12 Essential Writing Habits for Strengthening Your Skills

writing habits

Develop better writing habits.

Great writing requires an extensive skill set. You have to understand language, syntax, and context. A firm grasp on grammar is essential. Each piece of writing must be organized and its sentences well structured so it reads smoothly. A vast vocabulary, a talent for puns, and a knack for storytelling are all skills that will benefit any writer.

Sure, some people are born with a talent for word craft. But nobody’s born knowing how to write. We all have to work at building and growing our writing skills, and this is especially true for anyone who wants to have a career in writing.

Better writing is not something that happens overnight. It’s a long-term commitment, but the payoff is great. If you make a choice every day to improve your writing, then your work will get stronger, become more compelling, and you’ll drastically increase your chances of getting published and attracting a readership.

How to Develop Better Writing Habits


There’s no better way to consistently improve your work and knowledge of the craft than by adopting good writing habits. These habits will strengthen your writing through study, practice, observation, and self-reflection. Set a goal to acquire all of these writing habits over the course of one year. Then, adopt one habit each month. By the end of the year, you’ll be well on your way to becoming an expert in all things writing.

  1. Read. Listening to audio books and surfing around the Internet do not count as reading. Curl up with a well written novel, brush up on your nonfiction reading, flip through some poetry collections. Reading is the single best way to naturally acquire writing skills.
  2. Write every day. My music teacher said that it’s better to practice for fifteen minutes every day than to practice for two hours three times a week. I think the same is true for writing. Even if you can only dedicate a few minutes to writing every day, it will become an ingrained habit. Writing will become an integral part of your life.
  3. Brush up on grammar and style. It’s rare for a piece of writing to be so amazing that readers are willing to ignore bad grammar. Many writers are lazy in this area because learning grammar is a lot of work and it’s academic work rather than creative work. The good news is that once you learn the rules, they will be with you forever. Make sure you know which style guides are pertinent to your chosen field of writing and make sure you include them in your own collection of writing resources.
  4. Cultivate creativity. Have fun with your writing. Fill it with color or scale it back to a minimalist style. Try new words and off-the-wall images. Creative writing keeps readers interested!
  5. Collect tools and resources. Find out which writing tools work best for you. Some of us like notebooks or note cards and fancy pens. Others need nothing more than a simple computer. Make sure you have a nice stockpile of writing resources, from blog and magazine subscriptions (on the craft of writing) to books and mentors you can call on when you’re faced with writing-related questions.
  6. Conduct thoughtful research. If you work in the nonfiction arena, then make sure you’ve got your facts straight. Even in fiction, there has to be some alignment with reality for a story to be believable. Resources are abundant. Use them (and be sure to check their credentials).
  7. Develop a process. Find a writing process that works for you. What steps do you need to complete to tackle a writing project? Maybe you need to start with an outline, or perhaps you do better when you just dive right in. You could have one process for fiction and another for nonfiction. Know yourself and know your process, whatever it may be.
  8. Proofread, edit, and revise. It’s blatantly obvious when a piece of writing has not been properly proofread. Typos, grammatical errors, and other crimes against language will assault anyone who attempts to read your work. So fix it.
  9. Share your work and invite feedback. One of the quickest ways to improve your writing is through feedback. Get a real, live, well-read person to review your work. Embrace the feedback, even if it hurts, and then put it to work for you by ironing out all the wrinkles that your friendly reader found. Return the favor: when you edit or critique another writer’s work, you’ll see a piece of writing from the editor’s angle as well as the reader’s. This will give you a better perspective on your own work.
  10. Make writing a priority. It will be almost impossible to succeed if writing isn’t high on your list of priorities and commitments. If writing is last on your daily to-do list, maybe it’s not something you’re all that serious about.
  11. Experiment with different forms. Every fiction writer can learn a thing or two from reading and writing a little poetry and vice versa. Nobody’s asking you to start rooting for a different team; just dip your toes in different waters so you know you’re swimming in the right body of water.
  12. Set goals and pursue them. Make a conscious commitment to strive for better writing every day.

