How to Be a Better Writer (According to Harvard University)

20 Apr, 2017 Book Writing

If you want to be a better writer, you’ve come to the right place!

Our brains are essentially machines. They operate and process information in a measurable way, meaning writing can be broken down to a science.

Of course, there are aspects of creativity and self-expression that make writing a true art form, yet there are also certain practices that can vastly improve the quality of your writing and connect you with a greater audience.

According to cognitive scientist and linguistic at Harvard University, Steven Pinker there are a handful of tips to become a better writer.

1. Make Your Writing Visual

Our brains are one-third visual.

Readers are prone to understanding information better when it’s offered in a visual manner.

Think of it as a two-for-one: the written word is equally as valuable as the visual it describes. Along the same lines, Pinker recommends writers be conversational.

It’s so common to want to write in big, fancy words, either to prove your credibility or simply because you think that’s how writing should be when in fact, readers get turned off by “superior” writing.

Think of your reader as your equal. Imagine you’re speaking to a friend — be visual, concrete and relatable.

2. Don’t Make Assumptions About Your Reader

Pinker calls this phenomenon “the curse of knowledge,” the idea, the reader understands the same words and concepts as the writer.

As such, the writer may bypass key explanations under the assumption the reader doesn’t require explanation. You can understand why it’s dubbed a “curse.”

Have someone else read your writing — namely, someone who is unfamiliar with your topic.

  • Does it make sense to them?
  • Are you explaining yourself well enough for a potentially “uninformed” reader to grasp your concepts?

Get your work in front of as many eyes as possible and be open to their feedback.

3. Quickly Get to Your Point

Writers and journalists often say, “don’t bury the lead,” and it essentially means get to the point and get there early on.

Establishing your point early on will give readers a frame of references, as you begin to expand and explain on your topic. Without it, readers may get lost in the details, searching for a common thread.

Don’t be afraid to state your topic plainly. It’s the reason why “How To” books and articles are so popular and readily picked up by readers: the reader knows what they’re getting into from the start and will attribute all your content to the main objective.

Be concrete in your wording and leave the witty, roundabout way of getting to your point to someone else!

4. Don’t Stop Reading

You don’t need a degree in writing or to have read dozens of books on how to write, to be an exceptional writer. Other people’s books are a writer’s greatest asset.

Diversify your reading to pick up on relevant idioms, new words, phrases and other manners of writing, which can transform your writing far more than a traditional writing “guide.”

Reading tells a lot about a writer’s personality and voice. What do you want your voice to sound like? How should the reader perceive you?

5. Spend Time Revising and Editing

Great writing doesn’t mean the words come out perfectly every time. Becoming a better writer requires dedication and attention to revising, editing and reworking your content.

Seldom do our words pour out at their very best the first time around.

A first draft is great for getting your thoughts out; subsequent drafts are where the magic happens, and you begin to formulate your words into decipherable meaning.

Next time you sit down to write, remember:

  • Make your writing visual and conversational.
  • Don’t make assumptions about your reader and avoid “the curse of knowledge.”
  • Quickly get to your point and “don’t bury the lead.”
  • Read, read, read!
  • Spend time revising and editing your drafts.

Do you have any writing tips? If so, we would love to hear from you!

Image attribution.

 

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How to Be a Better Writer (According to Harvard University)
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According to cognitive scientist and linguistic at Harvard University, Steven Pinker there are a handful of tips to become a better writer.
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