Writing and Publishing

How to Incrementally Improve Our Writing

One way to improve our writing is to write every day. Another method is to receive feedback from qualified sources. A third technique is to pick one new skill to study and master each week.

If we learn and then practice one new skill for seven days, it will become ingrained and begin to form a habit. Possible areas to consider are:

  • A writing technique
  • A punctuation rule
  • A vocabulary word
  • A spelling that trips us up
  • A style guide directive
  • A grammar tenet

Each of us needs to pick what to focus on, based on our weak areas. Some people struggle with punctuation or syntax, others with word choices or passive sentences. While I could pick something from any of these categories, my biggest deficiency is style guides.

Over the years, I’ve used every major style guide. Each one has rules that contradict other style guides. As a result, conflicting advice has muddled my mind. While some mavens can spout off the requirements for a particular situation from multiple guides, I struggle to comprehend just one. This week, I’ll work on colon usage, as covered in the Chicago Manual of Style.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s book: Successful Author FAQs: Discover the Art of Writing, the Business of Publishing, and the Joy of Wielding Words. Get your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book Successful Author FAQs for insider tips and insights.

By Peter Lyle DeHaan

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, publishes books about business, customer service, the call center industry, and business and writing.

2 replies on “How to Incrementally Improve Our Writing”

Good post!
I worked on the em dashes three weeks ago.
This week I was working on the colon. Still, not sure when the sentences following the colon begin with capital and when not (all of them or only the first.)
I remember that if full sentences are in capital, if sentence and phase then only the sentence begins with capital. in all phrases no capital. Is that correct?

I have misplaced my guide, or rather my mom has hidden it.

Katina, great question!

The Chicago Manuel of Style (6.61) says that if the colon is within a sentence, the first letter following it is lowercase.

When the colon introduces two or more sentences, dialogue, or a direct question, the first letter after the colon is capitalized.

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