11 signs you're a good writer (word nerds will love #11)

If you’re reading this post, you probably think you’re a good writer (or would like to be). But if  you’re not too sure, here’s 11 signs writing is your ‘thing’...

1. You don’t mind being edited...in fact you think it’s a good thing

Some writers have BIG egos. This generally shows up when you ask them to make a change to their copy. Some are defensive. Others won’t accept that their writing isn’t clear or needs further explanation. Occasionally they are rude.

Over fifteen years of writing and editing for national newspapers, I’ve noticed something interesting: the best writers (i.e. those who submit consistently good copy that needs very little work) are generally fine with criticism. They make the changes you ask for without any fuss and will often say their article is better as a result of your suggestions. They also read their copy when it’s published, notice where it’s been changed - and use this to improve their writing. That’s not to say they won’t stand their ground if they disagree with a suggestion you’ve made... but they do accept that the editor has the final word.

Weak writers (i.e. those who consistently deliver copy that is under par) often take criticism of their work personally. They refuse to accept their writing could be anything less than perfect.  And they have a tendency to fuss and argue, making the editing process much longer - and less enjoyable - for everyone involved.

2. You read stuff on how to improve your writing (like this blog post)

I may be a professional writer, but I think there’s lots more for me to learn about my craft.  I still have ‘bad’ days when everything seems to take twice as long as it should or I just can’t find the right words. So I’m always on the lookout for writing tips and regularly mine sites like Copyblogger and Problogger for ideas on how to write better headlines or craft great email subject headers.

3. You break the rules

Your English teacher told you not to start sentences with ‘And’ or ‘But’ - but you know it can make your writing more punchy. You were encouraged to use descriptive language but use simple, sparse prose to create tension and drama.  And you know that starting at the end (or in the middle or the second to last paragraph) can be far more engaging...and that using big words can make you look stupid.

4. You don’t wait to be inspired

You can knock out 200 or 2000 words, to order, on just about any topic. And you always hit your deadline. Granted, some days it’s easier than others, but you've developed your own rescue strategies for when you’re feeling stuck. My favourites include: ‘racing’ the battery on my laptop (giving me just under two hours to get anything done), setting a timer for each paragraph and ‘free writing’ (which involves writing without stopping for a given length of time - with surprisingly good results). If this is something you do struggle with, here’s my top book recommendations: The War of Art by Steven Pressfield Turning Pro by Steven Pressfield The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

5. You ‘snap’ spelling/grammar mistakes on your phone...and enjoy sharing them on social media…

Like this one... 190922_10150207338833332_2984931_o (Thanks to Dan Ashley for this)...

6. You make every word work for its place on the page

That means no waffle. No superflous words or phrases. Just simple, crisp copy.

7. You don’t write introductions

You know there’s no need to ‘set the scene’ (yawn) or explain what you’ll be covering in your article.

That’s for academic essays (and I’m not even sure you need one in those either - but I’ll leave that debate for now)

You usually take your reader straight to the action or start with a story. It’s  far more compelling.

8. You call it 'copy'

Writing, that is.

9. You show don’t tell (most of the time, anyway)

You know that people love stories. So you show readers what happened - or what people are like - through what they do and say. As in this interview by the Guardian’s Simon Hattenstone (my favourite profile writer).

Screen Shot 2015-05-08 at 22.28.36

But sometimes you need to break the rules. Which is why I loved this Writer’s Digest article: Why Show Don’t Tell is the Greatest Lie of Writing Workshops.

10. You’re obsessed with writers’ routines

Most writers I know LOVE reading about other writer’s routines. And we all have our own quirky habits, I find.


  • I prefer to write in the morning (between the hours of 9am and 12pm to be precise) - writing at any other time makes me grumpy
  • I make a hot drink before I start writing (tea in the morning, coffee if I have to write during my 'grumpy' time)
  • I have a rigid routine for writing my Guardian articles. This involves: taking notes on all of my notes, turning this into a list of key points, writing a paragraph by paragraph plan, writing another par by par plan (including quotes and pretty much every point I am going to make) and revising this plan numerous times. It takes hours, but means I can usually turn out a first draft pretty painlessly
  • I often take a bath and write my articles in my head before I start (you probably didn't want to know that)
  • I can only write in silence - although music is otherwise compulsory at all times
  • I only use Europa reporters' notebooks for interview notes
  • I use an A4 spiralbound notebook for general notes and planning
  • I only use black Pilot Vball pens (my handwriting is awful) - but can work with pink, purple, or blue if I have to
  • I LOVE notebooks and spend hours trawling stationery shops for them. Moleskine and Kate Spade are my current favourites. I even have a Pinterest board of lovely notebooks
  • I realise this list makes me sound like a right pain in the backside...

But if you also love reading about writer’s routines, here’s a few of my favourite articles on the topic:

Rise and shine: the daily routine of history's great minds (great minds rather than great writers, but still a good read)

The Daily Routines of 12 Famous Writers And How They can Help You Succeed

25 signs you’re a writer (Buzzfeed fun)

Oh and I like this article on 11 signs you’re meant to be a writer by Laura Pepper (I was going to call this post ‘10 signs you’re a good writer’, but her post reminded me to take a bit of my own advice about using odd numbers in email headers and I am an unashamed copycat).

11. You love stationery

See above.