Better Writing Isn’t For Everyone

Improving your writing is hard work. Adopting these writing habits might mean making major changes to your lifestyle. If you love to write, then the work will be fun at times. Other times, you’re just going to have to grin and bear it, knowing full well that the ends make the means completely worthwhile.

What separates a hobby from a lifestyle or a career is that we have made a serious commitment to follow our passion, even if there’s a lot of hard work involved.

Some people are perfectly content with being mediocre, and that’s fine too. But if you want to shine, to be the best writer you can possibly be and produce great writing, then commit yourself to these writing habits.

How many of these writing habits do you practice regularly? What have you done to produce better writing? Share your thoughts, ideas, and experiences by leaving a comment.

10 Core Practices for Better Writing

About Melissa Donovan
Melissa Donovan is a website designer and copywriter. She writes fiction and poetry and is the founder and editor of Writing Forward, a blog packed with creative writing tips and ideas.

Comments

63 Responses to “12 Essential Writing Habits for Strengthening Your Skills”

  1. Idrees Patel says:

    Wow! There are so many awesome points in this post, and I love them, in spite of me being familiar with all of them. In fact, I credit them to my becoming a better writer slowly over time, although the entire process was great fun, because, as you said, it’s easy when you love to write. When you don’t have the passion, then it’s hard to improve, so in that case, you’re much better off with a different medium, such as audio or video.

    Tip #13: Observe as much as you can. If you don’t have anything to write about, then how will you write? If one doesn’t have enough knowledge on a subject, then can how can that person sound as if he knows what he’s writing about? That’s why my English teacher gave this advice: observe everything, read a lot, and then write a lot.

  2. Helen says:

    Great post, lots of good advice. I think rewriting helps one learn a lot about the craft of writing. I took a year to finish my first novel and another eight months working on the rewrites. It was those rewrites that taught me so much about good writing. When you write something, leave it for a couple of days, then come back to it with fresh eyes.

  3. Laurel Rogers says:

    Thursday morning couldn’t have been more encouraging thanks to your post. I appreciate the concise and straight-forward nature of your list, and one of your tips I find to be my personal favorite.
    Reading is the very best source for both inspiration and instruction. While reading the ‘classics’ can sometimes be disheartening-ah, the pure genius!-it can also offer beauty that cannot be matched, yet aspired to. While engaging in this favorite pastime, I occasionally am on a punctuation and grammar ‘hunt,’ finding out some very surprising truths.
    Lovely job, Melissa.
    Thanks,
    Laurel H. Rogers

    • Thank you for your kind words Laurel. I agree that reading is number one in terms of an activity that will improve your writing. And you’re right, reading the classics can be disheartening but oh so rewarding!

  4. Bryan says:

    Great tips! How bout “Always be on the look out” helps alot in looking for the right article to write about. :D Although alot of us may be familiar with these points, they’re still very helpful to the beginners. Thanks!

    • Yes, another tip could be to always be on the lookout for new ideas and inspiration. That might be more of a creativity tip than a “better writing” tip, but it’s definitely worth mentioning, so thanks for mentioning it :)

  5. --Deb says:

    Amen and hallelujah! My only objection is that, I get so involved in #1 (reading) that I forget to actually start, you know, writing. Sometimes it’s just easier to let someone else do all the work and sit back with something that’s done, you know? Not productive, mind you, but easier!

  6. JoAnn says:

    I recently started a blog, hoping it would help me to write more often. While I’m still not sure I’ve got anything new or special to say, I’m enjoying the process of putting my thoughts to the page. Even if I never write a book or short story, I intend to learn everything I can and make my blog the best it can be. Thanks for your generous sharing of information.

