Guide to Writing Skills and How to Improve Them (With Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published June 10, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Writing is an important ability, with many different applications, styles, and types. A powerful command of the written word is an essential communication skill that can help you thrive in a professional setting. Understanding writing skills and how to improve them can help you in everything from building a resume to creating a memo at the office. In this article, we define writing abilities and their importance, explain the key steps to improving your skills, and explore tips on how to use your newly advanced communication talents to help further your career.

Writing skills and how to improve them

Understanding writing skills and how to improve them is the first step in developing a personalized approach to learning. It's helpful to consider the different situations where you use the written word. As a bilingual country, you may wish to improve writing skills in either French or English. For instance, if you relocate from Quebec to Alberta, strengthening your English can help. Conversely, if you move from British Columbia to Ottawa, a largely bilingual city, fortifying your French and English skills can add significant professional value.

Some careers rely more on speaking than writing, but from timesheets to resumes, writing is present everywhere. Depending on your level of expertise, and the industry in which you work, you may want to improve different aspects of your writing. For example, a manager may plan to improve syntax and tone to ensure that emails are friendly yet professional. In another example, a newly graduated, entry-level job-seeker may want to refresh persuasive writing techniques. An essential step in improving any skill is setting clear goals, so ensure that you have a clear objective when you begin.

Read more: Examples of Professional Goals and How to Achieve Them

How to improve written skills

The process of refreshing written abilities is unique to your situation, your comfort with the language, and your learning style. To create an individual learning approach to improve your writing, use these basic steps as an outline:

1. Focus on fundamentals

Language is a system of communication, meaning it has fixed rules and structure. The first step is re-familiarizing yourself with spelling and grammar. There are many resources, including online dictionaries and grammar-checking websites, with useful materials. To establish a basic understanding of linguistic expectations for your writing, consider the five main components of language:

  • Phonology: the spoken aspect of the language, considering phonetics and the relationship between written characters and sounds

  • Morphology: the study of the formation of words, the classification of different words, and sentence components to shape the language

  • Syntax: the logical arrangement of words and phrases to create properly formed sentences and combine them into larger structures such as paragraphs

  • Semantics: the comprehension aspect of the written words, concerning itself with how language relates to the world and how to assign a word to objects and actions

  • Pragmatics: considers the logical interpretation of language between two parties, the writer and the reader, and assesses whether the sentence accurately communicates the desired message

Read more: What You Can Do With a Linguistics Degree (13 Example Jobs)

2. Read a variety of materials

While considering the fundamental aspects of language, dedicate time to reading a wide variety of materials. Even if you read regularly, diversifying the material can help expose you to different styles and tones. For example, an engineering textbook focuses on technical terms and relies on different sentence structures. Conversely, works of fiction vary in writing style between genres. Short stories and poems each rely on different syntax and pragmatics, despite using the same language.

Ensure that your reading materials also focus on professional correspondence. Most businesses have social media, which you can use as a resource to improve your digital communication skills. From blogs to websites, historical email correspondence to cover letter examples, the more you read, the more material you can consider. While it's unlikely that all types of writing apply to your career, the diversity ensures that you can approach writing informed with variety.

3. Take a seminar or extension class

Language evolves, and with the popularization of remote and hybrid work, writing has changed as well. Whether you desire to be a novelist or improve your form when writing emails, a formal learning environment can help. Some technical schools offer writing courses for an in-depth learning experience. To simply refresh your writing abilities, you can attend a seminar on a topic that's relevant to your pursuits. Seminars enable you to communicate with peers while also getting the benefit of a trained professional to guide your efforts. Some seminars require in-person attendance, while others occur online.

4. Practice writing personally

The key way to improve your written skills is to write regularly. For example, you may keep a journal of your experiences in efforts of writing a biography or simply maintain an agenda to track your day. The act of writing consciously can help you improve your sentence structure, organization, and efficiency.

Studies show that practising writing daily offers benefits, both personal and professional. It allows you to assess your goals and track your progress. While a lot of writing occurs digitally, it helps to physically write notes down on paper. It causes you to write more consciously, focus on spelling, and dedicate more time to your practice.

5. Apply your skills at work

Once you feel comfortable with your writing skills, you can apply them to your career. Whether you write professionally or simply send a significant number of emails, communication is important. Consider each piece of written correspondence as an opportunity to apply your skills. It reinforces the writing skills in a professional setting, encouraging you to maintain a high standard of excellence in your work. By writing clearly, you can express yourself to your colleagues and managers in the appropriate format, with correct grammar, spelling, and tone.

Tips on professional writing

Writing in a professional setting is abundant, regardless of your career. The following tips can help you succeed when working with the written word:

Consider your audience

It's important to consider the reader whenever you write something. E-mails can follow a standard format, but the tone you use is likely to vary based on whether you're sending it to a colleague in your department or an executive outside of the company. If you write a social media or blog post, use analytics software to determine your audience and adjust the language you use accordingly. From memorandums to files to client correspondence, actively considering how your reader is likely to interpret the writing, called pragmatism, is paramount.

Language evolves regularly

English and French are both descendants of historical languages. Some words remain approximately the same, while others are entirely different, with many changes reflecting anthropology in terms of migrations. For instance, the French in Quebec differs significantly from the same language in Belgium or France. Accordingly, it's important to remain up-to-date on the language in which you write. For example, with internal office communication, writing can include abbreviations for technical processes or shortened words used in casual correspondence. Understanding this type of writing can help you communicate in the appropriate tone.

Customize your writing approach

Many people write in a unique manner, and finding your communication style can make writing significantly easier. For example, some professionals take notes by hand and type them out afterwards. Conversely, many writers use audio recording devices to express ideas verbally and convert them to text afterwards. Another common application is keeping digital templates for common correspondence and matching each with an example to use as a reference point for tone and style.

Read more: Understanding the 4 Writing Styles (And How to Use Them)

Use software when appropriate

Despite best efforts, human error can occur in grammar, spelling, and formatting. Employing software to review your document has ample value. It can provide objective information on your tone, informing you whether the audience is likely to respond desirably. Spell-checking technology uses up-to-date dictionaries to flag words for you to check the spelling, with most software offering suggestions on the correct answer. Together with grammar-checking software, you can determine if your writing is syntactically-correct and pragmatic. Most word processors include this type of software and there are other options online, both free and paid.

Take your time when writing and editing

Instead of focusing on speed when you write, shift your attention to quality. When you write something, read back through it to ensure clarity. Often, if situationally appropriate, it can help to read the content out loud. Make any required changes to the document and repeat the process. This diligence ensures that you make all possible efforts to provide high-quality material. By taking the time, and pairing software with human oversight, you can see powerful results from your writing skills.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions, or organizations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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