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Writing 101: Getting better

What’s something that needs improvement? American writing. 
Is there hope? Yes!

If you read yesterday’s post, it may have seemed a bit harsh to condemn American writing. But, there is hope! And no, you do not need to pay for a professional writing class.

Step 1: Read….Read amazing writing.
If you don’t read, and the last thing you’ve read since college is People, it’s time for an upgrade. Every week, you should read something that challenges you–challenges your ideas, your vocabulary, your writing rhythms. If you need a quick read, choose a top blogger. If you have more time, choose Steinbeck, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Isabella Allende, Poe, Shakespeare. One student found their passion in The New Yorker food reviews. I recently read “The Life of St. Francis of Assisi” which challenged me because of the complexity of the ideas and the language.

Step 2: Write….Write and have someone else read it.
I have taught hundreds of grammar classes, and one was as enlightening as a single critiqued essay. When we can see the mistakes we personally make, it has so much more resonance than an impersonal lecture. (If you are interested in reading a grammar book, I recommend “Eats, Shoots, and Leaves”.)

Listen to your critic’s remarks and learn from them. And, it might be best to have two or three critics–people who love you enough to challenge you.

Step 3: Repeat cycle as often as possible
The only way you improve at anything is to practice. Read, write, read, write, read, write…the more you do, the better you will be.

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