Improve Your Writing Skills by Practicing Replication
Paying attention to others' writing and replicating (not plagiarizing) writing styles is one way to hone your craft.
This month’s newsletter comes to you by way of Fancy Comma’s Kelly Tabbutt. Read on to learn more about how to improve your writing via replication.
Practice makes perfect. Like an artist learning the techniques by replicating famous paintings, replicating the different styles used by other writers is excellent practice. Once you understand the different elements of these styles and when they are most effective, you can use this knowledge to develop your own unique writing style.
a. Replicate other writers’ organization approaches
Replicating other writer’s organization does not mean copying the content. It is about focusing on what type of information they are presenting, in what order, and how they are grouping information together.
First, find a piece of writing that you think is well put together. Go through their writing and create a blueprint for organization. Note what information they include, in what order, in each paragraph. Finally, use this blueprint when you do your own writing.
Practicing different approaches to organization will show you various ways to communicate information in a way that walks your audience through the information in a way that makes sense and is effective.
b. Replicate various writing styles of writing
Beyond replicating the organization of information, you should also practice replicating various styles of writing. When organization is merely about what information is presented when, style is about how information is conveyed.
Start by noting the stylistic devices the author uses. Focus on the tone: is the writing more formal or informal? Think about word choice: do they use jargon or lay language? Also pay attention to rhetorical devices used such as narration, figurative language (similes, metaphors, etc.).
As with practicing different organizational techniques, practicing different writing styles will help you compare and contrast the effects that these styles have on the audience so that you can find the most compelling way to communicate your ideas.
c. Replicate using different writing prompts
Writing prompts are just ideas for topics that you can write about. Writing prompts provide you with a spark for your creativity as well as challenging you to think and write about an array of topics that you may not otherwise have experience with.
There are numerous websites, such as Grammarly, offering writing prompts. You can also brainstorm your own topics to write about. These ideas can be as simple as describing a room or as complex as discussing contemporary politics.
Practicing using different organizational and writing styles with different topics will help you hone these different styles while allowing you to compare and contrast, seeing which are more effective depending upon your topic.
d. Perfect paragraph by paragraph
When you are working on improving your writing style and sharpening your editing skills, it can be helpful to focus on perfecting paragraph by paragraph. If you want to get creative, you can try incorporating different styles for each paragraph.
Of course, you have to edit paragraph by paragraph. But perfecting paragraph by paragraph is different. This means revising each individual paragraph over and over until you are feel you have “perfected” it before moving onto the next.
Repetition to the point of rote is key to becoming an expert. Revising the same paragraph over and over may be overkill in most contexts but doing this for practice will help you ingrain the stylistic methods and editing skills.
e. Combine styles in a unique way
Now that you have looked at and practiced various organizational and writing styles and learned how to apply them to a variety of topics, you can try to combine aspects of these styles into a unique style that is all yours.
Having experimented with different styles, think about which aspects of the organization, tone, word choice, and rhetorical devices which you thought were most effective. Now try mixing and matching these elements in your own writing.
Practicing different writing and organizational styles is key to honing your writing skills. However, ultimately you will need to find your own voice. This requires that you move beyond mere replication into synthesizing these styles into something that is uniquely you.
Links from around the web:
Jenni Gritters of The Writers Co-Op Podcast writes about quitting journalism. Read Sheeva’s article, inspired by this article, about career change, quitting science, and the parallels between science and journalism.
Learn about The 14 Most Important Benefits of Content Writing (with examples) in this post by Amanda Milligan.
This website comes up with a haiku for anywhere in Google Maps.
Brittany Trang and Brianna Barbu wrote a Beginner’s Guide to a Career in Science Writing.
That’s about it for this month’s newsletter. Thanks for reading!