How to become a better writer

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I used to write like a lawyer. Dry, stilted, cautious, boring. I’m stifling a yawn right now remembering how I used to sound.

Then I started reading books about copy writing and saw what I was missing. I saw what it meant to write to communicate and persuade, not just inform. I tried it, first in my demand letters. It was liberating and I’m pretty sure it earned me a few extra shekels.

I used some of those ideas in my briefs and declarations. Not to the same extent, of course, but a sprinkle here and a dash there. Judges and opposing counsel noticed.

Eventually, my efforts to become a better writer made me a better lawyer.

Lawyers earn our keep with words. It behooves us to improve our writing skills. If you want to know how to become a better writer, here are five ways to do that.

  1. Write every day. Take 15 to 20 minutes a day and write. Every day. Write a journal, free write (look it up), or write a page for your office operations manual, but write something. Practice doesn’t make perfect, but the more you write, the better you get.
  2. Write faster. Fast writing is usually better writing. When we let go and let the words flow, our writing is more natural and has more power. Of course it goes without saying that you shouldn’t edit while you write.
  3. Write letters to specific people. You’ve heard the oft-repeated advice to “write like you talk,” right? The next time you write something, write the first draft as a letter to a real person. You might actually speak, record, and transcribe your thoughts.
  4. Read every day. Read, in different disciplines, including fiction. Read slowly and pay attention to how good writers present their ideas, how they describe people and places and action.
  5. Study. Read books on grammar, copy writing, and creative writing. Learn the rules of effective writing and develop a sense of when it’s okay to break them.

None of this should be a revelation. It’s common sense advice you’ve heard before. I’d heard it, too. But I wasn’t doing it. I was busy. But then I realized that this is the kind of continuing education that could really pay off over the rest of my career. And it has.

As Jim Rohn put it, “Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune.”

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