How to Become a Better Writer: 14 Tips to Up Your Writing Game in 2020

how to become a better writer

If you search Google for tips on how to become a better writer, you’ll find a lot of big promises.

Here’s the truth:

There’s no magical tip, trick, strategy, or hack capable of turning a bad writer into a good one.

But if you’re looking to improve your writing skills by 5%, if you want to go from average to good or even good to great, a valuable tip (combined with hard work) can help make it happen.

Here are fourteen such tips:

1. Find Your Unique Voice

Serious question:

If we all listen to the same experts and we all follow the same advice, how is it possible for anyone to stand out from the crowd?

The trap many of us fall into is we believe if we mimic a popular blogger or writer, we’ll be popular too.

Imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery, but it’s a no-win proposition. Even if you succeed, you’ll be indistinguishable from all the other parrots out there.

There’s only one you. You have unique DNA. Your hopes, thoughts, and dreams are unique. Even the face you make when you accidentally walk into a spider web is unique.

Want to stand out?

When you sit down to write, tap into what makes you… well, you.

Learn More: In my guest appearance on the Biz Mavens’ podcast, I discuss the importance of finding your unique voice and offer three exercises to help you find it.

2. Edit Like Crazy

7 Editing Tips That’ll Make You a Better Writer (with Examples!)Many first drafts are clumsy, sloppy, and difficult to read. This is true for most writers — even experienced, well-known ones.

So what separates the best writers from the masses?

Editing.

The hard part isn’t over once your first draft is complete; on the contrary, it’s only beginning.

To take your work to the next level, you need to spend just as much time editing your words as you do creating them.

It’s ruthless work. It’s kind of boring. But it’s vital.

Learn More: Proofreading: 7 Editing Tips That’ll Make You a Better Writer in 2020 will show you the editing secrets popular bloggers and writers don’t want you to know. And if you need some tools to help you, Grammarly (affiliate link) and the Hemingway App are good options.

3. Supercharge Your Subheads

Weak WritingMost readers stick around for fewer than 15 seconds.

Heck, most will stick around for fewer than 5 seconds.

Why? Because readers are experts at scanning. They’ll click your headline, quickly scan your content, and — in only a few seconds — decide whether to stay or go.

Writing a great introduction is one way to convince readers to stick.

Another?

Write masterful subheads that create curiosity, hook your readers, and keep them on the page long enough to realize your content is worth reading.

Learn More: In The Ultimate Guide to Writing Irresistible Subheads, Gary Korisko shares the four ingredients of a killer subhead.

4. Write Like Superman (Or That Guy You Know Who Types Really Fast)

WP Super Cache Made Easy: A Step-By-Step Guide to Speeding Up Your Site

Whether you’re blogging, writing short stories, non-fiction novels you hope will become bestsellers, or a simple “free guide” you’ll offer readers on Amazon as a sample of your work; most of us are limited in the amount of time we have available to write.

So, if you want more time to write every day, you only have three options:

  1. Say goodbye to your family and lock yourself in your office;
  2. Invent a time machine;
  3. Learn how to write faster.

Your spouse and children won’t like the first option, and the second option requires plutonium.

But the third option? That’s doable.

Learn More: Want some actionable tactics to boost your writing speed? Check out Linda Formichelli’s How to Write Faster: 10 Crafty Ways to Hit 1,000 Words Per Hour.

5. Craft Irresistible Headlines

10 Ways to Exploit Human Nature and Write Amazingly Appealing HeadlinesSmart Blogger’s CEO, Jon Morrow, recommends spending at least 20% of your time on the headline for your content.

That isn’t a typo.

If you spend 10 to 20 hours writing an article, 2 to 4 of those hours should be spent writing and re-writing the headline.

Why so many?

Because if your headline sucks, no one is going to give your content a chance.

In short:

Headlines are important. Get good at writing them.

Learn More: In How to Write a Blog Post in 2019: The Ultimate Guide, Liz Longacre goes over the 8 rules for crafting amazing headlines. And in 10 Ways to Exploit Human Nature and Write Amazingly Appealing Headlines Robert van Tongeren shares tips for writing irresistibly-clickable headlines.