    • Congratulations on starting your blog! If you can commit to it, then you will definitely write more often and learn a lot about writing. In fact, I’ve learned more in about writing (and written more) in my three years of blogging than in all other years combined! Good luck to you :)

  7. cmdweb says:

    One of the most valuable tips I give people, that really works for me, is to understand when you’re best time of the day is for writing and go with it. For me, I write with much more fluidity in the mid to late afternoon. I’m not sure why, that’s just the way it is for me. Possibly because in the mornings I’m too caffeine-starved and in the evenings I’m bust after a day’s work.
    As a result, I get all my admin, e-mails, meetings and such like out of the way by about 2pm if I can and get on with whatever reports or plans I have to write after that.
    Works for me.

    • My best writing time is late at night. Sometimes I write (in my mind) while I’m trying to fall asleep, which is frustrating because often I’m too tired at that point to take notes. On the other hand, usually by then all my admin and tasks are completed so I’m free to sleep or write as I see fit ;) Writing is a regular part of my daily routine because of this blog and my copywriting business, but making time for creative writing (fiction and poetry) is a real challenge. I agree that setting up a routine around your best writing time is ideal.

  8. Roger C. Parker says:

    Dear Melissa:
    Great post, both the points you mentioned and those added as comments.

    Regardless whether you’re writing articles, blog posts, or books, I encourage everyone to start new projects with a clear content plan.

    The more time spent planning a project, the less time spent writing. The time saved can be invested in editing and rewriting.

    I encourage writers to invest in a mind mapping software program, like MindManager 9, http://www.mindjet.com, which helps you keep plan and track your writing.

    I’m looking forward to exploring more of your posts: great advice!

    Roger

    • Roger, I appreciate your feedback. Most writers love to write, so “less time spent writing” is not exactly a selling point. Although, there are plenty of exceptions!

  9. Lori Meyer says:

    Thanks so much for these great tips…all good reminders of how to find ideas and polish your writing. Something I’ve found helpful: Keep something to write with handy at all times, because you never know when a good idea will make itself known. I keep small writing pads in my purse and in my car so if I suddenly get an inspiration for an article, a story title, an inspiring phrase, or an idea for improving something I’ve written, I can get it down on paper before I forget it.

    • Ah yes, we’ve covered this tip in a few other posts. Writers should absolutely keep a notebook or recording device handy at all times. The best writing ideas tend to come along when we’re anywhere but at our desks!

  10. MandyB says:

    There are a multitude of skill sets required for writing and I am trying to learn them. As you say it is difficult to find the time to squeeze everything in but I do try to write every day – even if it is a short piece for my blog, a writing prompt or a poem.
    Doing it (writing) is certainly the best way to improve.
    MandyB

  11. hot dog carts says:

    huge thing a writer can do to develop her skills is to accept that the best finished pieces almost without exception come from a multi-step process and not from just pulling words out of thin air or from some pure “inspiration.”

  12. Shiplu Sarker says:

    Thanks for all the tips and supplementary posts for improving writing ability. As a new Phd student and the suggestions from all quarters including Professors, supervisors, colleagues, I have recently started writing blogs considering it as a channel for writing well. All know, research students write papers, articles, technical notes, as a part of their Phd requirement. Ironically and may be arguably however, I do not think writing research paper and scientific notes and writing attractively well with correct connotation are the same thing. I have already met many people with a limited knowledge for writing, for instance, even to write a good letter are one of the big number of article writers in the graduate school. This figure really scares me a lot! Obviously, to get a good Phd you need to publish quite a number of papers in good journals in unique field of studies. To me, however, persuasive writers are all too different; they might have published minimum articles in their entire Phd, but they are well capable to convince and to communicate people from any disciplines with their ideas and thoughts at a utter confidence, what others like me would have dreamed only! I forgot where I heard: “Writing can be classified as two key parts; process writing and product writing”, to lead the writing as a quality product it is critical that one is adept in process writing. And blog writing is one sort of process writing that gradually builds writing as a valuable product in the long run. So, I am kind of determined to indulge on it for my own sake!

    • Hi Shiplu, I think it all boils down to reading a lot and writing as much as you can. Through reading, you absorb the language. It’s important, however, to read quality writing (which is easier to find in books than on blogs, unfortunately). Of course, lots of writing practice is essential. I wish you the best of luck in your studies!

