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From an Engineer to an Author, I Find These Writing Tips Really Helpful

From an Engineer to an Author, I Find These Writing Tips Really Helpful

Writing well is one of those things that’s seen to be hard to do or only a skill possessed by people with a natural talent. Trying to convey stories and thoughts in a constructive and flowing manner can leave many people feeling frustration and lack of real ability.

But I’m here to tell you that, as a fan of life hacks, I believe anyone can become a great writer with the right knowledge.

Making the transition from engineer to writer over the past 10 years, I’ve come across many of the common issues people encounter when they write and discovered the writing tips to allow them to write 10 times better.

We Aren’t Really Taught How to Write Well in School

Don’t feel disheartened if writing doesn’t come naturally to you. In this online age, more of us have the opportunity to put our ideas out there but struggle to know where to start when we sit down to do it.

One reason is we aren’t really taught how to write well in school. Much of the emphasis is put on grammar rules and fluency instead of developing the ability to write appealing and influential work.

Writing is also the part of language skill learning that requires creativity compared to speaking, listening, and reading, making it a more challenging skill to develop. Speaking, for example, has a creative aspect but it doesn’t have the same need for precision as writing where even a single connective should be considered carefully in order to create a coherent and well-written piece of work.

The Common Difficulties People Have When Writing

For anyone who’s sat down to write something profound or even just to get their points across in an effective manner will have experienced those common feelings of writer’s block. These usually manifest as:

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  • Having no ideas to write
  • Not knowing where to start
  • Not knowing how to organise any ideas you do have
  • Not knowing how to write words in an appealing way
  • Taking too long to finish a piece of writing and getting demotivated

When we experience these, our writing often suffers becoming fragmented, simple and shallow. The flow can become messy and hard to follow and in danger of even being boring and ordinary.

The Hacks You Need to Follow to Unlock Your Writing Potential

There are several things to keep in mind when you sit down to write and by following these hacks, you can steer your writing to that of flow, appeal and coherency.

Don’t Google General Ideas on Your Topic

Trying to think of ideas can be the first hurdle for many people. If you have a particular topic (for example “how to think positively”) and you feel stuck for ideas, don’t automatically search google with your general topic. Instead, try to narrow down the scope first because google will only spit out very generic and clichéd tips that people have written time and time again.

Instead, ask yourself certain questions that will elicit the answer from within.

  • Why do we need to think positively?
  • What happens to our brains when we think positively?
  • What’s the difference between people who think positively and people who think negatively?
  • What are the mindsets we need to change before we can think positively?
  • What are some daily habits we can build to think more positively?

Brainstorming helps narrow down your topic and create different points to elaborate in your writing. Readers of your work will then feel that you’re really making good points.

Don’t Dwell on the Beginning, Focus on the Body

When we read things, the headline is what gets our attention which leads us to the main body of the writing. As a writer, this is the other way around.

When writing, the key is to write the main content first and then tune the headline accordingly. But this should also be applied to the introduction – focus on the main content and points first so you know the heart of what you’re writing about and then think about the beginning in relation to it.

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Design the Flow Like Designing a Drama: The Model AIDA

Getting your words to flow can be one of the hardest challenges. There’s a marketing and advertising model called AIDA which stands for Attention, Interest, Desire, Action.

This strategy can also be applied to writing to create a good sense of structure and flow in order to get readers interested instead of merely throwing information at them. So keep this in mind when creating your content.

Avoid Perfectionism

Being a perfectionist could be a massive disadvantage when it comes to your writing.

We all want our work to be perfect but this can lead to the temptation to rewrite paragraphs once you start the next one which can be detrimental to the overall piece. This creates a lack of time and while your introduction may be spot on, the rest of your writing can end up disappointing your readers.

Editing is an important part of the process but leave this until the end when you can see the big picture rather than doing it as you go.

The key is getting your ideas down in an organised manner.  Worry about any changes once these are down.  Don’t get so attached to your first draft – as Hemingway famously said “the first draft of everything is shit.”

Replace Vague Words with Concrete Ones

Try avoiding bland and general words in your writing. Instead, think about more descriptive words that make your piece sound more attractive. If you write ‘good’ ask yourself how good? Could it be wonderful, exceptional or excellent? Could ‘bad’ be atrocious, lousy, inadequate? Or could ‘a lot’ be a massive amount, tons or plentiful?

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Using more descriptive and imaginative words will help engage the reader and give your writing more life.

Remove Fillers and Redundant Words

When we speak, we naturally use filler words like: ‘some kind of’, ‘sort of’, ‘to start with’, ‘due to the fact that’, ‘I believe’, ‘in terms of’ and ‘in order to’.

While it’s common to use these types of fillers and redundant words, they can actually decrease your credibility because they make the reader feel that you’re adding no meaning to a sentence and can give the impression your logic is lacking.

For example: All of the people rushed to get the train can be better read as All the people rushed to get the train.

In the process of starting my company, I hired three new members of staff would be better written as When I started my company, I hired three new members of staff.

Fillers and redundant words make your writing conversational but if you’re creating more informative content, avoid fillers at all costs.

Always Choose Simpler Words Over Convoluted Ones

With all kinds of writing whether formal or informal, it’s a good idea to avoid long and more difficult words.

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You may think using simple words is a no-no especially when, at school, we’re often taught to write as descriptive as possible. But while this may be good for story-telling, other forms of writing tend to have the intention of getting a message across and simple words are more effective.

For example: “use” instead “utilise”, “to” instead of “in order to”, “help” instead of “facilitate”, “start” instead of “commence”.

