Skip to content

The Fundamentals

One of the questions I’ve been asked many times over the years is how to become a better writer. I’ve heard this from university students in my business communications classes… from people who want to work in the communications field… from parents who are concerned that Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and text messaging have destroyed any chance their children will ever master basic spelling, grammar, and sentence structure… from people who believe they have a story inside but lack the confidence to put fingers to keyboard.

Depending on the context, there are different levels and details to the advice I offer, but there are a couple of common threads, one of which is to read a lot.

When you read extensively, you absorb the fundamentals of grammar, sentence structure, and punctuation. You internalize the flow of the words, the rhythm of the sentences, the pace of the story. You may still need to access a guide to grammar if asked to give a definition of past participle, but you will have come to understand its correct and effective use. You will see similarities and differences between various genres, between fiction and nonfiction. With every page you read, you’ll be soaking in information.

The other common thread, you’ve probably guessed already: write a lot. Put in the kind of miles that prepare you for a long-distance race –– except words will be your running shoes, and sentences will be your miles. Some days the miles will be easy; some days they will be harder than you can imagine. But keep moving, and keep writing.

Obviously, there is a great deal more to becoming a better writer, but these fundamentals are an important constant, and a continued focus on them will serve you well.