Back to Basics: 5 Writing Tips You Shouldn’t Forget

Many people have aspired to become a writer at some point or another.  After all, there is something magical about creating places, stories and characters using only the power of the words. It should come as no surprise then that so many people look for jobs in the journalism domain. Even though writing facts might not be as interesting as writing fiction, it’s impossible not to get excited about having a job that requires something different from you every day. The articles you write are never the same, the subjects are always different and the fieldwork involved might be engaging.

Job-hunting is always a difficult task: not because you won’t be able to find anything that suits your interests but because there are so many possibilities that it can get overwhelming.

Before you embark on the journey and truly unleash your inner journalist, it’s important to master the skill of writing. What does it take to be good at writing? Can aspiring writers rely on talent alone? Here are 5 writing tips that you should pay careful attention to if you want to increase your chances of success:

Check your spelling
This might sound trivial, but nothing creates a worse impression about someone than miserable spelling. It hurts when you’re 22 years old and people think you are 12 because of your poor grammar. You’ll definitely feel the backlash when you engage in online conversations and stumble across those so-called Grammar-Nazis who can’t wait to correct your mistakes. Imagine seeing ads that are littered with grammar mistakes. Like most people, you would likely be turned off by them and avoid applying all together.  The most common mistakes are the incorrect uses of there/their/they’re, its/it’s and your/you’re. “There are people who think their dogs are like members of the family, because they’re so bonded.”  THIS is an example of using the correct forms of the words. If you want to be taken seriously as a writer, avoid these mistakes.  ALWAYS!

Know your priorities
If you’re an aspiring journalist, you need to know how to order your articles by importance. Always start your pieces with the most important news. If Queen Elizabeth II is planning to visit Canada, you won’t write about that on the last page. When Steve Jobs died, you certainly didn’t find the article on the same page with the horoscopes.

Use catchy and true titles
This might sound like a contradiction, but it’s not. If you’re an avid reader, you’ve probably noticed how many articles have titles that don’t reflect the content at all. It’s challenging to come up with great titles that catch the eye of a reader without being misleading, but it’s something you have to strive for daily. Imagine a title like, “Toronto Man Beat His Girlfriend!” and in the body of the article, you are talking about a video game. Sure a man in Toronto may have defeated his girlfriend when they were playing this video game, but the title is misleading.  Being misleading destroys your credibility.

Don’t lie just for the sake of popularity
Unfortunately, many assignments require you to do precisely that, but be honest if you want to be respected in the business. There is an insatiable hunger in journalism to be the first one to publicize controversial news.  Many don’t have reliable sources or bother to wait for a confirmation from a credible person. Don’t be like the others. It might take longer for you to be noticed, but the truth is always better than the lie, even if it’s less interesting.

Find your own voice
Don’t be discouraged if your first articles aren’t praised. This happened even with some of the industry’s most respected journalists. Instead, form your own style and read, read, read! Nothing expands your vocabulary more than reading famous works of literature. Even filmmakers give this advice to those who want to make movies. Creativity has its roots in general knowledge, so make sure you feed it.

There are plenty of opportunities to exercise and even improve your writing skills. If you really want to be a successful journalist, work hard and keep your integrity intact. Anybody can be famous, but the path to success will be a lot tougher if you try to take shortcuts along the way.

Abby Evans is an avid blogger who writes on everything from how to find jobs in Toronto to outlining the principals of how to write a killer blog post.