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How to Effectively Write with Confidence

How to Effectively Write with Confidence

The other day someone asked me whether I write a lot. I said I don’t know. What’s a lot? I write once a day a post on facebook. Sometimes two or three. And an article for our websites a couple of times a week. Such as this one. Writing is important for me because it keeps the grey matter fit. Which is one of our goals.

The person who asked me the question would love to write, but felt insecure. So I explained how he could overcome this insecurity. This article is an extended version of my explanation: How to effectively write with confidence.

Given our experiences, the most important tip is to write a lot. The more the better. No writer is born a star-writer. Every single one of them became better in time after writing thousands of words.

What will you write?

Write with confidence by hand

You can read yourself into the theory of writing. The problem is that long before you’re done reading, you will have lost all confidence. The rules and recommendations are so numerous and complicated that they are not very helpful.

Also, never ask yourself the question: Why do I want to write? This question is totally out of order. You will never be able to come up with a satisfying answer. Just enjoy the mere act of writing.The question you should answer is: What will I write? Choose a subject. Preferably a subject that is closest to your ‘knowledge and experience bank’. Write about things you like, or dislike for that matter. This will give you enough confidence to start.

Whatever suits you, gives you confidence

Okay, you’ve picked your subject? Now it’s time to design the layout of your text. Oh no, there’s another millstone on the neck of so many novice writers. Every writer has his or her peculiarities. You will have to discover yours.

Sharpen your pencil and write on a brown envelope (some of the most famous authors did this: Walt Whitman, Georges Simenon, Bukowski). Take your fountain pen out of your mouth and scribble in a notebook worth 50 euro/dollars. 

To write with a pencil or a fountain pen, instead of using a keyboard, is better for you and for your brain because you’re forced to use different parts of your brain at the same time. 

Write on a typewriter

When you’re done type the results on your computer. Or read them out loud to your mobile phone*. Best is that you try all of these.

*A useful tool is the dictation function in Google docs. This works best on your phone. The English version has more features than those in other languages.

Or start by sampling information about your subject, analyze this and write down the ideas that popped up in your head. Break down any logic that you thought was in the information. Or do just the opposite. Turn your summary into a meticulous, mathematical correct explanation with diagrams and all. Whatever suits you, gives you confidence.

For whom do you write?

As soon as someone is prepared to pay you 5000 euro/dollar for a commercial text of 500 words, you have to master: Who is my target audience? Until then, you mainly write for yourself. Your aim must be to have fun when you write.

You should be aware though that writing with someone else in mind can boost your inspiration. Imagine you talk with someone, a relative or a friend, and write down this fictional dialogue. Or write down a fictional dialogue between two of your friends. You might even copy a discussion you witnessed.

A stepping stone to write with confidence

Write on a laptop

In our articles on either this website, OurGreenHealth or AGEwithCARE, you find many examples of texts that might interest or inspire you to write your own. Some articles dig a little deeper in a specific kind of text: a diary or a journal.

If, in the beginning, you want to practice your writing skills everyday and do not want to confront others with your texts, start a diary. Write down what you do. Who you meet. What you discuss with others. What your feelings or intentions are. Diaries know no limits. You can write down whatever you please.

A more structured diary is a journal. You can pre-program a journal in many ways. You can use it to write down your daily intentions and whether you were able to achieve them. You can write down what you felt and how you dealt with your feelings. Or write down how you coped with a specific task.

Some professional tips

The Pulitzer prizewinning novelist Cormac McCarthy developed tips on how to write. Here are the most important ones:

  • Decide on your theme. Choose two or three points you want readers to remember.
  • Limit each paragraph to a single message. A single sentence can be a paragraph.
  • Ask a question and then progress to the answer. It’s also perfectly fine to leave questions unanswered.
  • Keep sentences short, simple, and direct.
  • Avoid jargon, buzzwords, or technical language. Don’t use a word repeatedly.
  • Use minimalism to achieve clarity. Remove extra words or commas whenever you can.
  • To be understood is more important than to form a grammatically perfect sentence. Use examples.
  • Don’t be overly formal.
  • When you’re done, read your text aloud. Satisfied?

Is writing for a website different?

For the most part, writing for a website is the same as regular writing. A few items are different than, for example, writing for a book or magazine.

