Five writing tips I wish I had been taught in school

English lessons in school were, for Emily, often obsessed with rules about the English language. Despite this, she wasn’t really taught how to write clearly and convincingly. In this post, Emily explores what she wishes she had been taught about writing.

Five writing tips that everyone should know

The curriculum I was taught from could not have anticipated the variety of content types B2B marketers use today to communicate to audiences. Blogging was unheard of when I started at secondary school and ebooks were non-existent. But even outside of a business context, I was never taught ways to help me write in a clear and convincing manner to enable me reach my intended audience. Let alone how to write quickly outside of an exam environment.

Much of what we are taught in regards to writing in English are not rules of the language, in the strictest sense, merely stylistic preferences that certain groups of people, in the past, have favoured over others. These formalities are something that others and I feel get in the way of people writing. At this year’s Content Marketing World, MarketingProfs founder Ann Handley pointed out:

So here are five writing tips I wish I’d been taught in school. I hope they will help you start thinking about and writing clear and convincing content:

5. Starting sentences with conjunctions is fine

Let me just get this one out of the way first. I’m with Hubspot, R.W. Burchfield and many other writers on the idea that starting a sentence with an “and” or a “but” can be perfectly acceptable. Stop worrying about this and let your thoughts move on. Also see tip 1 on reading your writing to yourself, in case using conjunctions at the beginning of a sentence worries you.

4. Just writing about a series of events is not a story

A story is not a story when it reads like, “This happened and then this happened, then that happened,” and so on. A story demonstrates why and how things happened – they explain how one event causes another to happen. If you want more information on storytelling, listen to episode 3 and episode 17 of our podcast.

3. Experimentation is good

One of the most lauded writers in the English language experimented a lot with his writing. Shakespeare coined a great many phrases and words during his career and while you don’t have to be engaged in literary experiments, you shouldn’t be afraid to try doing something a bit different when you write. Also see tip 1.

2. Done is better than perfect

What you write does not have to be perfect first time. You should focus on putting fingers to keyboard, pen to page, and drafting something rather than blankly looking at a screen or page for hours on end. Once you’ve got that first draft out of the way, you can then worry about tweaking it towards perfection.

1. Reading your writing back to yourself, out loud, can really help you edit it

Not sure if what you’ve written will read well or make much sense? Read it out loud to yourself. If it literally doesn’t sound right to you then you should try writing it differently. How do you know if something doesn’t sound right? It’ll sound awkward when read out loud and/or will be cumbersome to read.

Got any other writing tips you wished you’d been taught in school? Tweet us @radixcom.

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