Writing Techniques

Instructor: Diedra Taylor

Diedra has taught college English and worked as a university writing center consultant. She has a master's degree in English.

Writing techniques are many and varied. Jump into this lesson to learn what you can do to improve your own writing process. You may even come up with some techniques of your own.

Determining What Type of Writing You are Doing

If you are going to dance, you don't just jump in and start shaking your body. Usually, you first determine what kind of dance you will be doing. Even if you are not specifically doing the tango or the waltz, you at least must know whether you'll be moving slow or fast, with a partner or solo. Simply put, you use different techniques depending upon what type of dancing you will be doing.

Writing is similar. Before you know which techniques will work, you start by determining what type of writing you are performing. Writing can be divided into many categories, including fiction, non-fiction, science fiction genre, romance genre, essay, short story, research paper, poetry, and many others. Some of these categories overlap with each other. For instance, a short story is fiction, and it can also be a science fiction story.

When looking into techniques for your writing, consider whether they work well with your particular project. Writing techniques can be divided into two categories. There are the techniques you use in order to actually accomplish your writing, and there are the techniques you use within your writing.

Techniques to Help You Complete the Work of Writing

You may use a physical notebook and a laptop in your writing process, and even some apps on your phone
Photo of writing tools.

Writing Process

Getting Started with Prewriting

  • Freewriting--This is a technique that can help you at any stage in the writing process, but it is particularly helpful at the beginning. Put simply, freewriting is just writing without stopping. It is used to generate ideas and get over any bumps where you can't figure out what to write. The best way to use this technique is to focus on your topic and just write whatever comes to mind. You can always erase later.
  • Organization--Most writers use some kind of organization technique to help them complete their work. One way to organize is to use an outline that tells you where to start your writing and subtopics you'll cover at each step along the way. When you make an outline first, you don't have to sit and tap your pencil trying to figure out what's next. Another way to organize is to keep a calendar with your writing goals, milestones, or deadlines. Calendar reminders keep you on track and keep you writing.

Doing the Work of Writing

  • Three act story telling--Many writers use this technique to sketch out the plot. It is basically breaking your story or writing into a beginning, middle, and end. Some prefer to think of it like a three act play. Act one is the setup and introduction of characters. Act two is the complication. Act three is the resolution. You can use these three parts to help you with nearly any writing, even if it is non-fiction. Just think of the characters as your research and details. Introduce the main components. Address any complications or questions. Finish with your final answers to the problem your non-fiction work addresses.

Rewriting for Improvement

  • Revision--Take the word revision literally. This is where you go back and 'look again' at your writing. Is there a part that doesn't sound quite right? Could you improve particular sections? Do certain chapters or paragraphs need to be rearranged? Revision is your chance to take your early draft and make it say what you really mean. It's not just looking for spelling, grammar, or punctuation errors.

Techniques to Use in Your Writing


  • Writing the Senses--The best way to make sure readers can envision exactly what you describe is to make use of each of the five senses. For example, instead of saying 'The floor was rough,' you can say, 'I saw sand scattered across the floor. It was cold and gritty against my bare feet, and I could hear the sound of it rasping against the tile as I dragged my sore ankle.'

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