6. Avoid Weak Words

25 Writing Exercises That’ll Give Your Content More Punch and PowerToo many writers dilute their writing with weak, empty words that bring nothing to the table.

Worse?

They silently erode your reader’s attention — one flabby word at a time.

Spot these words and eliminate them from your writing.

Learn More: In 297 Flabby Words and Phrases That Rob Your Writing of All Its Power, Shane Authur shows you how to tone and trim your prose.

7. Write with Rhythm

31+ Writing Podcasts You've GOT to Hear (Best of the Best)You know short sentences and short paragraphs are your friends.

But that doesn’t mean every sentence and paragraph you write should be short.

Too many short paragraphs in a row and your writing will bore your readers. Too many long paragraphs in a row and you’ll overwhelm them.

So, mix things up.

Let the rhythm of your words dictate when each paragraph begins, and you’ll strike up the perfect balance between short paragraphs and long.

Learn More: In How to Write a Paragraph in 2019 (Yes, the Rules Have Changed), Mike Blankenship looks at why variation is important and offers a few rules of thumb to follow.

8. Kick Writer’s Block in the Buttocks

When you’ve been staring at a blank page for what feels like hours, writer’s block can seem insurmountable.

It’s not.

Savvy writers have a collection of tried-and-true techniques to bust out whenever writer’s block starts to rear its ugly head — techniques ranging from brisk walks to asking Alexa to play “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” by The Proclaimers.

If you want to be a better writer, find a writer’s block technique or two that works for you.

Learn More: Henneke Duistermaat has 27 refreshingly-original writer’s block techniques you can try. Pick a few favorites, and don’t be afraid to break glass in case of emergency.

9. Make Your Words Burst to Life in Readers’ Minds

600+ Power Words That’ll Pack Your Writing with EmotionIf you aren’t using power words or sensory language in your writing, you’re missing out.

Smart writers and copywriters use power words to give their content extra punch, personality, and pizzazz. And great writers from Shakespeare to Stephen King use sensory words evoking sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell to paint strong scenes in the minds of their readers.

Both types of words are effective and super simple to use.

If you’re tired of lifeless words sitting on a page, try sprinkling power and sensory words throughout your content.

Learn More: Check out 600+ Power Words That’ll Pack Your Writing with Emotion and 581 Sensory Words to Take Your Writing from Bland to Brilliant. Besides being the definitive guides on their topics, they each offer huge, bookmarkable lists you can reference again and again.

10. Be Funny

Some writers won’t like this, but…

Your content can’t simply teach — it needs to entertain too.

Or, to put it bluntly:

If you don’t entertain while you inform, your audience will find a writer who does.

how to become a better writer be funny

Thankfully, there are numerous ways you can make your content more interesting and entertaining.

The easiest way (and my favorite)? Sprinkle in a little humor.

Learn More: Marc Ensign’s How to Captivate Your Audience with Humor (Even If You Don’t Think You’re Funny) will show you how to be funny (without looking like you’re trying to be funny).

11. Write with Clarity

It doesn’t matter how amazing, profound, or revolutionary your ideas are, if you can’t express them in a clear, coherent way, you might as well have written them in an ancient language no one understands.

Ask yourself this question:

Could I explain my content to someone in one sentence?

If the answer is no, your work is probably too complex. It’s time to simplify.

Learn More: In 20 Rules for Writing So Crystal Clear Even Your Dumbest Relative Will Understand, Smart Blogger’s COO, Glen Long, shares his best tips for writing with clarity.

12. Master Transitional Words and Phrases

How to Use Transitional Words and Phrases to Make Your Writing FlowDo you want to keep your readers glued to your content?

Want your posts to be so effortless to read people can’t help but absorb every word as they glide down the page?

Experienced writers are meticulous about making each sentence flow seamlessly into the next, and they use transitional phrases to help make it happen.

If you want people to read your writing, from beginning to end, you need to do the same.

Learn More: Smart Blogger’s How to Use Transitional Words and Phrases to Make Your Writing Flow (with Examples) breaks down transitional phrases and how to use them to give audiences a smooth reading experience.

13. Learn SEO (Like a Boss)

How to Make Money Blogging: The $5.3 Million Case StudyWhether you write for yourself or as a hired hand, being able to create content that ranks on Google is a valuable skill.