  13. Sammy says:

    I agree, am good in dialogues but poor in writing. I don’t have to be shy about this besides, am not stupid its just the making of different minds with strengths and weekends…………

    • Sammy says:

      Sorry weakness not weekend. I guess this is where proof reading is very necessary.

      • I always say writers have to proofread everything from text messages to blog comments. But we all make typos from time to time. Just keep reading and writing, and your writing will get better. Good luck!

  14. Adam says:

    Writing is the best skill to learn in this modern world. Unfortunately, I lack this important skill myself, I will try my level best to follow you tips. Thank you.

  15. Andy L. says:

    Hello,
    I’m currently a college student studying business, and I have recently developed an eager desire to improve my writing skills. I’ve been following the tips posted on this page for the past month, with a focus on reading. I have some questions regarding the process of improvement. From personal experience, does it happen gradually? or does it happen in intervals?(e.g. breakthroughs)
    I would love to hear some personal experiences from others.
    Thanks!

    • Hi Andy, It’s wonderful that you’re working to strengthen and improve your writing skills. I believe that development happens differently for everyone. You might experience gradual improvement or you might go through a series of breakthroughs. Most likely, you will experience a combination of both (that was my experience).

      I wish you the best of luck in business and in writing!

  16. Ramanujam says:

    Thanks Melissa for the suggestion which u have mentioned in the above post I am an engineering student doing my b.tech degree in computer Science . Apart from my computer activity i have deep desire for writing i mean i want to improve my writing skills . I want to learn the skills and crafts of writing but due to lots of weakness in me i am not able to write or express my views . But your post helped me a lot to garner my knowledge over good writing skills . Even this is my first writing experience in which i am writing or leaving a comment to any post in my four years of internet surfing and thanks for all the peoples which have replied to this post coz they helped me a lot in my writing skills and also helped me a lot to get an idea over good writing …… Thanks …:D

    • Your dedication to improving your skills is admirable. Great writing takes a lot of practice, but it’s achievable when you’re dedicated to learning the craft. I wish you the best of luck!

  17. Thuly says:

    Thank you very everyone for your tips especially Melisa. I myself have just been made aware of my writing skills which I never realised by one friend of mine and I appreciate him for that.I am a b-tech graduate in project management and currently looking for a job. Personally I am not an articulate speaker but. I could narrate all of my feelings and thoughts on paper. I always thought I am artistic just do not have required confidence and maybe courage to persue whatever it is that I am worth or deserve because of my personal background but I passed that now I seeked help and I think I am ready to persue my career as well as writing part-time.

    Thanx guys…

  18. Shailesh says:

    I like this post. Most people get the better tips from this article.
    Do you have any more tips related to Improve Writting Skills???

    Thanks

  19. Revathy Natarajan says:

    It was very useful. I have started reading books to improve my writing skills:) hope very soon will shine well through my writing skills.

  20. Whitley says:

    I love to write and create my own little works of fiction. I have three little brothers that I enjoy writing short stories for. Usually I jot down ideas when they randomly appear and they turn out to be wonderful stories. Sadly, I also have a difficult time processing how I’m going to take the image in my head and put it on my paper. Any advice for this?

    • The only advice I have is to practice. You have to sit down and start the process, get the story onto the page. At first, the text may be jumbled. You’ll have to rewrite and revise to clean it up. It’s hard work but it’s immensely rewarding.

  21. Thomas says:

    This writing tips are just awesome. Thanks for the tips Melissa, I’m gonna start using them.

