I know it’s very common to hear bloggers say “I’m not a writer”, yet they do write one to three blog posts a week, or more.
You may not feel like a writer, but if you do write one or more blog posts every week, it does make you a writer, whether you believe it or not.
So, since you are writing that much on a weekly basis, my first question to you would be, are you satisfied with your writing? Whether you answer yes or no to this question, my next question to you is, would you like to improve your writing?
I know you’re not trying to impress the masses with your writing, you’re just trying to bring your point across. However, if you even bother to write at all online I know that your goal is to have as many readers as possible, and you want them to enjoy and pay attention to what you write. Don’t you?
If your answer is yes, then this post is for you, and you might want to learn how to read like a writer to improve your writing skills. But what does that supposed to mean? Let me explain.
Become a Critic of what you Read
My mother used to be a tailor, and I remember her analyzing and criticizing pieces of garments often. If she saw a woman with a dress that didn’t fit well, or wasn’t looking right in any way, she would notice it. If a hem wasn’t done right, she would notice it. If someone was not wearing the right size jacket she would notice. She was able to see any little imaginable things about what people were wearing.
She was a formidable critic of people’s clothing because it was the tailor in her speaking. She saw people’s dress as a tailor, not like anyone else who wouldn’t have been able to even tell the difference.
As a blogger/writer, you should be able to do the same thing when you read other people’s work. You need to become a critic of other people’s writing to improve your own. You need to be able to notice what’s right and what’s wrong and learn from it.
What Makes you Tic as a Reader?
What makes you tic as a reader and what doesn’t? What type of articles online or offline make you want to read every single word from beginning to end, and what type doesn’t? And I’m not talking about topic matter here. No. I’m talking about the writing style.
When you read an article online or even a book, what are the ingredients that make you want to keep reading, and what are the type of writings that are not attractive to you? What makes you want to quit reading?
Is the piece that you’re reading monotone? Is it lacking personality? Is it event-less? Is the writer cold, emotionless, or just boring? Is the writing cluttered with too many useless words? If you are reading about a topic that interest you but the piece that you’re reading isn’t it must be because of one or more of the reasons above.
As a writer, get into the habit of analyzing what you’re reading. If you do, you will improve your own writing.
Learn How to Analyze What you’re Reading
Just like you would be able to see what’s not quite right with a dress or a jacket if you were a tailor, as a writing you should be able to analyze what’s not quite right about an article. Why does it sound a certain way, why is it not captivating your attention, or why is it?
As you finished reading a page or so of a book, an article or blog post, analyze why it was captivating to you or why it wasn’t. Go back to the written piece and try to find out what was there or what wasn’t there. May be you could go over it again with a check list such as this one below.
- Is the writer is using the second person (you) as he speaks to the reader?
- Does the writer laid the foundation of the story/article with an enticing introduction?
- Does the writer have included a dose of intrigue that makes the reader want to read more?
- Are the paragraph linked to one another in order for the story to have a natural flow?
- Is the writer using examples, either true or fictional, to help the reader understand a specific point?
Is the story easy to follow or is it very confusing? And if it is why is it confusing?
Those are questions that you can ask yourself as you read. By asking yourself such questions you will be able to pin point why your reading is captivating you or why it’s not.
Once it’s your time to write, all you’ll have to do is making sure you can answer YES to such questions. Use such questions as the measuring tape of what you’re reading.
The First Line is Your Most Important Line
Writer and best seller William Zinsser says that your most important line is your first line. As bloggers trying to get people’s attention with our writing we are well aware of this, aren’t we? That’s why we try to create perfect, catchy headlines.
Zinsser agrees with that. He says that without a catchy and good first line there is no chance that the reader is going to read the second one.
So, keep this wise advice in mind, and do not think that you can start slow hoping that the read will get to your good part. That reader may never will, because you’ve ran them away with your first sentence.
Then, Zinsser goes on to say that your next most important sentence is… yes, you’ve guess it, your second sentence.
The point he was making is that you need to work one sentence at the time, but you need to do your home work to make it the best possible. This is what it takes to keep captivating the attention of the reader.