(In fact, if you’re a freelance writer, companies and agencies will happily pay you extra for this skill.)

Consistently ranking on Google doesn’t happen by accident. It happens when you understand the basics of SEO — keyword research, user intent, UX signals, etc. — and purposefully create content with SEO in mind.

If you already know the basics of SEO, you have a leg up on the competition.

And if you don’t know the basics, you need to learn them.

The sooner, the better.

Learn More: Brian Dean of Backlinko has a thorough SEO resource list you should read. And if you’re a total beginner, my friends over at Ahrefs have a newbie-friendly SEO guide.

14. Sleep With Your Readers

10 Things You’ll Only Understand If You’re a Domain Name JunkieRemember when I said subheads should create curiosity? This is a good example.

What keeps your audience awake at night? What has them tossing and turning at 2 o’clock in the morning?

Answer this question and then write about it.

Follow this one tip and you could (almost) ignore the rest.

Learn More: “Sleeping with readers” is one of the metaphor examples Jon used in his epic article, Copyblogger Editor Admits to Sleeping with Readers and Recommends You Do the Same. For more insight into why knowing what’s keeping your readers up at night is so important, give it a read.

You Now Know How to Become a Better Writer (but Knowing’s Just Half the Battle)

Most who read this post will smile, nod their head in agreement, and implement precisely zero of these tips.

But not you.

You know knowledge that’s not put into practice is wasted. That’s why you’ve already picked out a few favorites, and it’s why you can’t wait to start writing.

On their own, none of these writing tips will catapult you to superstardom. But each of them, little by little, will help you hone your craft.

So, are you ready to be a better writer? Are you ready to get 5%, 10%, or 15% better? Ready to go from a good writer to a great one?

Then it’s time to get to work.

Let’s do this thing.

About the Author: When he’s not busy telling waitresses, baristas, and anyone else who crosses his path that Jon Morrow once said he was in the top 1% of bloggers, Kevin J. Duncan is Smart Blogger’s Editor in Chief.

17 thoughts on “How to Become a Better Writer: 14 Tips to Up Your Writing Game in 2020”

  1. Michael Gleeson

    Hello Kevin,

    I enjoyed reading your post, ’14 Tips to Up Your Writing Game in 2019′.

    I think finding your unique voice is key, especially for newer writers. I’ll definitely check out your interview on Biz Mavens’ podcast.

    Learning how to write faster and more accurately (first time) would be a gamechanger. Work in progress. Thanks for great tactics on becoming a better writer.

    All the best,
    Michael

    1. Hi Michael,

      Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed it.

      My podcast interview for Biz Mavens should go “live” any day now. Hopefully everyone will be able to understand me with my accent (and overuse of “ums”). 🙂

      Appreciate you stopping by and commenting, Michael. Have a great day!

  2. Hi Kevin, thanks for all those timely reminders and super-useful links all in one place. I’m going straight to Linda’s post on how to speed up your writing because that’s something I always struggle with.
    Love your work! Cheers, Mel

    1. Hi Mel,

      You’re welcome! Glad you found them so useful.

      Yes, increasing writing speed is a good one. “Editing” is the big one for me. The more I edit my posts, the tighter (and, usually, more successful) they are. That’s probably not a coincidence. 🙂

      Appreciate the kind words, Mel (especially coming from such a talented writer as yourself)!

  3. Hi Kevin,

    A really nice, simple, short post.

    I definitely clicked out a few links to check out.

    I think it’s also worth clarifying (!) that making a bad writer write good(er), is not impossible, only that quick tips and hacks won’t get you there.

    Learning how to write well is like anything. It takes a lot of practise and hard work.

    Tips and hacks are what give you and edge.

    But learning to write is a serious undertaking.

    Great post. Always happy to click through your emails.

    1. Hey Geoff,

      Thanks! Back in the day, easy-to-read posts with bite-sized nuggets of info (aka list posts) were my calling card. I hadn’t done one in a while, so this was a fun one to write.

      Good clarification. Hard work is vital. And, it’s absolutely possible to go from bad to good if you put in the work. (I slightly tweaked my intro to make sure this point isn’t missed. Thanks!)

