Last updated: December 2020
A writer can’t exist in a vacuum. No matter what content we create – books, web articles, essays, poetry, etc. – we need advice from colleagues on how to write better.
But here’s a problem:
With tons of books, research articles, and blog posts available online on the topic, it’s not that difficult to get lost there. Whom to trust? How to find the actionable writing tips that would 100% work for us?
That’s where online communities come into place.
If you’re a Redditor yourself, you already know this site is a wealth of information and insights. If not, brace yourself for a surprise: Thanks to a Redditor’s question, “What is your Number #1 writing hack/tip?” we can gather all the helpful information on how to write better in one place.
In this post, you’ll find the advice on:
Table of Contents:
- How to write better essays
- How to write better sentences
- How to write better stories
- How to write better articles
- How to write better blog posts
- How to write better poetry
- The best books to read for writing better
How to Write Better Essays
It’s a never-ending struggle:
Students want to know how to write better essays to get higher grades; their teachers want them to write better essays to develop critical thinking, communication skills, and the power to express their thoughts consistently and in a well-argued manner.
Tons of academic articles and blog posts describe the theory of essay writing. Even so, students continue looking for professional writing help.
Redditors leave the essay writing theory to academics, sharing tips on how to organize the process and how to edit college papers effectively.
“Never use the word ‘very’ (or any other qualifier for that matter).”
Indeed, many writers overuse “very” in their works. Sometimes it’s an attempt to reach the word limit assigned by a teacher or a client (if speaking of freelance writers), and sometimes it’s nothing but a poor vocabulary when you can’t find any alternative words to express what you meant to say.
Words like “very” or “really” are intensifiers with no inherent meaning. They do nothing but diminish your writing. Try using words that are more powerful instead. For example, you can write “large,” “huge,” or “enormous” instead of “very big.” Or, consider “monstrous” instead of “very large.”
There’s always a stronger alternative. What about these 128 words that help you avoid “very” in essays and other writings?
“Write with as little interruption as possible. This includes editing while you’re writing. Get the text down, the story fleshed out, and then go back and nitpick.”
How many times did you hear anything like, “Just write” or “Write now, edit later?” This tip works because, when doing so, you can reach a flow state with no distraction – and conclude your essay faster.
And when the time comes to proofread your work, this tip from a Redditor may come in handy:
“Read your work one sentence at a time starting from the end.”
It helps the brain to reorganize its flow and notice the typos or grammar mistake you would miss if used a common reading technique. Here’s another trick to try:
“Switch formats. This works well for writing or editing. For example, if I do my initial edits on the computer, the next round is on paper. This helps you look at work a little differently and you end up catching things you otherwise wouldn’t have.”
For more actionable tips and samples, please check our guides on how to write better essays:
How to Write Better Sentences
For some writers, the most challenging part of the process is to beat a blank page syndrome. It’s a sensation plaguing most of us at one time or another:
Causes are many: stress, lack of energy or interest, poor environment (too loud, cold or hot, too quiet, or any other conditions that make you feel uncomfortable and unable to focus on writing), etc. But the most obvious reason is lack of knowledge: You simply don’t know enough about the topic, or you don’t know how to write better sentences to express your thoughts on paper.
Any tips from Redditors on this?
“When editing, replace any instance of the verb ‘to be’ with a more specific verb. Use the active voice.”
Active voice and power verbs make your writing more meaningful. Not only will it be easier for readers to perceive such work, but it will also help you grow as a writer: You’ll craft skills and develop your personal writing style.
“Ctrl+F through your scratch draft and delete and words ending in ‘-ly.'”
Many famous essay writers don’t like -ly adverbs. (Stephen King, Mark Twain, and Ernest Hemingway are to name a few.) That’s because most adverbs (not all!) are redundant:
In most cases, you can find a stronger verb to communicate your message with no adverbs at all. Or, your sentence won’t become less informative if you remove an adverb from it.
When to use adverbs in sentences?
- If it provides a different meaning to the verb it modifies. (Brian studied diligently all the year to become an excellent student.)
- If it makes a sentence less informative if removed. (The plane landed successfully.)
- If it adds a rhythm to a sentence, making it sound better. (The stranger muttered incoherently.)
To avoid writing weak sentences, make the most out of the following Redditor’s advice:
“Copy and paste your piece/chapter/story into a word cloud generator to see exactly what words you might be using excessively, like ‘like’ or ‘mostly.'”
Here goes another one:
“Have a friend to read your work. It’ll be easier to spot awkwardly worded sentences because that friend WILL stumble when trying to read it.”
The same is true about the following advice:
“Read every sentence out loud.”
Authors often autocorrect without even noticing it because their brain knows the flow and how it’s supposed to go. Reading out loud can help notice poor words or sentences because you’ll stumble when trying to read them.
How to Write Better Stories
“Don’t be afraid to write shitty. Assume it will always be shitty until the end.”
This is perhaps one of the best pieces of advice when it comes to battling the blank page. If you expect sensational material to flow magically from your brain to your computer screen, you’ll never get anywhere.
Another Redditor added:
“Get the ideas on the page before you lose them.”
Don’t correct spelling errors. Don’t worry about proper punctuation. Don’t stop to research a point. Just write. You can edit later.
C. J. Cherryh said, “It is perfectly ok to write garbage – as long as you edit brilliantly.” Once you have all your thoughts down, go back and edit. And edit again.
“Always start a new sentence or paragraph before you stop writing for the day so that when you come back, you have somewhere to pick up from again.”
