How to write well when you don't know how to

A simple guide

It's easy to decide if a writing is bad. The author uses big words, writes long complicated sentences, and forgets the point he is trying to make. Other common things in bad writing is lack of structure and lack of knowledge in the subject. In a nutshell, when you read it, you don't understand it.

It's hard to self-diagnose. While we are writing we don't see the words, the sentences, and the paragraphs on the page. Instead, we see the idea in our mind. This makes us blind to the many mistakes in front of us. It's usually when I come back to my work after a break that I realize how badly I write. I regret so many emails. In the past few years I've spent a great deal of time reading books. What reading does is to show you how well some people write.

In 2018, I wrote a story and the internet told me that it was pretty well written. I received so many praises that I'm proudly displaying them on the homepage of this blog. But the problem came when I had to write another blog post to follow. How do you write well when you can't write? Reading back my popular blog post, I saw a clear and simple pattern.

Amazing read!! You have so much talent when it comes to telling a story.

Before I tell you how to write well, I want you to do an exercise first. Find a subject you want to write about, and write about it. It doesn't matter if it is not your best work. The reason is, no amount of advice can help you when all you have is a blank page.


Now for the advice:

Write short and simple sentences

If you have trouble communicating your ideas, the worst thing you can do is to write long complicated sentences. Pretend every sentence is a tweet. It's OK if you write like a third grader. When I first posted on this blog, someone commented on reddit that I write at a 7th grade level. My soul was crushed, though I was not surprised. Not a few minutes later, another commenter posted: "That's a good thing, everyone can understand it."

Write what you mean to say

The human brain is complicated. You might see a beautiful sunset worth writing about. The moment you grab a pen, or keyboard, you write about your childhood. Not the sunset! If you see a beautiful sunset, write "I saw a beautiful sunset." Every time you find yourself free associating, remember the sunset.

Read back your article and ask yourself: Is this what I meant to write?

Have your writing read back to you.

Your brother, your sister, or your wife will not help you with this. It's not that they think you are bad, they just don't find your writing interesting. You can't read your own writing neither, because most of the time you will be reading it from memory. This means you will be blind to the mistakes on the page. So either you convince someone to read it back to you, or you use Text to Speech software to read your article back.

I use a combination of tools for this. But my quick and dirty go-to is Having your writing read back to you makes all mistakes stand out.

Than vs Then: Proofread.

I know the rule, I know when to use than vs then, there vs their. I still get them wrong every time. When I finish writing, I search for all these words and double-check that they are correct. I also use online grammar tools just to be thorough.

Take a break

Take a break from writing. Go for a walk, enjoy that sunset, and come back with fresh eyes. You'll be surprised how many more mistakes you will find.

The goal of writing is to communicate an idea. It only works if people can understand it. In college, I only took one English class before focusing entirely on engineering. Then I dropped out all together. My poor communication skills were obvious every time I tried to send an email at work. Now, I follow these basic rules to make sure that, at the very least, people can understand me.


Alexpaul :

Very interesting article. Thanks for sharing the tips.

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