What exactly is a “good writer”? Most folks who made it through the first few years of primary school can write. In fact, in a text-fueled world, just about everyone is writing—and writing, and writing—every single day. (When’s the last time you used your phone to actually make a phone call?) But there’s a big difference between texting your mom and crafting a professional message that establishes your credibility as an authoritative voice in an increasingly noisy world.
From professional correspondence to your online presence to that book you’ve always meant to write, you’ve got a lot of words rattling around in your brain, and it can sometimes be tricky to get even the first few of them onto the page (or screen)—never mind wrangling them into a finished piece that you’re proud to show to the world.
There are many ways to think about what it means to be a good writer: fast, clean, engaging, convincing—ideally, a good writer is all of these things, but sometimes it’s impossible to be all four at the same time. Whatever your writing goal, you can bet someone out there has it nailed… and the good news is that many of those masters are on Twitter, offering you a chance to observe their wordsmithing in its natural environment. Twitter’s not quite the Paris café scene of the 1920s, but it may be the closest thing we’ve got in the modern age when it comes to a gathering of literary minds, language snobs, and others who love the written word.
From the basics of good grammar to the sheer work of getting words onto the page to the fine-tuning of a masterpiece, you can glean some impressive inside intel by following these 12 Twitter accounts that will help you amp up your writing skills.
1. Bill Walsh
Bill Walsh is a copy-editing superstar. (Yes, these exist.) He’s a longtime copy editor at The Washington Post and author of several language usage books with titles that elicit knowing giggles from language snobs—his latest is Yes, I Could Care Less. He’s a walking, Tweeting style guide, and if you pay attention to his feed, you’re sure to learn something about the way grammar works. Even better, he often engages followers who respond with questions or disagreements. Plus, he’s funny. Read his feed with a notebook in hand.
Pro tip: Balling is not the same as bawling. Or at least it shouldn't be.
— Bill Walsh (@TheSlot) August 5, 2016
2. Stephen King
What, you thought this list was going to be all stuffy and pedantic? Not so! Stephen King is a master writer, and if you’re serious about honing your writing skills, his book, On Writing, is a must-read. His Twitter feed is not specifically about the writing craft (right now, he’s spending most of his time railing against Donald Trump), but it offers the chance to observe a master craftsman in the wild. He uses language to maximum effect, and reading his Tweets can help you develop your “ear” for powerful phrasing. And then, every once in awhile, he comes up with an actual writing tip.
Another line I could do without hearing: "Could we have the room?" Or, "Walk with me." People rarely say that shit in real life.
— Stephen King (@StephenKing) August 2, 2016
3. Jeff Goins
This best-selling author of The Art of Work says, “I’ve been writing most of my life, but only recently became a writer.” That’s the jump all writers need to make—from just writing to writing—and through his Twitter feed and linked blog posts and podcasts, Goins clues you in on how he did it and, yes, how you can too.
— Jeff Goins (@JeffGoins) August 11, 2016
4. Joseph Kimble
This writing professor is an advocate for plain language. That means he’ll tell you not to say “utilize” when you mean “use,” and that three words are always better than five (ditto for syllables). His feed is a treasure trove of common writing problems that don’t quite fall into the category of mistakes but do make writing less engaging or harder to follow. Plain language use is a great goal for every writer—if you can’t say what you mean simply, you may need to do some more thinking about what exactly it is you want to convey.
To write: read widely, take note, work steadily, hear your prose, crave editing, revise and revise, be obsessive about clarity. What else?
— Joseph Kimble (@ProfJoeKimble) August 9, 2016
What aspiring writer doesn’t want to learn a new word every day? The iconic dictionary’s word of the day feature will boost your vocabulary, and their linked articles will help you understand the distinctions between commonly confused words. Recent entries include explanations of “between” versus “among,” “censor” versus “censure,” and “biweekly” versus “biweekly” (yes, you read that right).
Biweekly: Twice a week
Biweekly: Every two weeks
Sorry about that. https://t.co/8FBUonz7yq
— Merriam-Webster (@MerriamWebster) August 6, 2016
6. Joanna Wiebe
Do you use “Buy Now” buttons, incorporate jargon to show how specialized your offering is, and use consistent formatting throughout your copy? Following the Copy Hackers Twitter feed will quickly educate you as to why all of that is doing your business a disservice. Conversion copywriter Joanna Wiebe lays out the details of the intricate craft of selling with words in quick, easy-to-digest lessons (dubbed “Copy Pops”) that you don’t even have to click through to absorb. Conversion copy is one of the hardest things to write, so if you write to sell, this is an absolute must-follow.
You can always add more, so start with less to get your copy bearings. pic.twitter.com/Di6tbI3sE9
— Joanna Wiebe (@copyhackers) August 10, 2016
You don’t have to sign up for a Lit Reactor class or even join their forum to gather some great information from this online writing community. Their Twitter feed offers links to writing development exercises, interviews with successful authors, and straight-up how-to tips for improving your writing, especially if you’re writing a book.
— LitReactor.com (@LitReactor) August 12, 2016
8. Mignon Fogarty
If you’ve ever Googled a tricky grammar question, you’re probably familiar with Grammar Girl, probably the most internet-famous grammar celebrity. She breaks down complicated usage questions in simple terms that are easy to understand—and remember. She gets bonus points for using the recurring characters Squiggly and Aardvark in her examples, as well as her frequent mentions of chocolate. She’s another grammar expert who often responds to followers’ questions, sharing her expertise on demand.
— Mignon Fogarty (@GrammarGirl) August 4, 2016
9. Jon Winokur
The handle pretty much says it all for this account. Jon Winokur, author of Advice to Writers, Tweets, well, advice to writers. The advice is not his own: He rounds up insights on writing from successful authors both modern and historic. The Tweets are mainly inspirational rather than implementable, but sometimes a shot of inspiration is exactly what you need to get writing.
The beautiful part of #writing is that you don't have to get it right the first time, unlike, say, a brain surgeon.
— Jon Winokur (@AdviceToWriters) August 11, 2016
10. Madam Grammar
What? Yet another grammar account? Yes. Grammar is important. Madam Grammar—known in real life as Lisa McLendon—is an editor and language teacher who walks “the fine red line between prescriptivism and descriptivism.” That means she’s all for letting language change to suit the needs of those using it, but she also recognizes that consistency and a few rules help everyone understand what you have to say. Follow along for tidbits of grammar and usage knowledge that will help clean up your writing and save you from embarrassing mistakes.
— Madam Grammar (@MadamGrammar) July 6, 2016
11. Darren Rowse
A full-time blogger since 2004, Darren Rowse has plenty to share about how to create compelling content for the web. Rowse’s tips tend toward the strategic level rather than the nitty-gritty details of language—so it’s a good feed for inspiration if you’re developing or tweaking your content strategy. (You do have a content strategy, right?) While his focus is specifically on blogging, his insights apply to anyone who works with words.
— Darren Rowse (@problogger) August 11, 2016
12. New York Public Library
Because reading great writing is the best way to become a better writer, it’s worth following the New York Public Library’s feed for the book recommendations alone. (One great recent round-up: nine self-help books for the Suicide Squad.) But the library also Tweets links to articles from a host of sources on subjects of interest to writers and readers alike. This is a feed for those who love the written word—it’s like a warm bath for your soul.
— NY Public Library (@nypl) August 10, 2016
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