7 Tips for More Effective Writing

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.

7 Tips for More 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? Or are you merely trying to be good?

Since this often confuses people, 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. I recommend setting aside time (even if it’s only 10 minutes) to write each day. You can’t get better if you don’t show up. Commit to the process and you will be amazed at the results.

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.

Set aside time to write each day. You can’t get better if you don’t show up.

Jeff Goins

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Talking about writing isn’t writing. Planning to write isn’t how you get better. The only way to get better is to actually do it.

2. Challenge yourself

Write about topics that interest to you, but don’t forget to dabble in new stuff, as well. The more you stretch yourself, the more you grow. You could challenge yourself and join me for a free webinar to learn my three keys for effective writing. Or maybe take up a daily writing challenge.

The point is to never underestimate the importance of learning. I try to learn something new every day by reading books and blogs and listening to podcasts and audiobooks.

Learn something new every day.

Jeff Goins

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I don’t like to go to bed until I’ve gleaned at least a few bits of wisdom and information 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 that you can make it your own.

Ultimately, what you want is to discover your original writing voice. And frankly, that’s what your audience wants, too. If we wanted to read Hemingway, we would read Hemingway.

Discover your original writing voice.

Jeff Goins

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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 and journalists). Chicago Manual is good for writing a book. Become a student of your craft and dedicate the rest of your life to honing it.

Become a student of your craft and dedicate the rest of your life to honing it.

Jeff Goins

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As Hemingway once wrote, we are all apprentices in a craft nobody masters. The point is not to arrive but to attempt. To aspire to write the best that we know how in the only way we can. So let’s honor the craft and start writing like a pro.

Learning the rules, after all, makes it easier to break them later.

5. Start small

Most would-be writers begin in the wrong place. They begin by wanting to write a book. Don’t do that. That’s too big. Too audacious. Too easy to fail at.

Start small, maybe with a blog or a journal (you know, Doogie Howser style). Then write a few articles for some magazines, and after that, consider a book. As you take one step after another towards getting published, you’ll find that your confidence builds. So does your competence. You get better faster the more you practice in public.

Don’t your creative journey by trying to write a book. Start small.

Jeff Goins

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That’s been my experience, anyway. After four years of writing for websites and magazines, I was finally ready to write a book. Without all that small work, I never would have been ready for something bigger.

6. Don’t give up

If writing is your dream, treat it seriously. Stick with it, even after the passion fades, which it likely will. Write every day. Perseverance pays off.

Write every day. Perseverance pays off.

Jeff Goins

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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. I enjoy something I was dreading because I fulfilled my one commitment as a professional writer, which is to never quit.

After all, that’s the only difference between an amateur and a pro.

7. Learn to pitch your pieces

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

Learn the art of asking. You will be doing it your whole career. Better get used to it now.

Learn the art of asking.

Jeff Goins

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A good pitch is short, compelling, and promising. Without learning how to effectively market your writing, even the best writers can be overlooked. You are only one “yes” away from your next big break.

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

56 thoughts on “7 Tips for More Effective Writing

  1. 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.

    1. 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. 🙂

  2. 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!

  3. Great list, and good inspiration…

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

  4. 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!

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

  5. 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.

  6. 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!

  7. 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.  

  8. 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

  9. 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.     

  10. 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.)

  11. 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..

  12. 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

  13. 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

  14. I like your emphasis on effective writing. I work with a lot of writers who cling to their natural way of doing things. I like to tell them they can absolutely choose to do so, and that doing writing the way you naturally do has value. But you could also choose to alter that style for different purposes and different audiences. It is a good thing to know HOW to write effectively:)

  15. “I am much less concerned with good writing than I am with effective writing” that’s a liberating perspective / paradigm…

    Thanks for sharing that… It changes my pursuit as a writer

  16. I started by writing a book. I get that it is too much to start with, but I simply have no interest in writing articles or blogs or pretty much anything else, other than comments i guess. I doubt I will be publishing this book, it is more like a practice than anything.

    I already have the entire story, so I think the most likely thing to happen is me finishing the book and then writing it all over again, but this time it won’t be horribly written. (hopefully)

  17. How do I get my foot in the door writing for magazines? I feel like I’m missing an important step in this somewhere.

  18. Thank you for this awesome information. I am a newbie blogger and I really care about improving my writing. Its my first time on this website but, I know I will be checking in once in awhile.

  19. Hey! I really love your works. I feel that your contents are powerful. I’m pretty new and having lots to learn. Recently I’ve been getting feedback about my sentence structures errors. Those are really my voice. How can I balance between ‘be yourself’ and ‘don’t write like an idiot’ ?

    1. Hi I just read your comment and thought I’d share something. You are what you choose to be. Be yourself means write anything and everything you want, if you want to write about what you wish to be, then do so. Grammatical errors are inevitable. What you need is correcting your grammar, not programming yourself. I’m sure you’re a good writer.

    2. I guess, ‘be yourself’ means that you recognize grammatical mistakes in your writing and leave them in anyway, because you want it like that, i.e. you know what you are doing. ‘writing like an idiot’ on the other hand is being oblivious and ignorant to your mistakes.

  20. I started writing for my school paper since grade school and because of my published article, I was able to reach out to a lot of people for the government to build an overpass in my city. Come high school I just wrote poems for the easy-reading section and totally got intimidated in college so I just stopped. I know I’m a good writer, and can be an effective one, too. I just want to get some boost.

  21. Just found your site and it’s great. Clean, simple and ever so practical. Thanks for inspiring us beginners! My 500 word minimum can be found at refinery31.com

  22. Aside of having a talent ang great imagination. Hard work and determanation is also a key to be great writer. And to be an effective author in writing different stories and etc.

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  24. The way you have mentioned beautiful writing tips it seems great for making the writers dream possible. Thanks a lot for some good words of wisdom from your side.

  25. Do you use one style guide for both your blogging / media and your books or do you switch between guides? If you rely on one guide, what is your preferred style guide?

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