Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

7 Tips for More Effective Writing

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People often ask me what it takes to be a good writer. The short answer? I don’t know. The slightly longer answer? I don’t know, and I don’t care.

Effective Writing

I am much less concerned with good writing than I am with effective writing. What’s the difference? One is based on opinion, and the other actually matters.

Everyone has their own idea of what it means to be a “good” writer. Opinions on quality vary, depending on who you ask, but effective writing is hard to argue with. It gets the job done — plain and simple.

So how do you write in a way that effectively communicates your message? Here are seven tips for more effective writing, which you can apply today:

1. Practice your craft

You can’t do something well unless you do it badly first. And that begins with practice. Most professionals recommend setting aside time (even if it’s only 20 minutes) to write each day. You can’t get better if you don’t show up.

I do this with my blog and other pieces I’m working on by writing daily a minimum of 500 words. The more I write, the more I learn about writing — and the more I realize I need to practice.

2. Challenge yourself

Write about topics that interest to you, but don’t forget to dabble in stuff that is new, as well. The more you stretch yourself, the more you grow.

Never underestimate the importance of learning. I try to learn something new every day by reading books, blogs, and magazines — unable go to bed until I’ve gleaned a few bits of wisdom from different sources.

3. Be yourself

Don’t model your writing after another writer — and if you do, do it only as a means of learning someone else’s technique, so you can make it your own. Ultimately, what you want is to discover your original writing voice. And frankly, that’s what we, as your audience, want, too. If we wanted to read Hemingway, we would read Hemingway.

I still struggle with this, but I’m getting better. One technique I use is to read aloud to myself what I’ve just written, and if it doesn’t sound like me, I rewrite it.

4. Don’t write like an idiot

Learn the basics of grammar. Buy an MLA, APA, or another style book (I recommend the AP Stylebook to a lot of copywriters). Honor your craft and start writing like a pro. Learning the rules makes it easier to break them.

5. Start small

Most would-be writers begin in the wrong place. They start by wanting to write a book. Don’t do that. Start small — maybe with a blog or a journal (you know, Doogie Howser style). Then, write a few articles for some magazines, and then, consider a book.

As you take one incremental step after another towards getting published, you’ll find that your confidence builds. That’s been my experience, anyway. After four years of writing for websites and magazines, I was finally ready to write a book.

6. Don’t give up

If writing is your dream, treat it seriously. Stick with it, even after the passion fades. Write every day.

Perseverance pays off. Most days, I don’t even want to write, but I show up, anyway. And something mystical happens; the Muse meets me, and inspiration happens when I least expect it.

7. Learn to pitch your pieces

Many writers expect to write something phenomenal and to be published immediately. You know, by osmosis and stuff. But before you write a piece, you should learn to pitch prospective publishers (book, magazine, or we).

A good pitch is short, compelling, and promising. Without learning how to effectively market your writing, even the best of writers can be overlooked.

What are some other tips for effective writing that I missed? Share in the comments.

About Jeff Goins

I help people tell better stories and make a difference in the world. My family and I live outside of Nashville, TN. Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or Google Plus. Check out my new book, The In-Between. To get exclusive updates and free stuff, join my newsletter.

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  • http://www.taminprogress.com/ tam

    great tips!

    thank you…

    i have GOT to set aside time regularly. i don’t do that quite enough :/

    • http://goinswriter.com Jeff Goins

      Thanks, Tam! It’s hard but worth it.

  • Jeff Goins

    Thanks, Tam!

  • Michael

    I think your list is great.

    I know my grammar is poor and I’m okay with it. The one thing I try to do is write like I talk.

    • Jeff Goins

      thanks!

    • Maribel Agullo

      Hello Michael, I do agree that its important to find your own voice, it is after all what will distinguish you from the next guy. 

      But please don’t think that poor grammar is ok. I read a lot and find that poor grammar distracts me…a lot. It takes me from focusing on the message to focusing on the writer : is this person prepared? Did he/she take time to research, to check the text? Obviously not, if there are serious grammar mistakes. 

      Typos can happen, as anyone who has an iphone or ipad can attest but grammar mistakes are another story. Good grammar says thoughtful and careful writer; someone who is prepared.

      Reviewing one of the books suggested by Jeff might be useful or why not take a course on writing? Years ago, I took one and in it we reviewed almost every single grammar rule, it was very helpful. 

      then, you can make a conscious decision on which to pay attention to and which to ignore. i for example, like to ignore upper cases when writing informally. :)

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  • Jeff Goins

    Thanks.

