11 Small Changes That Will Drastically Improve Your Writing

People who say it is fun and easy to write are wrong.

The writing process should be grueling and repetitive and exhausting.

It should be hard and impossible. It should never feel perfect or ready for publication.

We don't write because it's fun. We write because it helps us, as people, understand the human experience.

Too often we let other shit get in the way of just that — telling our stories.

As a recently retired contributing editor for Odyssey and editor of a WWU journalism department newsletter, journalist, writer, and reader, I see this way too often. I get it am not the most credible source, but if you look you will find it too.

Here are small tips that will drastically improve your writing:

1. Stop getting in the way.

Whether you're writing a short story about your time at the bar or a research paper on a recent cancer study, let the words speak for themselves. Don't use elaborate metaphors to take me on a 600-mile rabbit trail. Tell me exactly what I need to know.

2. Ditch "that."

She told me that she likes me. She told me she likes me. "That" slows down the reader and adds no additional value to a sentence.

3. Stop using qualifiers.

A lot, very, much, or many. These words are meaningless and confusing. How many IS many? What is the difference between excited and very excited?

4. Don't get caught up in superfluous vocabulary.

If someone can't understand what you're saying, they will stop reading.

5. Learn the difference between similar words.

Why should I believe you when you don't even know the difference between to, two, and too?

6. Tell readers why they should care.

You could have the most important information in the world but if you don't tell me why I should care, I won't.

7. Don't swap tenses.

It is so incredibly confusing if you're telling a story as if it were in the past, no present, no past, no future!

8. Be original.

Clichés are the fucking worst.

9. Own your shit.

If you are going to tell me something, tell me. Don’t say "I guess" or "Maybe." Be confident!

10. We know you are the author so quit telling us.

"I think this." We know because you are the one who wrote it! It's your thoughts on paper.

11. Some things are better left implied.

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