According to Stephen King, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”

Fortunately, in my role with Communiqué PR, I’ve had significant opportunities to exercise my writing skills and have identified some best practices that I plan to incorporate into my process.

I thought I would share my tips so you can apply them to your next writing project:

  • Create an outline to organize key ideas. Outlines are valuable because they help the writer identify critical points, build arguments and think through the flow and structure of the information they want to convey. When you are struggling with a topic, it may be a good idea to create an outline.
  • Consider using the Jane Schaffer paragraph. Jane Schaffer, an esteemed writing teacher, developed a formula for creating a five-sentence paragraph. The first sentence introduces the topic, the second provides concrete detail, the third and fourth is where the writer includes commentary, and the last incorporates a closing statement. I often find it helpful to go back to analyze my writing to determine if I’ve included these elements and, if not, work to add any missing components.
  • Use active voice. Active voice is beneficial because it clarifies who is doing the action. In my colleague Lauren Beehler’s article, “Who did this? How the passive voice hides a sentence’s subject,” she goes into more detail on why to avoid passive voice. A couple of examples of these two types of sentences include the following:
    • Active: The intern is writing an article.
    • Passive: The article was written about improving one’s writing skills. (In this example, the reader doesn’t know who is doing the writing.)
  • Avoid unnecessary adverbs and adjectives. In the Inc. article, “Data science reveals why the best business writers avoid certain words,” Jeff Haden explains how unnecessary adverbs and adjectives can get in the way of your key points. He shares an example from Stephen King where action verbs replace adverbs to make the writing stronger. When reviewing your work, be sure to keep this best practice in mind.
  • Get feedback. When I finish an article, I first run it through Grammarly to catch any mistakes. After that, I ask my colleagues for feedback. I’ve found that peer review is essential in helping me identify areas for improvement and grow as a writer.
  • Don’t over-explain your material. Grammarly’s article, “Improve Writing Skills Dramatically by Doing These 15 Things,” advises prioritizing the main ideas instead of overwhelming the reader with trivial ideas. One way to do this is to think about what the reader must know instead of sharing nice-to-know details. If it’s not essential to the reader’s understanding, consider removing it.
  • Read your work aloud or use “Read Aloud” in Word. In the article, “The Benefits of Reading your Work Out Loud,” Janice Hardy discusses how reading out loud can help you find clunky words, incorrect punctuation, run-on sentences, and other incohesive sentences. Microsoft Word’s Read Aloud feature also is an excellent way to review your work. I like listening to the computer read my work with a focus on improving the pace and rhythm of my sentences. This process is beneficial for sentence-level edits and looking at the overall structure of your piece to ensure you’re not being repetitive.

Writing can be challenging with its plethora of rules, writing styles and obstacles along the way. I hope these tips can help you when tackling your next project.

Finally, remember practice is essential for growth and development, and as Stephen King suggests, you will want to read as much as possible. Reading carries numerous benefits, and you can learn a lot by studying the works of others.

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