  • http://thinkspurlove.blogspot.com David

    Starting small has been such a huge lesson for me to learn! My buddy and I want to write a book. We have a very specific idea and approach but we know we can’t just write a book. We need to develop our process. The decision was to start with a blog. As it has grown, he and I have grown. It started with 2 hits in November and this month we will break the 1000 barricade! We are still working on how to team write…but this blog is giving us that chance.

    Thanks for posting this!

    • Jeff Goins

      Sounds like you’re on the right track, David.

  • http://letmebefrank.wordpress.com/ Frank

    Great list, and good inspiration…

    However, shouldn’t the last line of the first item start with “you can’t” instead of “you can”? :)

    • Jeff Goins

      Nice catch, Frank. Just fixed it. Thanks for reading.

  • http://kimbontrager.com kim

    This is a great list. Would love to see you expand on #7 sometime. I come away from this knowing (at least on some level) how to put #1-6 into action, but #7 is a bit less intuitive.

    Thanks for writing!

    • Jeff Goins

      Good call, Kim. I have lots of thoughts/ideas on this, so I’ll make a note to write a post on it soon.

  • Jamal

    Thanks so much for the tips!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      You’re welcome, Jamal. Thanks for the comment.

  • http://justicewordlaw.com Justice Wordlaw IV

    This was a really useful blog post that you wrote. I really like how you explained each step. Getting an book that covers the basics of grammar is important. I know I purchased one last year and it was probably the best book that helped me icnrease my understanding of good grammar.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Thanks, Justice. What book was it?

  • Anonymous

    I think I found you through a retweet on Twitter and I’ve since become a huge fan! I wanna be like you when I grow up. I’ve started blogging again but this time I’m trying to be more strategic as I figure out my voice. For now, my goal is to consistently have two blogs per week, Tuesday and Thursday. Thanks for being an inspiration!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Awesome. Thanks, Thelma!

  • http://www.betterhealthtoday.co Kay Wilson

    Thanks for this post, Jeff.  it has so much help for new writers.  I read Michael Hyatt every day and saw your guest post/interview.  I am working at being  more disciplined with my writing schedule.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=722479670 Debra Bell

    SO helpful!  Thanks

  • Meg R

    I’m a Granny who has just discovered I have been suppressing my writing instincts since I was a child due to not having any support system to help me.  I have been writing daily for the past while now and it is beginning to show up as short stories, articles, like that; 1500-2500 words.  Nothing earth shattering, but what you say is affirming that I am going in the right direction.  One day I might even let someone read something.

    Meg

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      awesome, Meg!

  • Mags

    Okay!  Okay!  I’m terrible at babysteps.  But here I go.  :)  Thanks, Fish Snacks.

  • Meg R

    Jeff, these are very good points, I’ve read them before and have been able to remember  several of them.  I am not at blogging point yet, but I write a journal each morning and if I come up with a topic that keeps me writing, I finish the piece.  One topic keeps coming up over and over,  that is turning into several hundred pages, it could become this epic story, one journal entry at a time.     

  • Cabinart

    PROOFREAD! If you have something to say and you put in the wrong word, your meaning gets lost, and your credibility gets dented. If you use “past” when it should be “passed”, Spellcheck isn’t going to help you. Read forward for content and backward for spelling. (Really! Read your stuff backward one word at a time!) 

    EDIT! Have you repeated ideas? Is your stuff sequential? Are you just making noise to get your word count up?

    (And Jeff, by “you” I don’t mean you! I mean me, us, one, them, every writer.)

  • http://sergspogi.hubpages.com/ sergs

    One idea I know about effective writing is using plain language and saying your point straight. I learn it from this article: 
    http://sergspogi.hubpages.com/hub/12-Tips-on-Effective-Writing

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  • Maryfel_moreno

    i’m just only a biggener and i hope and pray that god will help me to be successfully done by what am i doing after taking those tips in effective writing..

  • Austin Hodge

    Definitely still working on mastering the art of pitching. Any further thoughts, advice, or examples/stories you have to elaborate on it?

    Thanks for sharing your insights!
    Austin Hodge

  • Maribel Agullo

    Hi Jeff, 
    I really enjoy reading your blog. The contents is quite helpful and hopefully it will help me get started with some serious writing. Thank you. 

    I don’t mean to criticize you but noticed that you accepted a correction earlier, so here goes: The sentence below should be either all in the present tense or all in the past tense. The more I wrote, the more I learn about writing (and the more I realize I need to practice).i.e.all past: The more I wrote, the more I learned about writing (and the more I realized I needed to practice). 

    Thanks once again!
    Maribel

  • mercynotes

    Thanks for talking about writing so much. :)

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