How to improve your writing skills: Eight sure tips for effective communication
Updated: Jul 22
What if I asked you this question? What would your answer be?
How would you rate your writing skills?
A. Good, readers understand me clearly.
B. It’s fair, needs improvement.
C. Not very highly, writing is hard for me.
D. Lol I have no idea.
Whatever your answer is, you’ll find this article useful. Whether you’re providing writing services, writing for business communication or just here to gain new knowledge, you will learn eight, sure tips to improve your writing skills for effective communication.
To begin, let’s consider these two scenarios.
Two friends were walking down the road. A car zoomed past and splashed muddy water on them. The first friend, closer to the road, mumbled, “Well, this is why I hate walking on the road after the rain.” The other friend replied, “But you said it was okay to go out. This is so typical of you—always complaining!” The first friend responded, “You know what? I don’t have to put up with this, I’m going home.”
This conflict did not need to happen. While the first friend was understandably upset by the driver’s action, the ensuing communication took the focus off the offender and placed it on the consequence, leaving the other friend feeling hurt and defensive. A more effective communication would have garnered sympathy and maintained the peace: “I wish drivers would be a bit more considerate of pedestrians.”
In the second scenario, a manager wanted a team member to submit one of two proposals before the close of work. In an email, she wrote: “Hello Jack, please send the proposal as soon as you can.” It was a Friday and Jack had other tasks, he assumed that this specific proposal could wait. When the manager found out that he had not prioritized the job, she got upset. He spent the night at work and ended up submitting a proposal full of errors.
Effective communication is important to avoid unnecessary conflicts, ambiguity and pass the intended message. Improving your writing skills will save you a lot of distress, time and effort.
A 2019 survey revealed the following statistics regarding workplace communication:
92% of people have had to repeat their communication to colleagues
87% find this repetition bothersome
So how do you improve your writing skills for effective communication?
1. Itemize your points before you commence writing.
This will help you to coordinate your thoughts in a sequential, logical manner. Your writing will come across as cohesive, well-thought-out and earn you the respect of your reader. It will also help you to think of the subject holistically so you can include missing points, facts and figures.
How to itemize your points
Write out all your thoughts—include the points you don’t think are relevant, they might actually come in handy. Get everything out on the page.
Look at them. Check to see that you’re not repeating your points and everything is relevant to the point of the communication.
Arrange them. Determine what point should start the list and continue the arrangement sequentially.
2. Carefully elaborate your points
After you have itemized your points, begin to carefully elaborate on them without digressing with unnecessary details. Write what you think about the subject, not what you feel. Remember the first scenario? I find that when I communicate based on my feelings, I leave out the necessary communication. A hungry child wouldn’t say to her mother, “Mummy, what are you doing?” Rather, she would say, “Mummy, I’m hungry.” Communicate what you think about the point/situation, not what you feel.
Endeavour to contain a point within a paragraph. If two points are similar or consequential, you may add the second to the paragraph. What you want is for the reader to be able to summarize the point of each paragraph in a sentence.
How to carefully elaborate your points
Review every point based on the whole point/theme of your communication. That is, don’t write about the properties of a yellow flower when you’re writing about an orange tree, except those properties are relevant to the properties of an orange tree.
Leave out irrelevant details and repetitions. Don’t belabour the point—you’re more likely to do this if you’re writing based on your feelings.
3. Use subheadings where necessary, avoid lengthy blocks of text
Readers often read with their eyes before they read with their minds. They’re asking: “How long is this?” “Can I see interesting highlights?” “Can I see interesting images?” “Is the font readable?”
You want to encourage them to keep reading by highlighting important points via subheadings. This helps to dispense the information and ensure that the reader can follow the order of your writing. Another great thing about subheadings is that they are attention-grabbing. The title of your piece might not catch their attention, but a subheading within your text can do the job of retaining the reader.
How to use subheadings where necessary and avoid lengthy blocks of text
Logically break up your points. A good way to do this is to begin with an introduction, follow up with the middle (where you can further break up your points), and conclude with your final thoughts on the matter.
Use bold fonts to make subheadings obvious.
Try to keep your paragraph length to a maximum of 10 lines for a single-spaced document.
4. Use readable, acceptable fonts
Find out what fonts are acceptable for communicating within your field and use them. The wrong font (too big, too formal, too playful, unusual for the material) might be off-putting to the reader and stop the communication flow. Resist the urge to make the text look fancy—except of course it’s necessary for your writing.
How to use readable, acceptable fonts
Avoid big font sizes—except they’re used for headings and subheadings.
Ensure there’s an adequate line spacing.
Apply the appropriate formatting guidelines for your industry.
Avoid using too many fonts within the same document. Readers may find this distracting.
5. Use images and graphics where necessary
Pictures help to buttress your point, and if you’re writing for social media, it is advisable that you add an image to your post. Not only does it buttress your point, but it also grabs the attention of your readers.
How to use images and graphics where necessary
Make use of graphs, infographics, especially when writing about numbers. It adds credibility to your point.
Design and use graphs and pie charts based on the textual information you’re providing.
Download and use free stock photos which are copyright free, or use copyrighted work with permission and give credit to the copyright owner.
Ensure they are of the right size (not to big or small) so they are not ignored.
Use high quality, clear pictures.
6. Let the text rest, then review it after some time
The first draft is usually just about getting everything on the page. Avoid sending it, instead let the text rest. The first draft usually contains errors—grammatical and conceptual. Return to the text after some time to get rid of unnecessary elements. Rewrite the draft if necessary.
How to let the text rest
Give yourself enough time to write and revise your work. You’re more likely to send a first draft when you’re in a hurry to turn it in.
Improve your writing skills by doing some more research on the matter. This helps to stimulate your thoughts and sharpen your opinions.
If your thoughts are not flowing, leave the subject and return to it when you feel better about it.
7. Edit your work.
This is non-negotiable. It is of utmost importance that you edit your work to weed out inconsistencies, grammar errors, referencing errors and language unsuitability. At the copyediting stage, you can easily discover wrong quotations, missing links, misspelled words, repeated phrases and incomplete sentences.
How to edit your work
Do it yourself, following grammatical and language rules. Evaluating your writing is a good way to improve your writing skills, with the benefit of hindsight, you can see your flaws and make a mental note to correct them.
Evaluate your punctuation usage. Delete unnecessary commas, spaces and use question marks after every statement of inquiry.
Check up on your word usage. Have you used ‘their’ instead of ‘there’, or ‘suit’ instead of ‘suite’?
Don’t hesitate to delete long, flowery sentences that leave the reader winded and confused. Succinctness is key.
Read the text again, like the receiver would. Have you used wrong or outdated terminologies? Is it easy to understand? Are your words kind? Does your tone show consideration for the reader?
Have a beta reader to review it or hire a copyeditor to do a professional job for you.
8. Include action points
If your writing calls for it, include an action point. It doesn’t have to be a long paragraph; these are usually one-liners. If you’re writing about food for instance, it’s best to advise readers to try out their own recipes or tell you if they have found the article helpful. If you’re writing an official email, encourage the reader to reach out to you with any concerns or questions they have—if necessary. Action points encourage the reader to react to your communication. Examples include:
Please sign up today!
Can you think of any points I have missed? Feel free to type it in the comments!
Would you try out this recipe and share your food pictures with me? I’d love to post them on my Instagram page.
How to include action points
Include some urgency in the action point
Add a benefit to your action point.
Let readers know that you value their feedback
It takes time and diligence to improve your writing skills. However, you can become the writer of your dreams by learning from your mistakes and practicing until you master the art of effective communication.
Are there any tips you think I left out? Please share them in the comments below!