skills As writers, we do more than just write. Whether we realize it or not. Many of us have a number of skills that relate to and go beyond writing.

Regardless, there are a number of skills that every writer should consider developing. Why? They might not make you a better writer, but they’ll make you a more well-rounded one. On top of that, by picking up those skills you’ll be able to do more things yourself and save yourself some time and maybe even some money.

And you don’t need to be a techie, or a hardcore technical communicator, to learn those skills. Or to put them into practice.

Let’s take a look at a few skills that can complement your writing quite nicely.

Basic HTML

HTML, short for Hypertext Markup Language, is one of the main languages used to create websites. If, like me, you maintain (or plan to maintain) your own website, then a knowledge of HTML comes in very handy. It’s also useful if you want to build your site, whether from scratch or using a template.

Knowing at least the basics of HTML can help you when writing content specifically for the web, working with a blogging platform like WordPress, or when it comes time to edit an ebook in EPUB format.

You might be asking Why not just save a word processor file as HTML? or Why not copy and paste from my word processor into my blog? Well, the HTML that most word processors spit out is garbage. And copying from, say, Microsoft Word into the WordPress visual editor can leave you with formatting that’s not quite right and which can be difficult to fix.


You had to see this one coming, didn’t you? If you’ve read this space for any length of time, you know that I’m a fan and heavy user of Markdown. My reasons for that are many, but two of the main ones are that Markdown is easy to learn and use, and it lets me get into a good writing flow.

A number of writing tools and blogging/publishing platforms — like Draft and Calepin — use Markdown as a native format. Finally, it’s easy to go from Markdown to any number of other formats.

(Quick plug: If you’re interested in learning Markdown quickly and efficiently, then you’ll want to check out my ebook Learning Markdown.)

A deeper knowledge of the tools that you use

I’ve not saying that you need to become an expert or a guru or a ninja or anything like that. A deeper knowledge of the tools you use, though, can make your life easier, reduce your stress, and help you solve problems that you run into.

A good example of this is a Word processor. Every writer knows how to use one. But not every writer can:

  • Fix the problems they run into. For example, do you know how to deal with a corrupt Word file?
  • Build an attractive template.
  • Use shortcuts to insert longer strings of text or create and effectively use even simple macros.

Basic photography

Towards the end of 2011, my wife and I sold our house. Just before the house went on the market and after our realtor staged it, I took a few photos. Then, the photographer that our realtor worked with took some photos.

There was no comparison.

The differences weren’t just down to the gear we used — he was using a DSLR and I was using the 5 megapixel camera on my smartphone. The difference had to do with his superior knowledge of composition, lighting, and setup.

So, what does that have to do with you? There will probably come a time when you’ll want or need to add a photo or three to an article, blog post, or book that you’re writing. While you can use stock photos, sometimes what you need is the personal touch. Sometimes (as with an article on gardening my wife recently wrote) that personal touch is essential.

With the right training (and you don’t need to become a pro), you can learn to take good photos even with a smartphone. And who knows: maybe by seeing the world through a lens or a viewfinder you’ll be better able to spot detail and learn to describe the world around you better.

Image editing

Whether you’re using stock photos or photos that you’ve taken yourself, you’ll find that you might need to tweak them a bit. Sometimes, more than a bit.

You might need to resize an image, crop it, or properly apply a filter or an effect. Or just get rid of an extraneous object (or person) in the background. That’s what a knowledge of image editing can do for you. Again, you don’t need to become an expert with Photoshop to do that. All you need to understand is how to properly work with an image, and what all the effects and tweaks you can apply to that image will do.

Photo credit: .shock