Write Like a Professional: Four Crucial Writing Tips for Beginners

Writing used to scare me. A lot.

Seasoned writers see a “blank canvas waiting to be filled with your words,” a familiar friend and rival to be conquered. All I ever saw was the blinking cursor taunting me. I was too worried about the order of my words. Was I getting my point across? Have I rambled on too long? Is this even worth writing in the first place?

I initially got into writing articles for my high school newspaper. In those days I naively expected it to be like the creative writing I had been doing for years. I didn’t learn to differentiate the two writing styles until I majored in journalism a year later.

Writing professional articles was a whole new beast compared to school papers and short stories — one that I wasn’t sure I could conquer. Admittedly, my first reaction was to ignore the obvious hole in my skill set, but it didn’t take long for my lack of knowledge to begin gnawing at me. I was only stalling the inevitable. I would have to learn eventually or it was going to loom over me forever, keeping me from new opportunities and experiences.

The first thing I did was take writing courses and, more importantly, take notes during those courses. The second thing I did was practice what I learned; no point in taking notes if I wasn’t ever going to use them.

Now I want to share some of the ones I found most helpful when I was a novice writer.

1. Write for your reader

Jot down your intended message beforehand. Practice being consciously aware of what you’re writing and whether or not it serves the reader. Knowing what you want the reader to get out of your writing and what specifically conveys your message will help you stay on track. When you’re finished, review your work and delete anything that stands out as extraneous or tangentially related. Sometimes it’s difficult to cut a useless line you’re particularly proud of, but in the end, your writing will be clearer.

2. Save Everything

Saving your unpublished work also serves as a time capsule. It’s part of the writing experience to have days where you feel self-conscious about what you’re doing. Self-doubt begins to creep in and suddenly you think every word you’ve written for your current project is complete and utter garbage. Personally, nothing is more encouraging than going through my writing from months or even years ago and seeing progress. It’s a great way to remind yourself you’ve improved and you’re not as bad as you think.

3. Keep it Simple

Get in. Get out. Go home.

If you have to read a sentence multiple times to understand the meaning, that’s a sign your message is going to get lost. Look at your word choice. I’m sure you’ll be able to swap a few out for something simpler.

Once you’ve gotten accustomed to simplicity, you can begin to play around with your word choice, but it’s easier to add to your writing than it is to take it apart.

Complex writing can also be a barrier. I don’t expect every person who reads this to be an English major or remember all the parts of speech. I purposefully used “word choice” over “diction” because it’s easier to understand.

4. Connect the Dots

This is especially important if you’re writing to inform others because you don’t want anyone to come to their own conclusions about your topic. Unless it’s your goal, don’t be ambiguous about anything.

At first, I thought this was a no-brainer, but after looking at some examples of disconnected writing, it’s actually less obvious than most would think. Disconnected writing isn’t just two or more points that don’t quite make sense, it can be anything that requires the reader to ask why or how.

For example:

Many residents do their laundry in the morning or at night to lower their energy bills.

Theoretically, this sentence is fine, but the reader doesn’t know why doing your laundry at certain hours of the day affects your energy bill. They’re left to make their own conclusion, which ultimately hurts the clarity of your writing.

As you get more comfortable with conveying your thoughts you’ll be able to play around with sentence structure, certain literary devices, and more. But remember to always keep your reader and your message in mind. It’s the best thing you can do for your writing.

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Just a college graduate with a degree in journalism writing about anything that interests me.

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Shel Burton

Just a college graduate with a degree in journalism writing about anything that interests me.