Writing is about communication, and writing well means being able to communicate clearly to your audience.
Two kinds of writing by Seth Godin gives some quick, focused tips on how to write for different audiences. To summarize an already short post, if the audience consists of people you know, you can and should write with detail. If you write for a more general audience, you’ll need to lay off the nuance and low level details. It is one of those obvious-when-you-read-it-in-front-of-you kind of tips.
I find that my writing has greatly improved since I’ve started this blog. Any writing I did previously was through instant messages or email. Occasionally I would write a review for Game Tunnel. Even when I was still going to school, my last year didn’t require me to write papers for class as I mostly took computer science or math. I made a point to write with correct punctuation, spelling, and grammar, even when dealing with IM. I just didn’t want to gain bad habits by writing in too much shorthand: “d00d ur kool im out g2g lol”. Children are growing up today writing papers for class that are nothing better than IM conversations! Writing my blog lets me practice the art of writing a lot more often than I normally would. It is a very nice bonus since I didn’t start my blog to improve my writing.
I think I am pretty good at spelling, punctuation, and grammar. I don’t have a problem with the mechanics of writing; however, when I look back at what I wrote even just a year ago compared to what I write now, the quality difference is amazing. Perhaps part of it is because I read so much more often than I used to do. Perhaps I simply had great teachers in high school. I think that writing more often has the biggest impact since I not only get to practice writing but can also read the results. Today I can see some writing from a year or two ago that just makes me uncomfortable.
In a similar way, I need to practice coding more often so that I can look back in a year and cringe at my commenting style. B-)