Motivational and inspirational writer, Bryan Hutchinson is the author of several books about life with ADHD including the highly acclaimed, best selling "One Boy′s Struggle: A Memoir" and the author of the hilarious eBook that went viral "10 Things I Hate about ADHD"

How to Dramatically Improve Your Writing IF You Have ADHD

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I’ve always loved to write.

As a child I would stay in my room writing fantastic stories in my notebook. But in school, I couldn’t learn grammar to save my life.

I never passed an English class, ever. At age 37 I finally found out why. It was because of undiagnosed ADD.

All those painful years in school, listening to teachers drone on and on about adverbs, adjectives and conjunctions bored me to tears. I still don’t know what they all mean, I really don’t. It’s not because I don’t want to or that I don’t try “hard” enough, as some non-ADHD-understanding opinions would have it.

The simple truth is I can’t remember. Well, not in the normal way. Let’s just say, “I know” but I will never be able to pass a pop quiz, and I am cool with that. (Kind of – okay, already, I wish I could remember, you got me, but I can’t. So there.)

However, thanks to some insightful, brilliant teachers online I have gotten better.

#1 Advice

If you ask writing teachers what the number 1 advice is for becoming a better writer most will tell you to read a lot. I believe this is especially true for people with ADHD. Despite my reading problems (yep, I have those, too) I read a lot, I always have. And for the most part that is how I have learned to write.

I write mostly from “feeling”. I put a period here and a comma there because it feels right, not because I know it’s right. Don’t get me started about “Its” and It’s” – I do the same thing, I feel them into place - it’s what I do. However, I’ve been known to get it wrong. But don’t worry, I’m over it.

Comma splices? Oh, goodness. What a headache. As you can tell, I am using periods more frequently now. Just don’t ask me to explain what a comma splice is, please. My solution is short sentences. I’ll claim I’m following in the footsteps of Hemingway, if anyone asks. Hey, do what you’ve got to do, I say.

Of course, not everyone with ADHD has this problem with learning grammar, but for those of you who do I’ve compiled a list of online articles that have helped me improve.

I’ve found that my ADHD brain learns best when lessons are simple, to the point and use clear, obvious examples and that’s what the articles below do very well.

Check out these links:

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From The Write Practice:

The following link takes you to a series of lessons. You can sign up on the page and receive the lessons weekly. That’s what I did. If I try to learn too much too fast I tend to forget what I learned. In other words, I learn best in small doses (Oh, and there’s a lesson on comma splices. Go figure). It seems to me Joe Bunting, the leader of The Write Practice, understands how difficult it is for many of us to learn grammar and how to write better. Joe goes to great lengths to insure the articles are helpful in the simplest manner possible (and that’s hard work).

Good Grammar 101: The Essential Guide

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From Jeff Goins:

Jeff also teaches a special class, Tribe Writers. If you’re interested in finding an audience for your writing Tribe Writers is the class for you. It’s closed at the moment to new sign ups, but I’ll let you know when it reopens. Jeff is a writer and he’s also an outstanding teacher, the link below helped me cut certain words and make my writing more effective (I think).

Five Weak Words that Make Your Writing Less Effective

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From K.M. Weiland:

A Quick Ode Against “That” (Did you know that “that” can be a problem? Don’t get me started. No. Really, don’t.)

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From Live Write Thrive:

Serial Commas Are Serious Stuff (Seriously.)

Handy Hyphenation Chart

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Well, there you go, the links above have helped me and I hope they help you, too.

The reality is if you want to write and be read, then it is important to do the best writing you can and to that end it is a good idea to find out how you learn best. My advice for anyone with ADHD is to find lessons that are explained in the simplest way, are to the point and have clear, obvious examples. If you’re like me, anything else and you’ll get bored to tears.

What has been most difficult for you to learn about writing? Share in the comments.

Check out my latest post on Positive Writer: How to Rock the World and Achieve Greatness as a Creative Person

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connie casey January 23, 2013 at 4:38 pm

Oh you are so speaking to me this morning. My 7 yr old just cries at homework time because he cant read fast enough for what he is reading to make sense. He isnt passing the timed reading or writing and feels ashamed, stupid and refusing to do the work. This morning was especially bad. Do you have any input or advice for such a young kid. My heart breaks for him. I appreciate your article.

