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How Anyone Can Improve His or Her Writing Almost Instantly

By Joanna Campbell Slan

School has started, and your child may be one of many who struggles with written assignments. Or perhaps you, yourself, are going back to school. Or maybe now that your kids are off to classes, you’ve decided to get down to the business of writing that book you’ve been meaning to tackle for years.

I’ve been writing my whole life. In fact, I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t putting words on paper. I’ve also taught writing to adults, both college students and professionals. There’s one tip I can share that will dramatically improve your writing–anyone’s writing–instantly.When I tell people this simple tip, they usually scoff. What a shame, because it’s so simple and so incredibly effective:

Read the work out loud.

Do NOT mumble the words. Don’t simply move your lips. Actually read it, as if presenting it to an audience. In fact, if you can find another person to listen, so much the better.

As you read, you’ll hear glitches in your work. You’ll catch the rough spots. You’ll notice where phrasing is awkward or where the transition needs help. Mostly, you’ll notice words you left out or misused, but duplicated words will also jump out at you.

If you find yourself pausing to “explain” what you wrote, that’s a huge red flag.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: Huh. Right. Maybe I will and maybe I won’t.

But trust me on this, it’s the BEST tip I’ve ever gotten, and it’ll improve your work dramatically.

When I was writing Paper, Scissors, Death, I must have read the car chase scene to my son six times. I never made it through to the end. Not the first five times. I’d start reading and realize how wrong my phrasing sounded. Or how lame. Or whatever. So I’d say, “Never mind! Go back to your computer games!” and walk off, back to my own computer, to start over.

You’ll probably do the same with your work. But when you finish revising, you’ll have a much, much better piece of writing. Trust me on this.

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