New Year’s resolutions aren’t always easy to keep. When you try to change a personal habit, it can be hard to stay motivated. But what if instead, you resolved to make yourself a better student or employee by improving your writing skills? It’s a positive goal, and you can achieve it without drastic changes to your daily life. To get started on this resolution, try out these four tips.
1. Find a Peer-Editing Buddy
You may have a friend who has the same major as you, works in the same department, or just has a similar interest in improving his or her writing skills. Reading each other’s work can help you both in a variety of ways. First, it’s always beneficial to have an extra set of eyes on your work to catch mistakes, both large and small—even the greatest writers need editors. Second, knowing you are going to get your friend’s input should be motivation to get a first draft done earlier and to work a little harder on it. It’s like having a workout buddy: you can help keep each other accountable!
2. Read a Style Guide
Yes, this may seem kind of boring—but devoting the short amount of time it will take to read a time-tested guide will pay off. Garner’s Modern English Usage, for example, has more than 900 pages that cover almost every topic you could imagine. If that seems too daunting, you could try one of the thinnest of tomes: Grammar Girl’s 101 Misused Words You’ll Never Confuse Again. It covers the most common errors, and at one tip a day, you’d be through it by tax time. Popular books can also be informative as well as entertaining. Woe Is I, The Elephants of Style, and Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing, all mix humor with writing advice. In addition, if you’re in a profession that involves writing in a certain style for academic or professional purposes (say, AP style for journalists, Chicago style for book writers, or APA style for social scientists), you may want to add those style guides to your reading list. Put a book on your nightstand or an ebook or audiobook on your phone, and go through one book entry or one page each day. It takes almost no time at all.