To improve your own writing, rework others’ atrocious text

Rather than emulating venerated authors, seek out the clunkiest online offerings you can find, and overhaul them. It’ll sharpen your eye—and your verbal scalpel.

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Bucking popular wisdom, maybe the best way to improve as a writer is to read dreadful writing—and fix it.

We’re frequently advised to read good writing, but that simply promotes imitation, even replication. It generally does not strengthen essential elements of the writer’s mind.

Editing convoluted, viscous, redundant text—blather, dense, repeat—and transforming it into clear, straightforward, fluid prose is a marvelous exercise.

Why and how it can help a writer

All too often, poor expression undercuts otherwise valuable information. By deciphering ambiguous or convoluted writing, you can learn from such missteps—and cut a straighter path for yourself to deliver your brilliant insights.

Training your eye to see linguistic problems is like diagnosing a health problem: It’s the first step toward a remedy. Devising solutions to others’ linguistic contortions can help you fix your own—or avoid them altogether.

Getting started

“Where on earth would I find terrible writing?” you ask.

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