10 tips on how to improve your writing
We’ve recently uploaded many writing tips for different types of writing to OxfordDictionaries.com, from crafting your CV to creating a short story. Today’s post gathers together sneak previews from each of the ten writing pages; follow the links to read more advice about ten different areas of writing.
1. Better writing: guide readers through what you write
Your task is to help readers understand your message quickly and precisely. To do this, it is necessary to show them clearly how the different parts relate to each other.
Each sentence, each paragraph should be relevant to what comes before and what comes after.
2. Word choice: avoid clichés and buzzwords
Clichés (used so often and so vaguely that they lose their original impact) and buzzwords/jargon can irritate readers and either distract them from your message or make them question its validity.
3. Writing your CV/résumé: make your CV/résumé easy to read
Research shows that one thing recruiters expect in a CV/résumé is ease of reading. Ways of making yours easy to read include a brief summary of where you are now and where you want to go, short sentences and paragraphs, clear headings, good use of bullet points, and appropriate typefaces.
4. Writing a cover letter: tailor your cover letter
A generic cover letter simply will not do; make sure your letter is tailored to the job and company in question. Reflect the organization’s values and goals; research what it says about its history, current practice, mission statement, and so forth. But don’t just parrot their exact wording. It sounds robotic, and employers hate it.
5. Writing essays: understand your audience
The more you know about who will be reading your essay, the better. Readers who are experts on your topic will already have some background knowledge. Readers who are your age will be familiar with the same films and songs you’re likely to mention. The less you know about your audience, the more you’ll need to define your terms and provide context for your examples.
6. Writing a personal statement: create a strong opening
As with any other piece of writing, you need to get your readers’ attention. A compelling personal story can be an effective beginning. Let your story lead to a discussion of how you became interested in the type of work or education you are pursuing. You might also start by writing about someone you admire in the industry or organization.
7. Online writing: create a good title
Your title is one of the ways people find your piece. It should also make them want to read on. So it’s well worth investing time to get it right. The pay-off will be not only more readers but also readers who engage fully with what you write.
8. Creative writing: show rather than tell
Too much description, too many adjectives and adverbs, can slow up your narrative and cause your readers to lose interest. Where possible, it’s better to show your readers what a person, the atmosphere in the room, the relationship between your characters is like – show, that is, by what they say, how they interact, what they do. It’s more effective than telling the reader through wordy piles of information.
9. Writing a speech: write for the ear, not for the eye
Once you’ve finished a draft of your speech, practice reading it out loud. You’ll hear anything that sounds awkward. Revise so you are more comfortable giving your speech. You want to sound natural, no matter what the occasion.
10. Writing a review: explain how you’re judging the work
Decide on your criteria, the standards you’ll use to judge the book, show, or film. You might believe a novel is successful when it has characters you care about and a plot that makes you want to keep reading. State these criteria so your readers understand what you believe.