…you need to become a better reader. Whether you wish to start your great American novel/memoir/tell-all, pen some scintillating love letters, or just write better business-related content, reading is part of the solution to your writing weakness. I’ll try to refrain from getting all “tough 5th grade teacher with a 10-page summer reading list” on you. I’m just saying that in order to improve your personal and business writing skills, it’s important to read whatever and whenever – even on a Nook or Kindle, if you must. Here are some reading tips for your consideration:
Read Everything: I’m not joking. The wider variety of materials you read, the more flexible and confident your writing repertoire will become. Books are the OxyContin (because I have no idea how to seek out a meth lab) of my reading habit, but they are not enough. I read the local newspaper, the Wall Street Journal (with selective reading of their Op-Ed page), news and entertainment magazines (soylent green is…People Magazine!), trade journals, political blogs, many, many websites, cereal boxes, direct marketing campaign letters and brochures, LEGO magazines, and oh yes, the dictionary.
Sometimes, Read Out Loud (But Whisper if You’re Not Alone): If you’re drafting an important business letter or proposal, reading it out loud is a great way to escape your internal voice and hear how it sounds aloud. By reading out loud, your ear can help you determine when pauses (otherwise known as commas) are needed and sentences are too long. Also, hearing your own words expressed with targeted emotion (persuasiveness, humor, sadness, hopefulness, etc.) will make you a better wordsmith and/or thesaurus user.
Make Time for Reading: Sure, it’s challenging to plan reading time when your allotted 24 hours are consumed whole by work, children (big or little), family caregiving, exercise (I hope), volunteer commitments, Facebook, and on and on. One easy way to work more reading into your compartmental life is to always take a book (or magazine, or cereal box, or…) with you when you’re the passenger for a family car ride. Even if y’all are only traveling for 20 minutes, that’s time better spent reading, rather than telling your kids to be quiet whilst you notice just how much odd debris is under and adjacent to your seat.
Book Club – Do or Do Not: And now, a moment of truth. Some of us have been in a book club, some of us are currently in a book club, and some of us like to be in a book club of one, also known as reading! If making the commitment once a month to sit in a circle with other people and find out who already posted the book for buyback on Amazon is not your thing, there are other options. In the privacy of your own home, you can log into an online book discussion/book club and eat your own selection of snacks all the while. Some resources for you to try include: Book-Clubs-Resource.com, the Online Book Club, and BookTalk.org.
When you do read, notice sentence structure and how words are strung together, especially when you instinctively feel the writing is quite good. If something sounds too darn long, figure out how you would boil down the information – this is what effective copyediting is all about. What reading tips would you like to share here? Thoughts, comments, or suggestions? Don’t be shy, gentle reader…