So, the next time you read an article, a blog post or a book, remember to read as a writer. Analyse what you like and what you don’t like. Why is that so?
47 thoughts on “How To Read Like A Writer To Improve Your Writing Skills”
Hi Sylviane , I always try to differentiate a blogger from a writer because people generally do not associate these two identities. I strongly believe that a blogger also needs good writing skills. Your tips are excellent and must implement , thanks for sharing.
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Well, writing is writing and whatever you write is still the same thing. So, I do associate bloggers with writers and lots of bloggers are writers as a matter of fact. I know many of such bloggers.
The people that I know who are truly NOT writer, don’t have a blog and never will. That’s why I know that bloggers are more writers than they think they are.
Thank you for your input.
Thanks for sharing your ideas. I think the killing heading is the main, aw well as first line. You’ve mentioned pretty interesting points! I guess every blogger has to read this post!
Thanks for coming and for your input, Evan 🙂
These are wonderful tips Sylvia. I treat first lines as the killer lines, since this very first line will let the reader decide whether he wants to continue reading or will judge right away that the content is not good or worthless.
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OK, it’s Sylviane, not Sylvia. I know can be confusing, but two different names nonetheless 🙂
A good first line will encourage the reader to go to the next and so on and so forth, that’s why we have to think carefully as we write.
Sorry for the wrong name I’ve given to you, Sylviane. Must have overlooked since Sylviane is quite a unique name. 🙂
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Sylviane, that is perfectly written because you explained how to write better and I stayed glued to the article because I was monitoring your writing style.
I think you gave me some ways to better my writing by reading your well-written article.
I knew you were a writer, but I think you are more than a writer. You tell stories. If you do not have one, you may want to consider a physical book.
Thank you so much, Michael, for your nice words.
I love to tell stories and when I was little I used to make up so many stories my mother couldn’t always tell what was true and what wasn’t. This was the actress and story teller in me. I used to act, now I tell stories in my writing.
I have a book in the making, but it’s been tough to be regular at it. I’ve got to take some of my own medicine and stick to it. I know 🙂
Thanks for the encouragement.
Sylviane. This is an excellent article and tells people exactly what they should be looking for. It reminds me of another article mentioning the same but you break it down into simple understanding. Our style of writing is important and we need to know what effect effect we have on our readers and what to do to improve our own writing. Thanks for sharing.
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I’m glad you enjoyed this article. I think that there’s so much to learn in reading other people’s work, whether it’s good or not, as long as we read it with our critical writer’s eye 🙂
Thanks for coming by.
What great advice! Hey, you are really teaching me so much when you write these blogs. I do have much to think about here and can see where my weakness is.
I copy and pasted those questions, put it on a word document, and have it on my desk top. Now, when I write my next blog I can be mindful of how I write it.
What got me the most was writing that first line to capture your audience! I need to implement that one for sure! Also, I often use examples and have to make sure that it is related to the specific point of my blog.
I am grateful I know you!
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I can tell you that your posts are never boring. I have not problem what so ever to follow along, and yes you use example of real like about you’re clients and stuff and that’s the way to go. That’s the kind of writing that I like.
The kind of writing that I do not like is the boring kind with no life and no personality. Impersonal writing is boring and nobody wants to read that.
I’m so glad that you like this type of posts. More to come I hope 🙂
Sylviane, I still don’t consider myself a writer and I’m close to 1000 posts between several blogs. I love the advice about your first line. I had not given that much thought. I do more with headlines but not the first sentence.Thanks for sharing ways so we can improve our writing in our blog posts.
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I see you’re one of such bloggers who don’t consider themselves writers, yet you do write don’t you?
That first line idea I’ve got from the author of the book “On Writing Well” that all blogger should read. A great read to improve writing.
Thanks for coming by.
I’m with Donna here…I’ve made some great notes from your post here!
I love what you wrote about the first line and it makes sense. I’ve read about writing an eye-catching headline but now I see your point about engaging the reader as soon as he or she starts reading our post.