      Always appreciate your support, Geoff. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  4. Hi Kevin,

    Thanks for writing the useful post, The difference is that you make your point without promising anything BIG. I completely agreed with you if we improve our writing 5-10%, it would be amazing.

    Also, finding a unique voice as a blogger can create HUGE impact on your blogging style and help you enhancing viewership. This will certainly keep you away from the league and help you establishing a unique blogging brand.

    Thanks again Kevin, have a wonderful weekend. cheers 😊

    -RajatChauhan

    1. Hey Rajat,

      Thank you! I’m so glad you liked the post and found it useful.

      Absolutely… everyone’s looking to hit a 5-run homerun. “Do this one thing and you’ll be a superstar.” Getting into the top 1% of writers doesn’t happen that way, though. You get there by making a lot of small, incremental improvements.

      Work hard, get 5% better. Repeat again and again. 🙂

      Hope you have a wonderful weekend, too, Rajat. Thanks for the great comment.

      1. Kevin, I feel the same way here. My hunch is, as you suggested, Work hard, get 5% better. Repeat again and again. Of all your suggestions, I think ‘Sleep With Your Readers’ is most effective.

        Also, there is lot to learn from your commenting style and the engagements you create. AWESOME.
        I believe engaging with commenters could be the most effective tip for receiving comments.

        Moreover, when can we see a new post on ‘Be A Better Blogger’.

        Thanks a lot for useful tips.🏆

  5. The two things i took away from this article was

    spend just as much time editing your words as you do creating them.

    Most readers stick around for fewer than 15 seconds.

    that is going to change my process and thinking quite a lot

  6. Thanks for the advice, Kevin.

    A very detailed and helpful post you have here.

    Do you know of a blogging course that teaches these in-depth?

    Looking forward to the best one because I can’t wait to sharpen my ax.

    Regards,
    Jeremiah

  7. I just wanted to show appreciation for all the help that i have received after reading your blogs. I realize that success with SEO doesn’t happen over night, it takes time and patience. The new blog helps us focus on the areas we are lacking as a Advertising and Marketing agency in Pune we would love to read more blogs like this in the near future. Excellent job!

  8. I think, using more infographic is becoming so crazy to catch user. Instead of writing many words, we should represent in image form in an effective way. I got a lot of better ideas for content making.
    nice article

  9. In today’s world everyone wants to be a photographer and a writer. I must say, with smart technology it is much easier to be a photographer than a writer. Writing is a skill and while everyone should be encouraged to write, not all that writing has to go out into the public eye. I read so much rubbish on the internet and while this article is good in telling people how to improve their writing, I don’t believe everyone can or should write. Sometimes, we should just leave it to the professionals! Not everyone is professional. Saying that, write a diary!

  10. Hey Kevin, thanks for the awesome flashbacks!

    I can swear on this- none of the gems you’ve mentioned beat the pants off number 2, it’s an art I can offer to preach daily to writers to use and turn whack content to sizzling copies and attract better clients.

    Here’s why

    I’m a self-taught freelancer and once got lucky to bag a client offering me consistent work throughout the year.

    I always did my best though doubted whether my copies used to meet her standards.

    Curious, I took some articles I had written for her, copied and pasted their first paragraph on Google to confirm if they were ever posted.

    My heart sunk. I was rudely shocked and felt like I wasn’t good enough when copies I found posted were improved versions of the piece I wrote for her, pure magic!

    And I started envisioning going broke when she reduced the number of tasks she sent until she sent no longer sent any despite our contract being active.

    Predictable, right?

    Maybe she found a better substitute? Or I was in the process of moving out. I had to either go hard on freelance writing or go home.

    I desperately schemed through several blogs, changing keywords, opening more tabs hoping to land on at least one gem serving as a leg up to my freelance writing career.

    Through Jon’s awesome post on Problogger, Smart Blogger fished me out from the site and Shane was the first person to welcome me home with his masterpiece!

    The rest is history, never looking back!

    Best,
    Antony

  11. Don’t write and edit at the same time, I edit my work the following morning and then resume writing again later in the day. This is to offset the uncertainty of making a mistake.

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