I try to keep the focus of this blog limited to writing about code, WordPress, software, and business.

Every now and then I’ll come across a resource I find so useful, I end up reusing or re-reading several times to try to figure out how to incorporate it into my day-to-day work. Usually, this has to do with some type of app of programming technique (and this likely similar to something you do, too).

In this case, I’m talking about writing.

Becoming a Better Writer

This article via Help Scout has been making the rounds for a few weeks now – and with good reason – it’s gives practical tips on what you can do to work on becoming a better writer so others have an easier time reading your work.

Becoming a Better Writer

The main points covered in the article are as follows:

  1. Strip Away The Essential
  2. Don’t Write Words, Write “Music”
  3. Take Inspiration from Timeless Style
  4. Be More Than Clear: Be Vivid

Each of these points are expanded upon in the article, and though I don’t think every one of them is something that’s applicable to a technical blog as a whole, it can help improve the overall content of a single post (and each post composes a blog, right?)

How This Applies

The more I’ve read this article, the more I’ve taken some of its points to heart, so I’m going to work on becoming a better writer based on the tips in the article. In short:

  • Some of my posts are too long – or too verbose – I want to work on writing shorter, clearer articles to save reader’s time.
  • The language around technical posts can often be dry. I want to liven it up without doing a poor job of explaining what’s going on in the code.
  • I want to continue removing unnecessary words. I attempt to do this now, but I can do better.

Ultimately, I want to continue to improve the quality of the writing on this blog, but it’s going to take time as I work diligently on implementing these changes.

Over the next few weeks, some posts may continue to be longer than others, but perhaps you’ll begin to notice a different pace at which individual posts read. If so, then chalk it up to this particular article.

Any Advice?

Though the referenced article packs a lot of information and has been really insightful, I know there are more things we all know we can do to improve our writing. For example, I know we should try to reduce the use of the word “that” in our writing.

We all have these little tips.

I’d be missing out if I didn’t end this post asking you:

What are things you’ve learned over the years to write better?

Let me know in the comments. I’m listening because I want to be writing and I want to be writing for those of you who are reading this writing.

Category:
Resources
Tags:

Join the conversation! 8 Comments

  1. Congratulations, Tom, you’ve done something most writers hardly ever bother to do: critique their own writing. And you’ve already identified that some of your stuff tends to wander.

    Truly good writers are born, not made. They absorb the art and skill of good writing as they grow; they never have to learn it per se. But I think you can learn to be better in a technical sense and since you are writing technical material it’ll certainly be doable.

    Note: in reducing the verbosity level, don’t substitute terseness for clarity.

    As an aside, has anyone else been surprised at the number of coders who write excellent prose? There are many bloggers, tutorial and book writers in our business that churn out flowing and engaging material that is a real pleasure to read. Hardly geeky at all.

    • Congratulations, Tom, you’ve done something most writers hardly ever bother to do: critique their own writing. And you’ve already identified that some of your stuff tends to wander.

      Thanks – I really do appreciate that.

      The content tends to wander mostly because I made the decision long ago that I wanted this blog to read much in the way that I speak so if you were to hear me to speak at a WordCamp or hang out somewhere, then it wouldn’t feel like a stretch.

      I didn’t want it to read academic-like. I’d rather it be more approachable.

      This doesn’t mean that I wander when I speak, but it means that I’m pretty casual when it comes to talking about things on a per-post basis. At any rate, it’s something I want to curtail :).

      But I think you can learn to be better in a technical sense and since you are writing technical material it’ll certainly be doable.

      Here’s to hoping, right? :)

      Note: in reducing the verbosity level, don’t substitute terseness for clarity.

      Noted!

      Hardly geeky at all.

      Thanks so much. That really does help make writing daily all the more worth it.

  2. Hi Tom,

    I have 2 tricks I use:

    Hemingway app – it highlights text that’s hard to read, and helps me bring it down to 9th grade level or lower.

    Text to speech – I use a key command on Mac to read selected text out loud – if it doesn’t sound right, I edit.

    • Hemingway app – it highlights text that’s hard to read, and helps me bring it down to 9th grade level or lower.

      You’re the second person I’ve heard mention this. I’ve heard mixed reviews about it, but maybe it’s worth a shot :).

      Text to speech – I use a key command on Mac to read selected text out loud – if it doesn’t sound right, I edit.

      I like this idea. I’ve not even considered it before. Thanks!

  3. I recently discovered Hemmingway and have enjoyed what little of it I have used so far. Also, 750words.com is a great place to write – private and gives you a daily goal (750 words). One secret to writing well is writing often, and that is one tip many authors agree on.

    • You’re the third person in one week to mention Hemingway so I’ve been giving it a go for my future posts.

      I’m familiar with 750 words — I think it’s a good idea for those who are just getting into writing. Right now, I’m working to try to reduce the verbosity of my posts so I’ll pull that out if I end up going too far ;).

  4. Writing is extremely stressful for me as it ranks 10 out 10 on my self-conscious scale. Hell, you could have my Social Security number before I shared my English grades with you.

    What I found works well for me:

    Read more. On my honeymoon I read a TON and it made me want to write a ton more. I now think of it like going for a run. If I want to stay in shape and clear my head, I run. If I’m starting to fall off the writing wagon, I read.
    Write all my ideas down immediately. I use Wunderlist to write everything down and file it into my Writing ideas folder. When I need a new topic, I start there.
    Desk.pm. John’s app.
    Hire an editor. Talk about a gut check! I recently hired an editor to proofread and edit my longer form pieces. Hitting publish is a whole lot easier now :)

    • Writing is extremely stressful for me as it ranks 10 out 10 on my self-conscious scale. Hell, you could have my Social Security number before I shared my English grades with you.

      Interesting – I wouldn’t have thought that regarding some of the stuff you’ve written (I mean that in a good way, just to be clear :).

      Read more. On my honeymoon I read a TON and it made me want to write a ton more. I now think of it like going for a run. If I want to stay in shape and clear my head, I run. If I’m starting to fall off the writing wagon, I read.

      Agreed. I think reading not only helps to spur ideas for things to write about, but also ways to think approach certain topics that provide an alternative way to write about something.

      Write all my ideas down immediately. I use Wunderlist to write everything down and file it into my Writing ideas folder. When I need a new topic, I start there.

      This is one of those things things that can’t be understated. It’s not so much how a person writes their thoughts down, but that they actually get them down. Doing that helps to generate a backlog of ideas that will hopefully only grow over time.

      Ultimately, you want your backlog to outpace your schedule (well, some may want this) so you can have a variety of content.

Leave a Reply