I do find it hard to call myself a writer but I’m getting more comfortable with the idea and it’s helping me build up my confidence too 🙂
I also enjoyed how you showed us to analyze what we’re reading but in my case I get so caught up with what I’m reading, taking notes and such that I guess I’m still in “grasshopper” mode LOL.
I really learned a lot today Sylviane! Thanks so much for putting this together 🙂
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Nice to see you here today and I’m glad you enjoyed this post.
If you’re caught up in what you’re reading that’s a good sign. It means that what you’re reading must be good. Once you’ve completed a page or a post, you might want to get back to it and at that time analyze it for the writing skills.
I’m so glad if you learned something today 🙂
Great educating post as always Sylviane. It’s always nice to pick up something new to improve our writing style.
I love the example you gave about your mom being a tailor and how she analyzed and criticized the pieces of garments she used to see. My mom was a tailor too and all what you said as if you were describing my mom too. Great example and it really explains the idea of how to become critics to what we read in order to improve our writing.
Paying attention to the first sentence really stood out for me and I admit that I haven’t paid much attention to that. Thanks for such a great advice and like Donna, I will keep that checklist handy and use to check on my writing. I love to follow check lists as it shows how you did overall at the end.
It has been really a learning experience reading this post today Sylviane. Thanks so much for sharing.
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How interesting that you mom was a tailor too and now you so understand what I mean since you’ve experienced the same thing.
As bloggers/writers we should do the same. We should be able to see what clicks and what doesn’t when we read something. We do this type of text analysis in school, for the purpose of learning. I think that we shouldn’t stop there.
I’m glad you enjoyed this post 🙂
Well that was spot on Sylviane! Thanks for this excellent post on this subject and you KNOW I’m one of those that do not consider myself a writer. Okay, I’m a blogger is that better?
I always critique other people’s posts. I use to correct an old girlfriend of mine with her grammar and she use to get so mad at me. But heck, she was a secretary and I can’t imagine her bosses approving of that when she would write correspondence. My mother use to always correct my grammar too so I guess it runs in the family.
I know what you mean about different writing styles now that I’m doing this myself. There are some posts I visit and I’m about to fall asleep. But we all aren’t born writers so this post will be extremely helpful for those who felt the same way I did when I started.
I’m still a work in progress so I’m taking some gems away from this one as well.
Thanks Sylviane for these great tips and hope you enjoy your week.
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Well, you know we all are work in progress. It never stops, does it?
I’m like you I tend to correct people if I see their errors but people in general don’t like to be corrected. As for me, I don’t mind. Many people have corrected me in the past so, many times. That’s how I’ve learned foreign languages.
I have two African friends here in NC who make mistakes when they speak French sometimes, and I bug the hell out of them by correcting them. When they get mad I tell them that’s for their own good, not mine 🙂
How funny that your mom always corrected your grammar, because so did my mom. But I bet that’s one of the reasons your grammar is good. I know my mom is THE reason for my excellent French grammar. She bugged me to death, but I’ve learned more of the French grammar from her than any school teacher I’ve ever had. And that’s the truth.
OK, let me stop rambling here. Nice to see you here as always, Adrienne, and I’m glad if you enjoyed this post.
Couldn’t agree with you more. We can learn so much by analysing how other writers write – how they grab and hold our attention, how they move us, amuse us (or irritate and bore us!) I’m re-reading Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall at the moment and I keep coming across the most amazing passages that just make me go “Wow!” – and sometimes it can be the simplest sentence that hits you between the eyes.
I find that reading with that kind of awareness also increases my pleasure as a reader. It’s great to pick up tips and ideas from the way other writers work – and when you read something that’s not so good, it’s interesting to try to understand what’s wrong with it – why it doesn’t ‘work’ for you – so that you can aim to address those potential weaknesses in your own writing.
Having said that, I think you also have to bear in mind that we have different tastes and although there is such a thing as ‘good’ and ‘bad’ writing, we won’t all react positively or negatively to the same things.
Like Neamat, I like the example you used of your Mum criticising other people’s tailoring. Writing’s just like any other skill – novices must learn from the experts, while developing their own particular talents.
