Before the tips, a quip:
“I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil.” ~ Truman Capote.
Fellow scribes, remember that great writing is in the editing, not the original writing…so get it all down and then go find your scissors! To learn how to self-edit and write better, read Improve Your Writing. And, here are five tips for better writing from Sampson…
Be a Better Writer – 5 Tips for Decreasing Writing Errors
These five tips will decrease the chance of mistakes finding their way into your business writing, whether it be a proposal, a website, or a newsletter.
1. Hire a book doctor or professional editor. The most common mistakes are minor, such as misspellings or incorrect use of punctuation. Other common writing errors are incorrect word use (their, they’re, there; or worse, worst, borscht, etc.). If you don’t know how to edit your writing, consider hiring an editor. A professional editor is adept at noticing and correcting these kinds of mistakes. If your writing will be seen by many, don’t make the mistake of relying solely upon a computerized spell-checker, which cannot tell the difference between “worse” and “worst” since they are both properly spelled words. Use an editor – a human one.
2. Get a second (and third) set of eyes. Even if you do not wish to pay a professional, anyone who reviews your writing will find mistakes you invariably miss. Since you are overly familiar with your own work you are much more likely to miss obvious mistakes because your mind already knows what it is supposed to say, rather than what it actually says. When someone else reads your work, they have no preconceived notions about your writing. At the same time, human behavior will often motivate them to find fault. Use that to your advantage. In addition to finding mistakes and decreasing writing errors, other people may offer helpful suggestions to improve your writing.
3. Let your writing sit, and come back to it later. Do you wait long enough after writing something to begin editing it? Many writers edit their work as they write it. Not only does this slow down the creative process, it increases the chance that your mind will ignore blatant errors in deference to your intentions. Once your brain thinks a paragraph is free from writing errors, it tends to overlook any new errors that are introduced during the rewriting process. Put your writing away for several hours, days, or weeks and revisit it later. Then you will be more likely to read the words as they appear on the page, not as you envisioned them in your mind.
4. Read your material backwards. Fortunately, you are only familiar with your writing in one direction – forward. Reading your material backwards makes it seem entirely different and fools your mind into ignoring the intention and only concentrating on the reality. Furthermore, your critical view of the writing at its most technical level will not be corrupted by the flowing exposition you have massaged into sparkling prose. When you read your manuscript backwards, it becomes a collection of words. Without contextual meaning, the brain has nothing to focus upon other than the words themselves. Mistakes literally jump off the page – which will improve your writing skills.
5. Read your writing out loud. When you read words aloud, your brain must slow down and concentrate on the material. How fast can you read the following sentence? The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dogs. Now how fast can you read it out loud? It takes at least twice as long, and those precious milliseconds sometimes make all the difference between a typo that is missed, and one that is caught and corrected. An extra bonus for reading your writing out loud is that you may discover stumbling blocks and writing errors such as awkward sentence structure and choppy dialogue. Strong business writing is not only dependent on error-free prose; it must be crisp and clear.
Brent Sampson is the best-selling author of Sell Your Book on Amazon and the award-winning Self-Publishing Simplified. He’s also the president & CEO of Outskirts Press.
If you have any thoughts or questions on decreasing writing errors, please comment below…