Remember, brilliant writing is simple writing.

Design Punchlines: One Word Sentences or One Line Paragraphs

Look.

Have I got your attention now? That’s the beauty of using a single word in a paragraph. This technique is a great hook for the reader to increase their intrigue. Use this to create a sense of importance in what you’re about to write next but just make sure not to overdo it – use it only once in once piece of writing.

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Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on October 9, 2020

Find out How to Study Effectively With These 6 Tips

Find out How to Study Effectively With These 6 Tips

Learning is a lifelong endeavor and one that we can all hopefully learn to enjoy. One way to boost learning is through effective study techniques and habits. Once you learn how to study effectively, learning will get significantly easier, both in the classroom and out.

There are several study habits that are pivotal to know in order to study effectively and properly. These techniques could be the deciding factor as to whether you pass or fail or, more importantly, learn. These 6 techniques will help you learn how to study effectively.

1. Take Notes

In order to study, a person is required to understand what he or she is learning. A great way of understanding/learning is by making notes of the content you are reading[1]. Note-taking may including making linear notes, diagrams, charts, etc.

The key to taking notes when learning how to study effectively is limiting your notes to the most important and complex information, and making it all as simple as possible. Trying to write down everything you hear is a recipe for disaster, as you will simply become overwhelmed when looking back at what you’ve written.

An exceptional note making style is using summaries. Summaries are a written record of all the important points in a short and concise version. They’re excellent for using when an exam is fast approaching. However, if this doesn’t work for the subject matter or if you’re more creative, try mapping instead[2].

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Use mind mapping when learning how to study effectively.

    2. Practice

    Studying is meant to enable you to apply your learned knowledge to real life situations, so if you want to learn how to study effectively, focus on practice.

    The best way to study is by practicing with realistic examples and questions. As one TED article points out, “Practice is the repetition of an action with the goal of improvement, and it helps us perform with more ease, speed, and confidence”[3].

    For example, if you have a big interview coming up, how will you prepare for it? You’ll likely study types of questions typically asked in interviews. The most effective next step would be finding a friend to do a mock-interview with you. One article points out that “a mock interview helps you learn how to answer difficult questions, develop interview strategies, improve your communication skills, and reduce your stress before an actual job interview”[4].

    Placing yourself in these kinds of practice testing situations will help you recreate the emotions you’ll likely feel in the actual situation, so you won’t be taken off guard when the time comes.

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    3. Improve Your Study Area

    Often enough, we study in a place that we feel comfortable in, but this has both pros and cons. Make sure that the room you’re studying in is not too cold or too warm. A cold room will make you feel uneasy, whereas an overly warm room will make you feel lethargic and lazy.

    Ensure that it’s not in an area with a lot of traffic that will work to distract you. If there is a lot of distracting background noise, consider putting on some relaxing music to drown it out[5].

    Furthermore, ensure that your study space is free of clutter. Research shows that clutter significantly increases chances of procrastination[6]. Other studies have suggested that having excess clutter can increase stress and levels of cortisol. Therefore, if you really want a productive study hour, make sure your workspace is clean first.

    4. Eliminate Distractions

    You may need to decipher between a distraction and an interruption when learning how to study effectively. A distraction can come in the form of open social media pages or a crying child, whereas an interruption can be anything from a phone ringing to an unexpected visitor showing up.

    While interruptions are nearly impossible to control, it is possible to eliminate the majority of distractions for certain periods of time. Choose a time when you’re alone or it’s quiet enough for you to study. It takes a lot of concentration to study properly, and there’s no guarantee that you can focus again once your train of thought is disturbed.

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    If you have to use your computer to study, close out of all social media pages. If you have small children, ask your partner to keep them occupied in the meantime. There is often a solution for the distractions that each of us have to deal with in life, so get creative.

    5. Set Goals

    In order to make progress with your studies when learning how to study effectively, it’s great if you set mini goals or objectives for yourself. Set out an allocated amount of work you want to complete for a day and make sure you do it. Every time you accomplish a mini goal, reward yourself with some free time. This will assure that you’re properly motivated and certainly won’t suffer from a burn out from over-studying.

    Deadlines can be hugely helpful in motivating us to get things done. One study suggests that “as we approach a deadline, or get near to completing a task, this has the effect of reducing ‘opportunity costs’ – essentially, the lure of all the other things you could be doing instead”[7].

    If you know you have a big exam coming up in a day or two, make a deadline for yourself. For example, tell yourself: “I will read these three chapters before 10 pm tonight.” You can even set a reward for when you complete your goal on time.

    You can read more on creating effective deadlines in this article.

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    6. Follow a Healthy Routine

    When learning how to study effectively, a healthy routine is important to your success. Your body needs to brace itself for intense studying, which is why you should get at least 8 hours of sleep, keeping in mind that the amount of time you sleep before 12 counts the most.

    Have a proper diet, including not living off energy drinks or takeout. A proper diet consists of 3 to 5 meals a day with average portions. If you need energy, opt for whole grains instead of processed grains to ensure your body is able to slowly process the food, offering consistent energy for the study session ahead.

    The greatest obstacle to face is having a balanced lifestyle, as studying is very time and energy consuming, which is why an overall healthy lifestyle is highly recommended.

    Final Thoughts

    Whether you’re studying for a big interview, a final exam, or a certification, learning how to study effectively is crucial to your success. Follow the tips above to ensure that the time you spend studying is time used well.

    More Tips on Studying Effectively

    Featured photo credit: Windows via unsplash.com

    Reference

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