A great post on a subject that interests me very much – thank you 🙂
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Nice to see you here. I’ve been thinking about you because I haven’t been over at your place in a little while. I’ve been so busy and tried lately 🙂
I’m glad to hear that you do analyze what you read like the good writer that you are. I do that all the time, and that habit even goes back to the time that I was studying Drama.
Thank you for coming by, Sue and see you at your place 🙂
No worries, Sylviane – I’ve not been around much myself and haven’t been posting regularly due to a strain injury that’s limiting my time online – so you’re not missing much on my blog! I’m on holiday for the next couple of weeks and won’t be online much at all, so don’t think I’ve disappeared – normal service will be resumed at some stage.
Didn’t realise you’d studied drama – my husband went to drama school and was a professional actor for a while in his younger days.
Sorry to hear you’ve been feeling tired – I hope you’re not over-doing it. Take care of yourself, Sylviane 🙂
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Thanks for getting back to me Sue, and I’m sorry about your injury. I hope this holiday will help 🙂
Oh, so I’m just like your husband, then. I went to drama school and was acting professionally in my younger years as well. How interesting!
I love your lessons here, Sylviane! I do this a lot myself. I bet it’s not so obvious to think about reading if you want to learn to write, but that’s how you can find examples of good writing and bad, learn how to use language and get a feel for it. Sometimes we don’t even quite understand on a literal level what makes writing “good” but we know it when we read it. So we can practice using the same style and principles.
I like to do the same with headlines, as you say. I sometimes collect headlines that are interesting or that made me read more so I can study them and figure out why they were interesting and of course use that in my own!
I think these are the most practical tips you gave here. Everyone who can read can write! It just takes a little practice.
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Well, this was a long in coming reply. Sorry about that.
I agree that it’s hard to define what IS good writing with words, but we do recognize it when we see it. That’s why we need to read. If we don’t we won’t ever be able to tell the difference and learn from it.
Good headlines are everywhere and it’s all about looking for them. Ads, blogs, News, etc… there’re everywhere. We can literally copy them and just change the words for those we need sometimes.
Thank you for coming by. It’s always nice to see you 🙂
I really enjoyed reading your blog. I’m very new at blogging, so I have a lot of learning to do and I learned from your blog. I’ll always remember to make sure my first line captures my audience.
Adrienne is a dear friend and she has been helping me. I’m so glad she had your link that I could meet you today.
Thanks for all “goid nuggets”.
I’m better at replying to my readers than what I’m showing now, so I apologize for getting back to you so late. Just preparing for a move at this time 🙂
Adrienne and I are very good friends and she was so sweet to mention me on her post. I do not see a link here, but if you have a blog let me know and I’ll pass by.
Hope to see you here again soon.
great share, i am a new visitor to your site and i am loving your articles, you have written a great line in your post that we should become a critic of what we read and i do agree with this. thanks for sharing this post , have a nice day
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Hi Prabhat and sorry for the late reply.
Nice to meet you here and hope you’ll come again soon. I’ll be sure to come visit you as well.
Right now I’m busy preparing for a move, but usually I’m better at getting back to my visitors.
Have a great week!
Great post with good tips thanks. (I found you via Adrienne).
I tend to be very critical of blog posts – particularly those with many spelling, grammatical and punctuation mistakes. If bloggers (yes – writers!) can’t be accurate it shows a lack of care. I know it’s not easy, I spend far too long tweaking and changing my posts and still miss a few.
(I hope I don’t make too many mistakes in this comment LOL)
I have two blogs. One I find it easy to write for because I can be “me”, the second it’s harder because it’s a more technical subject and I have to aim for accuracy.
The “killer title” almost always defeats me 🙁
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Am so glad that you found me through Adrienne. I’ve known Adrienne for a while now and we are very good friends.
I totally agree with everything you said. I do understand the occasional mistake/typo, but if it’s all over the place that tells a lot about the writer after a while.
Like you even after 4 or 4 reads I can’t still find little things that needs corrections, but I think that’s just normal. The best writers edit and edit again.
For headlines you can get ideas from other posts or even ads. There’re some great headlines ideas out there!
