How To Write Better: 13 Ways to Unleash Your Inner Hemingway

Want to optimize your writing skills? It is, after all, a discipline you can continuously improve. This post shows you how to write better.

Candice Elliott by Candice Elliott | Last Updated: May 24, 2021

When you’re a blogger, writing is your job. People often dismiss it as “not really writing,” but let me ask you this: Do you get paid to do it? If you said “Yes,” you’re a professional. And likely make more money than most of history’s famous scribblers (even if we adjust for inflation!).

Whatever the case, you have a responsibility to honor those who came before you by learning how to write better. Whether it’s a blog entry, a social media post, or a piece of content marketing copy, writing well can make you good money. So let’s look at some writing tips for young writers and pros alike.

Adopt Good Habits

Good writing skills are like sound health. To achieve it, you must adopt good habits that support the goal, in our case, how to write better.

1. Just Start

Sit down every day, or at least most days, and write. You can’t become a good writer without starting. Doing the thing is how you improve, and writing is no different.

Even if you hate what you wrote at the day’s end, there are likely a few kernels you can salvage and improve upon tomorrow. So don’t let the “blank page terror” stop you. Just write that first sentence and keep going.

2. Read Good Books Often

It doesn’t matter what you read, non-fiction, fiction, poetry, short stories. As long as the author is skilled, you will learn helpful things. For example, better sentence structure, new words, and why an active voice is more appealing than a passive one.

You may even be able to find writing prompts to inspire your work.

If you want to read a great book on the craft of writing, read On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King. Yes, that Stephen King!

If you want to learn how to write better, consult a best-selling author!

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Further Reading:

3. Go For a Walk

Writer’s block isn’t only a problem in creative writing. No matter what kind you do, including business writing, you can’t think of anything to write some days.

So join the great writers who came before you and get over that block by taking a walk. Walking is among the most unheralded best writing tips.

And there is scientific evidence to back up what writers like William Wordsworth, Henry David Thoreau, and Virginia Woolf knew.

A study from Stanford University showed that when people tackled mental tasks that required imagination, walking led to more creative thinking than sitting did.

Walking as a solution doesn’t only work for writing.

The study reads “mental task that required imagination,” which can include any problem you’re having trouble coming up with a solution for. Take a walk to get the creative juices flowing.

4. Keep a Notebook Handy

A notebook might sound old-fashioned so use whatever works for (e.g., notes on your phone). The point is, you never know when a good idea will strike you.

Or you’ll see a news story, a magazine article, or hear something on the radio, during a podcast, or while eavesdropping on the table next to you at dinner that might make an excellent topic.

That’s why having a place to note it down is crucial so it doesn’t get lost in the fog of the rest of your day.

5. Take Writing Courses

Olympic Gold Medal-winning athletes have coaches. Grand Slam-winning tennis players have coaches.

Takeaway: The best of the best in any field are always learning because they understand they don’t know everything about their craft.

Writing is no different. There are all kinds of writing courses you can take in-person and online, some are free, and some are paid. You can even hire a writing coach.

Create a Writing Process

To do anything efficiently, you need a process in place. Everyone’s approach is a little different, but these are some things you might like to adopt.

Going step-by-step through a strategy is one of the essential writing habits you can develop. Why? Because it’s harder to get stuck, and you have fewer excuses for procrastinating when you know how to get from Point A to Point Z.

6. Let It Out

The first time you sit down to work on a piece of writing, let whatever is in your mind pour out.

Don’t worry about commas, semicolons, adverbs, spelling, sentence structure, word count, SEO, typos, or word choice.

how to write better with a brain-dump notebook

Just start darting down random ideas. They don’t even need to be in the order that makes the most sense. Then, you can go back to that.

When I do this, I do it in a series of bullet points in WordPress, but you can do it free-hand as for some people, physically writing helps spark ideas.

7. Make an Outline

From your brainstorming session above, you should pick out enough ideas to formulate an outline.

Oddly, or maybe not, I’ve never compared notes with other writers; getting an outline is the hardest part of good writing for me. This is often the point at which I get blank page terror. However, once I have an outline, it’s smooth sailing.

Start with the most prominent theme of your piece of writing. If you’re doing a product review, for example, your outline might look like this:

product review template breakdown

Further Reading:

8. Write the First Draft

Writing is hard work, but it doesn’t have to be torturous. We’re trying to entertain and inform readers, write social media posts to drive traffic to our sites, and convince people to buy things we talk about through affiliate marketing with our Amazon links!

