2 Odd but Useful Writing Tips (You Won’t Find Anywhere Else)

Writing tipsBecoming a freelance writer full-time means reading a lot of writing tips. When I first started out, I read everything, from blogs to books to the tiniest of tidbits on Twitter.

In the end, I figured that all the writing tips in the world won’t help if you can’t find your own unique voice among all that online chatter. Even so, I still learned so much from this period of concentrated study – and I recommend that any online writer should study their craft too.

Not that I’ve stopped learning. I never will. It’s just ever-so-slightly less intense now.

Bearing in mind how useful I found these writing tips, I thought it about time I gave something back by imparting my own original writing tips that weren’t garnered from any other source than my own experience.

For that reason these tips may seem quite odd, but they work for me. If you have any of your own, take a moment to share the knowledge in the comments underneath.

1. Don’t use spellcheck

OK, let me explain: You know when you’re writing away merrily – that idea spilling onto the page all in the right order – and suddenly that pesky red squiggle appears under words like ‘necessary’ or ‘license’? (Oh, just me with those two?) You go back, right click and let spellcheck correct it for you, right? What I’m suggesting is that from now on you manually change the spelling when this happens.

The benefits of doing this over time are huge. Good spelling is an integral part of being a good writer, and besides, what happens if one day you have to (shock of all horrors) write something down on paper with an actual pen?! The point is, if we don’t have to spell properly, that particular memory muscle will only become weaker and weaker.

Get into this habit and you’ll be a much better writer for it. Honest.

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2. Change your work into a PDF file to proofread

Proofreading is half your work as a writer. It doesn’t matter if you’ve written an absolute masterpiece – if you proofread lazily and miss simple grammatical or structural errors, your writing will never be taken seriously. I discovered (by accident) that saving my work as a PDF file and proofreading it from there meant I invariably spotted errors my eye simply refused to pick up from a Word document.

There’s probably some highly logical and reasonable explanation behind why this works, but all I know (and care about) is that it does work. OK so it’s a bit of a pain to have to go back to your Word document (or Google Worksheet, or whatever) to make the changes, but this is a small price to pay for perfection.

And that’s it – these are the only useful writing tips I can genuinely say I invented myself and didn’t pick up from reading books or trawling the internet. This list is surely far from complete though, and I need your help to complete it: What secret writing tips are you using every day that nobody else knows about?

To learn how to build a writing portfolio and a solid reputation as an online writer, read this FREE eBook.

Original image courtesy of Xosé Castro Roig via Flickr. Text added.

20 Comments

  • Jeff Kontur

    Reply Reply December 12, 2012

    Interesting. I use the PDF trick too, but never stopped to think of it as a unique trick. I don’t think I’ve ver read about it anywhere either but can vouch that it does work. PDF also puts you in a different mindset because what you’re reading is not directly editable so you’re reading it as a reader and not as a writer.

  • Kirsty

    Reply Reply December 12, 2012

    Yes, I think you may have hit the nail on the head there Jeff – it does force you to approach it as a reader rather than a writer.

    Thanks for stopping by. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one using these unusual tricks.

  • Debra Yearwood

    Reply Reply September 11, 2013

    Great tips, I get sidelined by that red line all the time and it ruins a great flow of ideas. I’m going to start ignoring it. I’ll try the PDF approach too. For my blog I try to look at the preview before posting. As Jeff mentioned, I can’t immediately edit and I see all kinds of things that I didn’t catch in the revisable format.

    • Kirsty Stuart

      Reply Reply September 12, 2013

      Yes, the preview before posting on your blog works just like reading a PDF version of something I find. Thanks for your comments Debra 🙂

  • Pinar Tarhan

    Reply Reply October 28, 2014

    Hi Kirsty!

    Love the pdf tip! Works wonders. I try to print out the work as well when I can.

    • Kirsty Stuart

      Reply Reply October 29, 2014

      Yep, if you’ve got time to print your work out, that’s ideal.

  • Dave Burnham

    Reply Reply November 26, 2014

    As someone who likes to proofread on paper as often as possible, I really like the PDF suggestion. I look forward to trying it out.

    • Kirsty Stuart

      Reply Reply November 26, 2014

      It really does work Dave. (At least for me, anyway!)

  • Emily

    Reply Reply May 8, 2015

    Very original ideas…Never tried the .pdf trick. As other people have already mentioned, I usually prefer proofreading on paper. But I’ll give it a try! And as far as the word “license” is concerned…it’s not just you!

    • Kirsty Stuart

      Reply Reply May 8, 2015

      Hi Emily. I think the PDF trick works in the same way as proofreading on paper. Give it a go and see if it works for you! Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

  • Kate Muller

    Reply Reply December 3, 2015

    Thanks for posting! You hit the nail right on the head with your opening. I’m new to freelance writing and I’ve been devouring endless amounts of online content over the past month or two just to better acquaint myself with the industry – there’s so much to learn! Your blog posts are very inspiring, keep ’em coming!

    • Kirsty Stuart

      Reply Reply December 3, 2015

      Thanks Kate – it’s good to have you here!

  • Brent Jones

    Reply Reply February 23, 2016

    I love both of these tips, Kirsty!

    Spellcheck is a real problem for me, as I write for clients in both UK and US English. So I have to be mindful that the red, squiggly line doesn’t always mean that I’ve made an error. Similarly, sometimes a lack of red, squiggly lines means I did make errors.

    Your point about the PDF resonated with me. I find the same thing happens when I’m writing a post in WordPress.

    It’ll look fine in the visual editor, but when I go to preview the post, I’ll catch errors I didn’t before.

    Great job!

    Sharing this post now.

    Brent

    • Kirsty Stuart

      Reply Reply February 23, 2016

      Thanks Brent. Yep, I also write for both US and UK clients, so have to watch the red squigglies!

      I also find it’s the same deal with proofreading from a PDF as it is via the preview on a blog post – I guess both make us read like readers rather than the authors of the work, and therefore able to spot mistakes.

      Glad you enjoyed the post and thanks for sharing it!

  • Jayne Bodell

    Reply Reply February 23, 2016

    I agree with both. I always correct my own spelling. I do go one step further with the proofreading. For my book, I printed it. Having paper in hand I edited manually, and had my husband edit it too. I don’t do this with blog posts, but if I’m submitting something, I will print it.

    • Kirsty Stuart

      Reply Reply February 23, 2016

      I agree Jayne – printing out and proofreading for anything larger than a blog post is definitely worth it. Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment.

  • Roz Swartz Williams

    Reply Reply February 28, 2016

    Great suggestions here! I really like the PDF idea – I think it’s the change of visual format that makes the errors pop. Very easy for the eye to slide right over things in word processing because we become so accustomed to the page layout. I agree with Jayne – I also prefer proofreading a hard copy to proofreading onscreen. Less tiring on the eyes and better for catching formatting errors.

    Another thing I do is make one pass through the doc proofreading each page backwards – starting at the last word of the last line and reading right to left, line by line to the top. Reading right to left requires more concentration and catches any words misspelled or missing.

    • Kirsty Stuart

      Reply Reply February 28, 2016

      That’s another good one Roz. Thanks for the tip!

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