How to Improve Your Writing Style

Style is vital to any writing project. From poetry to advertising copy, the choices you make will determine whether people continue reading, and what reaction they have.


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    Read widely. If you are only exposed to your own writing, your 'writing world' will narrow considerably. There's no better tutor than a beloved book that inspires you to write. Explore new genres and authors as well, to expose yourself to new vocabulary and new styles of writing.
    • Try writing in the style of a certain author as an exercise. Mimicry can force you to flex new writing muscles, although you should use your own voice for serious writing projects.
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    Learn the rules. Your writing will read more smoothly if you follow the rules of the English language. If you could improve in these areas, read our advice on grammar, spelling, and punctuation.
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    Choose words carefully. Find descriptive words that communicate the exact feeling you're going for. If you don't like the sound of a word, or you aren't sure it's the right choice, think of synonyms or alternatives.
    • Try to avoid overused words, such as "good" and "bad" and "ugly" and "said." Instead, think about what you're trying to say. Does "good" mean charming, sunny, lucky, or something else?
    • If you have trouble writing vivid descriptions, try a "comparagraph" exercise. Write a paragraph comparing any two people, objects, or settings. Try comparing a sunset to jewelry, or a forest to a woman.
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    Be clear and concise. Cut every unnecessary word from your writing. You may prefer lengthy descriptions or flowery language, but be strict at this stage. Most novice writers use many more words than necessary.
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    Listen to how people speak. To improve your dialogue, listen to how real people express themselves. How does someone's speech change when they're angry, sad, or in love? Learn how to reproduce real speech accurately in print if you ever want your dialogue to sound natural.
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    Make your characters believable. If you're writing fiction, make your characters sound authentic. A doctor might sound educated and use obscure medical terms. The patient may just say he is feeling sick.
    • If you're having trouble making characters sound different, give one of them an accent. An accent is difficult to write convincingly, but it will make the character seem different.
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    Begin and end on a strong sentence if you are writing an essay. Spend extra time polishing the first and last sentences of each paragraph in an essay. Aim for a punchy sentence that grabs the reader's attention. This practice can help improve the first and last sentences of a short story or novel chapter as well, although you have more room for stylistic changes.
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    Practice. You can read all you want about improving your writing, but if you don't actually put it into practice, you will not improve. Try to write every day, or as often as you can. If you keep putting it off, ask a friend to help keep you on task while she works on her own project in the same room.
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    Edit exhaustively. One famous piece of writers' advice: kill your darlings. Cut every passage that doesn't fit into the rest of the work, or that's too personal for other people to appreciate. Edit for clarity and style as well. Correct mistakes and try out alternatives until you're satisfied.
    • Never be afraid to trash something and start over. Authors have written and thrown away countless books, usually for good reason. If you don't feel good about what you wrote, scrap it and start over. The second (or fifth) version is often better, as you march in knowing the entire storyline.
    • Ask your friends to give feedback. Even people with no writing experience can identify awkward passages, although you may need to find the solution yourself.


  • If you're out of ideas, read a book or watch a film. Another person's idea makes a fine jumping off point, as long as you avoid direct plagiarism.

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Categories: Better Writing | Editing and Style