We’re not Ernest Hemingway, one of the greatest English language writers and best fiction writers in history, creating a world inhabited by an entire cast of characters, where each sentence has to be a stand-alone work of art.

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.

If, after following the first two steps above, you’re still struggling to come up with a first draft, go for a walk! Your first draft should spring naturally from your outline.

Sitting in front of a screen overthinking it makes it harder. Walk away, literally.

Further Reading:

9. Edit

We all have our particular writing styles, and they may not always speak to our target audience. If you’re transitioning from a hobbyist to blogging for money, this can be especially tough.

Your elements of style (word choice, sentence structure, syntax, etc.) may be informal, writing more or less as you speak.

That may not be authoritative enough when you’re trying to show people you’re an expert on the products you recommend. You need to know how to speak to your target audience.

Takeaway: Remember who you’re talking to.

Put yourself in your audience’s place while reading your first draft. Would you buy what you’re selling?

Don’t be afraid to get a set of fresh eyes. Proofreading your content can be challenging. When you’ve spent a lot of time writing something, it’s hard to see it clearly because your brain becomes so absorbed.

Further Reading:

The Nuts and Bolts

All good writing is different, but it also shares commonalities. Here are things you should include with yours.

10. Keep It Short and Sweet

I reference Hemingway a lot, and one of the hallmarks of what made him a great writer is the shortness and simplicity of his sentences.

This skill was honed during his time as a writer for The Toronto Star newspaper.

Hemingway wrote short sentences that were straightforward and clear so that readers could understand the points he made even if they were skimming quickly through his articles.

You’re not writing a novel. People aren’t reading what you write to be romanced by purple prose and extra fluff.

Instead, people are skimming your post just like they were skimming Hemingway’s articles. 73% of readers skim rather than read a blog post thoroughly. You need to make your point. No long sentences, short and punchy with no unnecessary words, is the way to go.

Sidenote: The average reader spends just 37 seconds reading an article or blog post.

This isn’t to say you can’t do a long-form piece of writing. Sometimes a topic demands a higher word count.

But make sure even in a lengthy post that your sentences are short and straightforward.

Further Reading:

11. Use the Write Tools

I’m not fond of writing rules. Too many of them offend my creativity. But I am a professional writer, and doing it in a professional manner is part of the job.

I don’t know all of the rules that make for better writing. Fortunately, I don’t have to, and you don’t either.

There are plenty of tools that do that kind of hard work for you. I like Grammarly. Grammarly proofreads everything I write, from posts to Facebook comments!

Grammarly offers several features that will help you achieve more effective writing:

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12. Set the Write Tone

One overlooked piece of writing advice is to mind your tone. This goes hand-in-hand with knowing your audience. But while your audience remains relatively consistent, your style can change based on the type of piece you’re writing.

A business email should be formal, while a social media post can be less so, even playful depending on the topic.

13. Break it Up

Do you have a friend who writes absolute walls of text when sending you a text message? It’s maddening.

But you have to slog through it because your friend wrote it. No one has to read what you write, and if your writing contains long blocks of text (e.g., it reads like a Terms of Service page), they’re going to opt out:

wall-of-text

Look at that above example!

The secret to unlimited wealth, beauty, and life could be buried somewhere in there, and I still wouldn’t read it.

Of course, it’s part of a legal agreement, so the writer has a vested interest in making sure the reader doesn’t read it.

But when your vested interest is in making certain people read what you write, make it easy for them. Paragraph breaks are far from the only way to break up an article.

These are some additional ideas:

Writing Is an Art

Being a writer has such a romantic aura around it. Millions of aspiring writers have pictured themselves sitting in a smokey, Left Bank cafe in Paris drinking absinthe, half-mad with creative fervor, writing the next great novel.

Even for the writers who really did that, like those among the Lost Generation, it wasn’t always romantic. Writing is hard, and it’s an art. You can continually improve upon your art as all great writers spent their lives doing.

Want more tips on becoming a better writer? Head here.

Candice Elliott
Candice Elliott has written hundreds of articles about all things money, wellness, and flawlessly finding gifts to match any occasion. She’s also penned three books as a ghostwriter. If you’re lucky, you might catch her sipping on something delicious in New Orleans, the city she calls home.

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