L.A. Kennedy

Beyond the story

by Emily Wenstrom


Short stories. Marketing copy. News reporting. Poetry. Business proposals. Literary fiction. Technical writing. Blogs. Advertising.

There are a ton of different kinds of writing out there, each strikingly different from others. Worse, each different kind follows different writing rules.

And yet, regardless of what kind of writing you do, there are certain foundational writing rules that are universal, rules that apply to all kinds of writing.

5 Rules on How to Become a Better Writer

Here are five writing rules to be a better writer:

1. Don’t judge the first draft.

No matter what you’re writing, the first draft should be about getting the ideas on the page—never let your inner editor hold you down at this stage. That’s what revisions are for.

2. Keep it simple.

It’s easy for your message to get buried in the language. So speaking of revisions, one of the best tools in your review toolbox is always the question, “Can this sentence be simplified?”

If it can be simpler, make it simpler.

3. Use adjectives and adverbs sparingly.

Regardless of what you’re writing, verbs are your power words. Make them do your heavy lifting, and keep the lightweight descriptors like adjectives and adverbs scarce (see rule #2).

4. Always get an outside edit.

Whether it’s a novel or a blog post, sometimes we get trapped in our own ideas, and the grand vision clouds our ability to see the actual words on the page.

So work your vision and polish it up as much as you can … but then, get feedback from someone else whose editorial judgment you respect.

5. Break writing rules with intention.

As Pablo Picasso so wisely said, “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break the rules like an artist.”

There are times to stick to the rules, and there’s those times to think beyond them … in any kind of writing.

Many kinds of writing, the same basic principles.

Whether it’s a business proposal or a personal essay, a poem or ad copy, there are some basic writing rules and principles that apply to all of them. Learn these writing rules and master your craft, and you’ll have the solid foundation to foray into any kind of writing you want.

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