Want to Be a Better Writer? Then Read

reading-a-bookGood writers are good readers. And they’re readers of more than just internet posts; good writers read a variety of books, from fiction to nonfiction and from classics to contemporaries.

It is through all of this reading that we can see what words other writers use and, importantly, how they use them. We can absorb certain turns of phrases that we may later find useful, and we can “hear” the different voices writers use to speak to us. If we’re moved by some particular writing, we can try to figure out why and learn how to incorporate those ideas into our own writing. Reading also improves our vocabulary. It’s easy, when you’re reading, to gloss over an unfamiliar word, but the better thing to do is to look up any word you don’t know. But perhaps one of its biggest and best perks: reading is great stress relief.

Conversely, and just as importantly, by reading we can also learn what doesn’t work. We remember that to write well, we need to keep our reader and reader’s needs in mind. Nothing is worse than trying to plod though impenetrable writing that possibly made sense to the writer when it was written, but makes little to no sense to a reader. We can remember that frustration of reading when we set out to write so that we’re cognizant of not bestowing on our readers the same feelings. (See here for one writer’s list of “39 Reasons Why You Must Read In Order to Write Well.”)

I know that as busy law students and lawyers, finding time to read for pleasure can be difficult if not downright impossible. But it’s oh-so-important to find that time, even if it’s for five to ten minutes before you fall asleep at night. Carry a book with you (especially easy to do if you read on a Kindle or tablet) and if you have to wait (for your lunch, for a friend to show up, etc.), use that time to sneak in a few pages. If you’re looking for good books to read, try perusing The New York Times’ book reviews or check out some recommendations here or here.

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