  • Keep the paragraphs small, 2 to 3 sentences is enough;
  • Provide a lot of white (= breathing space);
  • Make lots of subheadings to break the text into small parts
  • Tell what the article is about at the beginning;
  • Summarize the main elements at the end.

How to effectively write with confidence

My questioner writes a lot nowadays and has built up a lot of self-confidence. He asked several times if I wanted to comment on his texts. However insecure you may feel at first, this is of course a good way to grow and learn.

Oh, and one more tip if you are not a native English speaker, like us. Install Grammarly on your browser. That extension improves both your typos and your language.

Enjoy writing.

Do you write? Let us know in the comment box below.

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4 thoughts on “How to Effectively Write with Confidence”

  1. Hi Tom, Thank you very much!
    I am not a native English writer either, and I use Grammarly already. Did I mention that I am nothing without Grammarly?;) It helps a lot; you are so right!
    But even then, I need to check on it because sometimes Grammarly fixes my writing, and it is still not good grammar. But I love it.
    I have to admit and confirm that practice makes it easy to write, but it is always better to have a niche where we are comfortable with and have excellent knowledge, what you have said already. I would never have thought that I could write an article, especially in English. I am proud of myself! 😉
    To get paid 5000 euro/dollar for a text is impressive. I need growing confidence to get there. Where do I find such people who spend so much money on an article of 500 words? In industry?

    Reply
    • Hi Sylvia,

      Glad you liked the article. Writing is always exciting. Even when you’re not a native in a specific language, it’s still interesting to try it though. And you’re right to be proud of yourself.

      When I write in any other than my native language, I often also use my dictionaries. They offer more possibilities to choose from. As Grammarly, dictionaries have their limits. Especially my dictionaries because they’re rather old (30 years or more).

      I must say though that the grammar rules in these dictionaries are still up to date and very helpful.

      To keep up my proficiency in the different languages I’m familiar with I love to read newspapers, poetry, and scientific books and articles. The only downside is that there is so much good stuff that I sometimes get a little bit stressed out.

      To answer your 5,000 euro/dollar question: good professional commercial copywriters in advertising can ask huge hourly fees. Once I’ve worked with a copywriter who flew around the world to write advertising texts. He was proficient in several languages and a very good scholar. So he also trained other copywriters.

      In hindsight, I notice that I never worked with a female copywriter. Although I must say, and that clears me somewhat, that I published a scientific book about language differences between men and women. All chapters in the book were written by female scientists.

      One of the conclusions in the book I still remember. Men prefer female types of language in recruitment ads over male types of language. Perhaps it’s interesting to write some articles based on this book to bring it all back to peoples attention.

      For now, stay safe, stay healthy. Thank you for your comment.

      Regards,
      Tom

      Reply
  2. Hi Hannie,
    Thanks for the great professional writing tips.
    I’m new to blogging, and sometimes, I’m afraid of writing, especially because English isn’t my first language. I speak it very well, but when it comes to writing, I’m not so confident.

    I installed Grammarly and bought the Pro version. I can tell you that it helps me a lot. It was around $80 for 1 year. So, that’s my recommendation for everyone who’s not a native English speaker.

    Did you try it already?

    Reply
    • Hi Petar,

      Thank you for your compliments and your comment.

      It takes about 30 years before you will be able to write and speak any language as the natives do. Provided you speak and write it everyday.

      This sounds discouraging but it isn’t, because there are only very few natives that write and speak as they are supposed to. Moreover, you take the effort and as far as I can tell, you’re doing a fine job.

      It’s also very important to enjoy a language. With this I mean that you do not only actively try to control a language, write and speak it, but also passively (read and listen). Try to understand the words of English songs. Watch English movies without dubbed voices or subtitles. Nothing’s worse than to watch The Godfather with German or French dubbed voices.

      I never had the patience to really study Spanish, although, because I live in Spain, I actually have to. The problem is also I have a natural feel for a language. This makes me lazy, which is bad.

      In contrast, I read Spanish poetry, newspapers and magazines, I even watch the debates in the Cortes, the Spanish Parliament (they are streamed online). The advantage is that these are all sources of proper Spanish. Most Spaniards don’t speak any proper Spanish. Not because they can’t, but because they don’t want to. In Catalunia this is the worst.

      I don’t use grammarly because it slows down my computer. Most of my texts are too long. However, Hannie does and she is also content with it.

      For now, stay safe, stay healthy.

      Regards,
      Tom

      Reply

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