Bryan Hutchinson January 25, 2013 at 6:15 am

Hi Connie,

I hear you. I would consider helping him do his homework so that’s he’s not doing it alone and to make some fun of it. Or a personal tutor. If neither of those are possible I would find out about classses for students with reading and writing LD. It’s not shameful to need help and to place him in a class where he can do well, it could be the best choice and he may learn to love reading and writing as I did.

Bests,
Bryan

Anne Peterson January 23, 2013 at 9:08 pm

Bryan,
Great post. Overcoming obstacles is one thing. helping others do it is quite another. I appreciate your transparency and your desire to instill hope in others.

Barb January 24, 2013 at 6:05 am

Brian,
I loved that you said you write by feelings. I do the exact same thing. I barely passed tests on grammar and even failed a few but always got good grades on writing assignments. I used to get so frustrated when I would tell people to just write the way they talk and they didn’t “get it”. I was an adult before I figured out that was much harder for people to do than I thought it should be. It just comes naturally to me. Its good to hear I’m not the only one who does this.

Barb January 24, 2013 at 6:06 am

Oops! I realized I spelled your name wrong as soon as I clicked submit. Sorry Bryan!

Lauren January 25, 2013 at 3:04 am

Bryan
Excellent advice & resources even for those without the struggle of ADHD! (Which one could never tell from your great writing that you have, except for the fact that you bravely share your story) Thank you

Margaret Bertoldi January 28, 2013 at 6:32 pm

Great post, Bryan!
I,too, have always written the way that I speak, and as my parents were sticklers for proper grammar when we were speaking, it just naturally evolved into my writing. (Although it is possible that I love commas just a little too much!). I am always quite happy when I can work in a semi-colon; that little mark just really makes me feel satisfied for some reason I can’t explain!

Kendra Wagner February 2, 2013 at 7:26 am

Bryan,

I could go on and on, as you know, since I teach all ages to write more clearly, concretely, and passionately. Grammar? Well, yes, i teach that too, but no one wants to learn it unless they are invested in their own writing. ADD-ers notably have grandiose and brilliant ideas, but the act of writing means pulling together so many tiny sub-skills, like keeping the reader in mind, sentence variety, sentence structure, synonym use, compound and complex sentences so you sound like you are older than 11, reworking a phrase or paragraph, sticking to a through line, remembering to include the 5 W’s, etc. that our brains go into multi task overload. Or not. Some ADD-ers say that writing in itself helps them focus. I am very impressed with whatever hurdles you overcame to become the writer you are.

Velma February 8, 2013 at 8:12 am

Hi! Thanks so much for your post! Thanks for the links! This morning, I was also thinking that one way to get better with my writing would be to write everyday. I hope to write a screenplay.

It’s easy to get distracted and subsequently, discouraged with the frequency at which ideas pop up in my ADD mind. One thing I do is keep a backburner folder of the ideas with Evernote. I use Evernote ‘cos I can access it from my phone, ipad, or my computer at work. By getting the ideas off my mind and saving them in one location I can access anytime from anywhere, my mind doesn’t worry about forgetting. I’m therefore able to focus on one thing.

Once again for the post and links.

Be Cox March 7, 2013 at 10:28 pm

I’d like to find out if ADHD children experience difficulty in taking certain topic tests in high school. My daughter, is 17, it’s funny we have noted in a couple of her classes when she has a male instructor she doesn’t do well on unit tests. She’s good at studying, primarily, using flash cards. I’ve quizzed her the night before and she knows the answers. She has already met with the certain instructors but it doesn’t seem to help. Any suggestions would help. {OBTW, she was dx at age 9 and has been on different medications but is not taking anything right now}. Thanks!

Craig March 17, 2013 at 8:29 pm

Bryan,

As usual, a great exhibit of research and writing on your part! Thank you such for your insightful information. Although I love to write and have been given a talent with words, I struggle to the point of anger and giving up, with the problem of my mind moving faster than I type. I’ll type a couple sentences or paragraph then reread it and find I have left out words. Even nouns and verbs. Sometimes I can reread it and still not notice the absence of critical words. Sometimes I think of a word and write something else and read it and believe I’ve read the right word when is’t the wrong word. ! I’ve struggle with this my entire life and just thought everybody had the same problem. Just not as bad. I was diagnosed ADHD last year and have come to believe this is just another symptom of my disorder which I must deal with (accept) and another reason why I had to work so much harder in school than my classmates. Have you heard of this symptom before? If so is there anything I can do to help myself? Thanks again for all you do, Craig

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