Writing is one of those things, like reading, that we do far more often than we realize. No really. Think about it – how often do you read in a day? You read directions or street signs, boring long emails, subtitles, the back of the shampoo bottle or cereal box. How often do you write in a day? You write texts to your family and friends, social media posts about your latest adventure, reviews about that new restaurant you tried last night…
Good writing helps L&D professionals communicate ideas clearly and keeps your audience engaged – which makes the learning more likely to be effective. You might write scripts, processes, storyboards, assessments, or even communication campaigns for learning during your L&D career – and those are only a few ideas that come to mind! It’s a fundamental skill, and here, we’re going to share some tips to improve your writing.
1. Practice regularly
The more you write, the better you’ll become. Here are some different ways you can practice:
- Keep a journal – explore your thoughts and feelings in a daily journal – Etsy has some beautiful handmade journals (and digital ones) if you don’t want to buy one from your local store – If you’re looking for something more specific, my pal, Sam Kain, has created a set of traditional journals, writer’s books, and notebook productivity systems called Purple Reset
- Write in different formats – Write short stories, articles, blog posts, scripts, and poetry to explore different styles and formats and practice different elements of storytelling and structure
- Write for different audiences – practice writing for diverse audiences and for different purposes, such as to inform, persuade, or educate
- Participate in writing prompts or exercises – these can help you develop new ideas and practice different forms of writing – on ThinkWritten, Chelle Stein has 365 writing prompts to get you started, or you can check out the DIY MFA Writer Igniter
- Write in a specific genre - choose a genre in fiction or nonfiction and focus on it – if you want some fiction genre-based prompts, this writing prompt generator has everything from comedy to “mundane science fiction”
- Collaborate with other writers - join a writing group or workshop to find prompts and receive lessons on writing – NaNoWriMo and Writing.com are amazing communities for active writers
- Set a specific goal - set yourself a writing goal, like writing a certain number of words a day, or completing a certain number of pages of a novel – setting aside time for writing will help it become a habit
Don’t feel like you have to try all of these at once. Pick and choose the different things that work for you, and see if you can create a routine for writing, especially if you enjoy it.
2. Read widely
Reading other writers will expose you to different styles and techniques. Just like you practice writing in different formats and genres, read different formats and genres as well. And think beyond books! Movies, songs, and podcasts are all forms of writing. If you’re looking for reading suggestions, Goodreads is an amazing place to start. Whether you visit your local bookstore or library or download a reading app, read as much as you can for inspiration!
3. Learn grammar and punctuation rules
Understanding the basics will make your writing more effective, and it may help you feel more confident and comfortable writing, which can help you grow as a writer. If you want a refresher on the most common writing errors, check out this article I wrote on Common Writing and Grammar Mistakes for L&D Professionals.
4. Use a thesaurus and a dictionary
These tools will help you expand your vocabulary and find the right word for the right occasion. And I’m not saying you need to read them or study them (of course you can if you want to). However, if you look at your writing and see something like, “he was charming, fascinating, and smart,” you can Google “What’s a word that means charming, fascinating, and smart?” and change your piece to something much more clear and concise, like “he was charismatic,” or “he was enchanting.” Perhaps you’ve also had one of those moments as a writer where you use a word and then think, “Wait. Is that the right word for this?” A quick search can help confirm – and help to build your confidence and vocabulary too.
5. Get feedback
Share your writing with others and listen to their critiques.
- Share with online writing communities or in free online workshops – earlier in the article, we mentioned joining a writing community or workshop as a way to practice writing, but it’s also a way to get feedback from experts
- Share your writing with friends or family – ask for feedback from people you trust, who will be honest and supportive
- Start writing on social media – the great thing about writing for social media is that you can start small, e.g., micro-blogging on LinkedIn or Twitter, and then you can scale as you start practicing and gain confidence, e.g., starting your own blog or website
- Hire a writing coach – a writing coach can provide professional feedback and guidance on your writing, if you’re willing to spend money
- Submit your work to literary magazines or contests – the worst-case scenario is you get feedback on why your submission wasn’t chosen, but the best-case scenario is you get published – it’s easiest to search for eligible literary publications by your writing genre
- Use writing apps – some software and apps, like Grammarly, can help you check grammar and style and give feedback on your work
Of course, how you choose to get feedback will depend on the level you’re comfortable with – that might be feedback from people you know will be kind or feedback from experts who might be more harsh but more helpful in the long run. As you improve and grow your confidence, you might be open to harsher feedback.
6. Revise and edit
Don't be afraid to make changes to your writing. The editing process will help you improve your work. Here are some tips to get the best out of the editing process:
- Make sure you take a break between writing and editing to ensure you come back to your work with fresh eyes
- Read your work out loud to identify any awkward sentences or errors
- Remember the purpose and the prompt – are you sticking to it?
- Focus on one aspect at a time, such as grammar, pacing, or characters, so that the process doesn’t become overwhelming
Writing – like many things – takes practice and dedication to improve and master. So, it’s important to set aside time to make sure you’re writing regularly and getting feedback on that writing (that feedback part is important – because you can be a terrible writer and write regularly, and if no one tells you it’s awful, you might just become a consistently terrible writer). Welcome the feedback with a smile, and embrace your mistakes. And remember, everyone starts somewhere (No, I’m serious – if you don’t believe me, you should read the essay I wrote on Emily Dickinson when I was a senior in high school). Be patient with yourself and trust the process.