Thanks for coming and I will come by to visit you as well.
I quite agree what you intend to carry across but should we just go about criticising every writer just because he placed a comma instead of an apostrophe? That would be simply unfair.
No one is perfect and perfectness is something we mere mortals shouldn’t be dreaming of.
I see this post as a dream-killer.
Well, the way one see things is in the eye of the beholder, isn’t it?
If you feel like this post is a dream-killer, maybe you need to ask YOURSELF, why do I feel that way?
Could it be some of your own insecurities? Maybe you are too hard on yourself. I’m sure you do your best to write the best you can, and that’s great. Nobody says that one coma is a huge deal either! Where did you get that from?
Now look at the other comments and no-one felt attacked by my post, by any mean. You shouldn’t feel that way either!
Have a great week ahead and happy writing 🙂
You know it is very difficult to get attention and the first line has to be a killer as you rightly pointed out. The checklist really comes handy, whenever I’m on to your site I get to learn something and that truly has been your specialty
Thanks for this great share.Have a great week ahead.
I loved this! When I read certain posts, most times it comes from the blog title and other times its the tone and style. I read a post a week ago about how the blogger was sick of freebies offered by bloggers for the same of readers opting in and I thought it was entertaining. She went on to explain her lack of tolerance for the whole thing and was quite honest. Posts like that always get my attention because I know they are going to be completely honest.
Its not to say that other posts aren’t also, but her style of writing is what drew me in. I never thought about Style of writing until I read it here, but it is the deciding factor of me reading posts or not. I fall in love with the tone used and use of words. Grammar helps and structure, but its getting to the point that I appreciate the most.
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Style is important, because it’s like your identity as a blogger/writer. I know that depending on the tone that the writer uses it can be either gripping or boring, so that’s very important too.
Thank you for coming here and for sharing your thoughts.
Thanks for this excellent advice. I’ll try to summarize it in three phrases: 1) Read any piece of writing (including your own) with the hat of a critic; 2) analyze the writing style; 3) attract even from the beginning and keep the magnet until the end.
There is one point I want to make though. It is contrary to the common belief you can see all over the internet.
We must not be so afraid to lose readers. It is very difficult to keep the power up from the beginning till the end. It is rather unnatural. We cannot create diamonds day by day. Diamonds are rare. It is natural to write good articles and bad articles.
An article should have ups and downs. It’s like a human being, it breaths. It’s a living thing.
What you say it’s true for specific, practical niches like DIY or, fishing or whatever practical niches you want.
When you approach a different, more subtle domain, like writing, for example, you need to warn people that there are different genres and styles and not every article must be like a machine gun: constantly shooting with killer bullets from the beginning till the end. The value of an article must be determined by the content first and the form (style) second and not viceversa.
When the reader feels there is value in an article, he or she will read it until the end and won’t be deterred by some low density paragraphs. As for the rest of the readers who will go when the first line is not so good… too bad … for them. For me it is a blessing. They won’t stay anyway, no matter how good is my writing.
What we need most is targeted readers not armies of unqualified passers-by.
In time our little gang of qualified readers will grow and become a community. At that moment you will be free from that horrible necessity of being “at your best” all the time.
Thank you for your time
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Nice to meet you here. I’ve just turned up the computer back after almost a week because I just moved, and you know what moving is, I’m sure 🙂 So here I found your very good and interesting comment.
Well, guess what? I agree with everything you’re saying here. Yes, you’re right, we must be OK with losing readers and anyone who would go away just because the article slows down is really not interested. That’s a great point and I so agree.
Thank for your visit and see you around soon 🙂
Hi Niccio This is a great post indeed
thanks for sharing it it’s really informative
as writers we must read a lot of blogs quality blogs and notice how they use the language
thanks for sharing this awesome reading 🙂
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Well, my first name is Sylviane, and my last name is not Niccio, but Nuccio 🙂
But thanks for coming and for your feedbacks.
Oh Sorry Sylviane Nuccio my bad but I didn’t do it on purpose 😀
Thanks for your reply 🙂
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