I have a confession to make. In fact, it’s embarrassing to admit – I am a hopeless book reader. As a writer, I must invest in my craft, and that should involve reading books of all sorts with the aim to improve writing skills. But therein lies a problem – I can rarely find a book that holds my interest beyond a hundred pages.
There are two explanations for this limited attention-span. (A) I am a business writer and spend the day scouring for information and writing articles for clients. So, I do read a lot of web content that includes journals, ebooks, articles, and social media. (B) I often find that novelists tend to meander into labyrinth explanations of places, characters, and emotions, which makes me lose my interest and want to skip the gluttony of words. The last book that I managed to read more than three-fourths the way was Michelle Obama’s ‘Becoming.’ Besides, in today’s 21st century world, where we prefer to consume content via video, audio, and other online content, surely reading books is just one of the ways to improve writing skills.
Instead of feeling guilty for not being a voracious reader, I decided to focus on the other things I could do to improve as a writer (that did not involve consuming voluminous books). If you are hard-pressed for time, or short on the zeal to read books, here are nine tips to improve writing skills as a content writer.
- Subscribe to newsletters of different genres – I subscribe to newsletters on health, finance, lifestyle, fashion, and even entrepreneurship. The idea is to get a pick of articles to read from around the world, across industries. Each industry has its own way of presenting information and requires a different writing style.
- Read different news portals – Just like newsletters, scroll through various news portals for interesting stuff to read. For instance, the BBC has some well-written pieces on historical accounts and personal life stories.
- Rely on tech to tell you where you can do better – If you have been reading my blogs, you know I am a big fan of Grammarly.com. I use it without fail to improve every piece of content, and that’s typically after I have done two rounds of thorough editing.
- Tidbits of information on social media – I follow many writers on social media, especially Instagram. It’s a great way to connect with other writers and small business owners in a fun way. Some of the Insta reels made by writers have good tips on small changes to improve your skillset as a writer. Also, if you are stuck for inspiration on a particular writing assignment, YouTube is an excellent source for trending content.
- Write in different genres as a content writer – The way you write for B2B clients will differ from how you approach content writing for the B2C segment. For instance, writing a business brochure is quite different from writing an emailer. The more writing services you offer, the more confident you will be as a writer. Writing humor can be challenging for most people. If you haven’t dared to write something different in a long time, today is as good as a time to start.
- Read ‘critically’ – When you read a good piece of content, whether that’s a newspaper article, an online essay, or a magazine, really focus on what you are reading. Read slowly and deliberately to soak in the writing style of the writer. Assess critically what you like about that piece and what you can incorporate from the writing style in your next assignment.
- Minimize the use of words – When you start editing the content you have written, assess how you may convey the same meaning in fewer words. Sometimes rearranging the words can make your sentences sharper. Look for replacement words that imply the same. To give you a simple example – ‘very excited’ can be replaced by ‘jubilant,’ and ‘prior to’ can be replaced by ‘before.’
- Expand your vocabulary – All the above, done every day, will invariably lead you to discover new terms or words you have not read in a long time. Use that to create your own word list that you can quickly refer to when you are writing. I like to save words as a list on Dictionary.com and then test my memory using the flashcard feature.
- Write for yourself when you aren’t working for others – As a freelancer, there are weekends of chaotic writing, followed by days when you scroll through your phone or wonder which corner of the house needs to be rid of cobwebs! Even then, my suggestion is to keep writing. On days that you have spare time, write for yourself. Whether it’s a personal journal or your business blog, do some writing every day.
Do you love writing for a living?
What are your tips for improving writing skills that does not involve reading books?