  22. Kam says:

    I think that it’s very hard for me to write because I have so many good ideas that I want to put on the page that I can’t choose. Sometimes I mesh them together and my story turns out well………………… not organized. I have a tough time spinning out the beginning of my stories but when I got it, I don’t stop until I’m so tired I can barely keep my eyes open:). I have a bunch of stories lying around but I can’t seem to finish one so that’s my tip if you have many good ideas make a note page on each one so you won’t forget and add to it when an idea comes to you for it. Don’t forget to keep your mind on that ONE book, story, or poem you writing though!!!!! :)

    • Thus the saying “writing is rewriting.” It’s great that you’re capturing your ideas in messy rough drafts. For lots of writers, the hard part is to go through those drafts and clean them up, revising them into polished final drafts.

  23. maryam says:

    Gr8 work Melissa. Ur write-up has equiped me with more writing skills strategies and has motivated and boost my morale abouting writing. I say kudos to you and more greese to your elbow!!.

  24. alex T says:

    Hello Melisa, I will definitely utilize your tips to improve my writing. I am listing few of the problems why my writing is not that good. Hopefully, you can give me some additional tips to improve my writing. English is not my native language. I don’t read much nor write much, and I don’t associate with people that English is their native language. By the way, i love to read and write. I just don’t do it as much. the reason why i am posting this is because i did not get a promotion. i was told that my writing was just average.

    • Hi Alex, most of the tips I would give you are in this post. It will be impossible to improve your writing if you don’t read and write, and if you love to read and write, you should do it more. There are tons of ESL (English as a Second Language) resources on the web to help you with translations and memorizing vocabulary. Good luck to you!

  25. Azzah Hassan says:

    Hi Melissa,
    Recently I’ve taken quite an interest in writing ,and also have started writing most of the days .Sometimes I write in my mind, which like you say is frustrating , because later when you start writing on it you miss the important points.Well I’ve found your tips extremely useful, and I by chance you know any sites where young teenagers like me can pen their thoughts down , please do tell.

    • I’m not sure it’s wise to pen your thoughts on a website. You might want to start a journal (either a paper notebook or a file on your computer) where you can write your thoughts. If you post your thoughts to a site, you’re publishing them. It’s best to draft, edit, and proofread before publishing anything. However, if you want to do that, you can always start your own blog on a site like wordpress.com. Good luck to you!

  26. Emmanuel Eze says:

    Thank you very much for the encouraging,helpful post. Being a potential writer,and seeking for guidance on polishing my thought, I have come to appreciate the contents of this post. I have really benefited a lot from it. Thanks once more.

  27. Ruchi Gupta says:

    Although I have always wanted to make writing a habit to become comfortable in it and develop as an art, I had somehow left writing last on my daily-to-do-list. Having read you enlightening piece I hope to improve my writing skills now.

    • Why is it so easy for us to push our passions to the bottom of the list? Lots of writers leave writing for last. As we all know, we often don’t ever get to the last item on our to-do list! I say move writing up and make it a higher priority or set a strict time for it every day! Good luck to you Ruchi.

  28. Ron says:

    Hi Mellssa,
    I came across you site while searching for ideas and tips to assist my 8 year old in the writing process and maybe find concrete instruction and steps for learning to become a good writer. By the way, he loves to write. I would appreciate any help and guidance. Thanks!!!

    • Hi Ron, I would suggest you consult with the school or your son’s teacher if he needs help with his writing. You may also find helpful resources at the local library (consult with the librarian in the children’s section). Beyond that, the best thing he can do to help his writing along is read as much as possible.

  29. Arjun says:

    Dear Melissa,

    I have started blogging as a new year resolution for this year.To be frank it took me 2 months to even consider writing down anything on my wall.I am so happy to come across your post as i was looking forward to a step by step process to start an article.In fact i am going to make it a point to pen down my thoughts everyday before hitting the bed.

  30. Ritesh says:

    Lovely post melissa, was just googling about how to write effectively and your address popped up first. Being an research analyst i need to able to express my thoughts and views on a particular stock or any research thoroughly, which i think i lack in. But after reading this post i feel i need to do alot of homework in terms of writing. The first point of reading itself is the best point i feel, more you read more you learn and then put that in to practice. anyways once again i would like to thank you for the post. i have already bookmarked this webpage for my reference. all the best for your life. tc