full gas cans and gift cards accepted." (19 words)

"Horse and buggy travel is more relational than public transportation." (10 words)

It's not a burden to make your language clear and easy to understand; it just takes a little more thought and intentionality. If you're reading something that makes no sense, and has minimal explanation, two tricks to figure it out:

#) Look at the context. Even if a sentence seems to be derailed from any contextual meaning, at least it will give you some clue about what the author is talking about in general.

#) Ask for explanation. Perhaps you're lucky enough to have a communicating relationship with the author; if not, ask other people. Sometimes a second or third pair of eyes can see what the first might have missed.

It's not hard to avoid this by writing clearly. If it's worth saying, it's worth saying well.

Four Tricks for Better Script Writing

Script writing focuses on both hearing and seeing. While writing the script, you need to be hearing what it will sound like as the spoken word, and seeing how the script will interact with the actors for final production. To write a good script, your mind must to become a video reel with a quick pause and rewind button; playing the scenes as they come, stopping often to fix or replay. Four tips to writing a good script:

  • Know exactly what you're trying to say. If you're writing a script for a promotional video, know the content you're trying to advertise before you begin. If you're writing script for a fictional film, know where you want to end up—then you'll be able to get there.
  • Look at what other people are doing. If you're trying to sell a certain flavor of juice box, look at other juice box ads; not to copy them, but to understand the lingo that works (or doesn't work).
  • Edit relentlessly. Read it out loud with your voice. Read it out loud in your head. Read it out loud with your best friend, or your spouse, or the old lady sitting next to you on the bus. The more you hear it, the more you'll hear what needs to go.
  • Learn to write dialogue well. Script writing is dialogue heavy—knowing how to write dialogue well makes the flow of the script much smoother.

It's a thrill to watch people saying words you put in their mouths; not deviously, of course.