If a single composition spans several writing sessions, it makes sense that you’ll spend most of the time reviewing what you’ve already written. There is a chance that just as much time can be wasted trying to determine where you’ll go next.
And last but not least here:
“Read everything. – The good and the bad. Many times writers learn more from bad fiction. It’s great when a new writer sees a published work and thinks, ‘Holy shit, I can do better than this,’ and then devotes their entire being to never writing like that garbage.”
How to Write Better Articles
“Learn to kill an idea. It’s hard. They’re our brain babies, and we love them. But if it takes too long to make it workable, it may not be a good idea.”
Those writing blog posts or articles for marketing know that it doesn’t take long for a good idea to flesh out, while bad ideas can suck hours, destroy all the time management, and kill productivity. Yes, it’s painful to throw away an entire work, but it’s more productive to move on and write the next good one.
Stephen King added,
“When your story is ready for rewrite, cut it to the bone. Get rid of every ounce of excess fat. This is going to hurt; revising a story down to the bare essentials is always a little like murdering children, but it must be done.”
How to Write Better Blog Posts
“The basic: Show us, don’t tell us.”
You know that online readers won’t spend much time on your content. They have a short attention span, and they’ll scan your blog post to decide if it’s worth their time. With that in mind, you need to organize and format your writing for better usability and readability.
- Write in short sentences and paragraphs.
- Use headings, subheadings, numbered and bulleted lists, quotes – everything that helps a reader understand the topic and core message of your blog post.
- Add visual content: images, videos, infographics, GIFs, graphs, screenshots, and any other type of data visualization.
“Set a word limit per day. – 2000 is a good amount, but 1000 is just fine for those who take it slower. Force yourself to reach that goal without taking a break. Breaks are for phonies. Are you a phony? I thought not. When you finish, reward yourself with something fun. Chocolate? Sounds yummy. Coffee? Sounds yummier.”
It will help you beat procrastination and organize the blog post writing process better: The self-reward expectancy will motivate you to move forward and achieve your writing goal faster.
Also, you’ll develop a good writing habit and forget about the fear of a blank page.
“Write short. Use the active voice.”
As already mentioned, these writing rules help you craft skills and improve the readability of your blog posts. If you doubt whether your work is clear enough, dozens of writing apps are available online to assist with proofreading and editing.
“Write a lot, read a lot, avoid adverbs, draft until you want to cry. Also, write what you know.”
Your blog posts will never be informative, comprehensive, and therefore popular among the audience if you write about topics you don’t know inside out. Readers aren’t idiots: They’ll see if you are an expert in what you tell them.
So please learn how to write better content: Generate in-depth, actionable, and data-driven blog posts; share content that solves a problem; teach your audience; give them something no one else has.
How to Write Better Poetry
“If you have inspiration, do not stop writing until it runs out. This is when your absolute best stuff is going to flow, so letting an arbitrary thing stop you will only impede your progress.”
Most authors recommend establishing a writing schedule. However, such a habit can slow you down, especially when it comes to writing poetry. When writing is a struggle and thoughts aren’t flowing naturally, having a cut-off time will ensure you don’t give up prematurely.
But if the good stuff is flowing, don’t stop! Don’t close up shop just because the clock chimes a certain number of times or because your favorite TV show is about to start.
“Play with rhyme and simplify word choice.”
Don’t be afraid of rethinking how you structure rhyme schemes in your poetry. Also, don’t hurry up to look for exclusive words or flowery language to impress readers or convey deeper meanings. Often, simple language and clear images can do a job better.
So when you feel stuck and can’t find the right lexical item for a poem, focus on clear and concise definitions rather than gobble up a thesaurus in search of beautiful yet abstract words.
“Remember: There are no rules in poetry.”
Play with forms and meanings, break grammar rules, and don’t worry about the final version of your work. After all, you can always revise it and change it for the better. Often, the best poetry comes when a writer feels free to play.
The Best Books to Read for Writing Better
“When you aren’t writing – read. You can learn what to do and what not to do simply by reading books of different genres.”
The more you read, the better you write. Or, citing Stephen King, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” But the question remains:
What should I read to improve my writing skills?
It couldn’t be any easier: Read everything you like. Reading helps you find inspiration, build a better vocabulary, gain new knowledge, understand your genre better, and learn from writing gurus. But if you need a precise list of books, here go a few suggestions (both fiction and non-fiction ones).
7 Non-Fiction Books to Become a Better Writer
- On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction, by William Zinsser
- On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, by Stephen King
- Ernest Hemingway on Writing, edited by Larry W. Phillips
- Zen in the Art of Writing, by Ray Bradbury
- Nobody Wants To Read Your Sh*t: Why That Is and What You Can Do About It, by Steven Pressfield
- Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, by Anne Lamott
- Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within, by Natalie Goldberg
7 Fiction Books to Become a Better Writer
- A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway
- On the Road, by Jack Kerouac
- Nineteen Eighty-Four, by George Orwell
- The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck
- One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marques
- The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
- The Great Gatsby / Tender is the Night, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Hopefully, you’ve made it this far, and the fact we suggest you take advice from Redditors didn’t offend you too much. In the worst-case scenario, you can just pretend we got the above tips from an anonymous source. 🙂 After all, as Hemmingway said, “It’s none of their business that you have to learn to write. Let them think you were born that way.”
Now, how about you pass the torch and share the love of writing? Let’s share your tips on how to write better in the comments below.
image source: Reddit