“I’m a little embarrassed to admit this, but I’m a terrible writer,” my client said. “And I freeze whenever I have to write something for my business.”
I hear that a lot. It seems as though our world is chock full of people who have little confidence in their ability to write and, even worse, they’re drenched with anxiety when they have to write something. Most of the people who have admitted this private sorrow to me don’t know what, exactly, they’re doing that earns them the label “bad writer,” and my guess is that, in many cases, there has been a teacher, parent, spouse or friend somewhere in their past who looked at their written work and pronounced it lousy for them.
If this applies to you, I invite you to consider this:
- You Might Be a Better Writer Than You Think
In my opinion, strong writing communicates powerfully. Weak writing is dull and confusing. But let’s leave judgement at the door. If you are able to get your point across cleanly, you are already on the winning side of the writing battle. I’ve seen self-described “terrible writers” create work that was well structured and competently written. It took them an agonizingly long time to write their piece and there was room for improvement. But there was nothing perceptively “wrong” with their writing. And I invite you to consider the possibility that there is nothing perceptively wrong with your writing, either.
- Writing Is a Skill You Can Always Improve
Some people find it easier to write than others. Some people like doing it more than others. And some people actually are “better” at it than others. As former US President Theodore Roosevelt said, however, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Don’t beat yourself up just because there’s room for improvement.
If it’s important to you to become a better writer, then set a goal to become a better writer and take action to support that goal. We are each on our own personal “writing continuum” and I don’t think there’s such a thing as “perfection” when it comes to writing excellence. But if you want to improve, you need to invest some time and energy in the project.
Here are some online resources that might help:
- Grammarbook.com – This is a site that is overflowing with excellent information on grammar and writing. Their e-newsletter is excellent.
- Grammar Girl rocks! This resource brings a bit of sass and a lot of fun to the art of writing well – there are some superb tips here.
- Grammarly invites you to upload a document for free e-proofing and recommendations for improvements.
- The Purdue Writing Lab is a superb go-to-resource for solid support around writing.
- The Canadian Press Style Guide is my go-to resource for Canadian language usage (I have a hard copy but you can also sign up for a monthly online subscription.)
- The Chicago Manual of Style is my favourite resource for American language usage.
You’re also welcome to purchase my book, The Write Way, which shares some of my favourite tips for writing.
A lot of my editing clients note that the process of having their first book edited helped them become much more tuned in to the task of writing well than they ever dreamed possible and you might want to consider hiring an editor as well to go over a few key documents for you. And look at the process as a learning experience for you. Follow the changes they’ve made and incorporate the rules they seem to be following into your own work.
The upshot is that there is plenty you can do to improve your writing, if that’s important to you. So, take heart – help is at hand!