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If you’re thinking about doing some charitable giving this holiday season, why not give the gift you know best—writing? There are many ways to put your talents to work for others, and doing it for free actually benefits you too. Volunteer work not only teaches new skills, it improves self-worth and confidence and provides an outlet for networking. You might even land some paying gigs in the process!

Ready to give a little year-end writing for free? Here are 12 ideas to get you started:

1. Write Grants for Nonprofits

If you’ve never done grant writing in the past, it’s never too late to start. Seminars and courses on grant writing are widely available, but you might also find a grant writing mentor to guide you through the process. Check with your favorite nonprofit for volunteer grant writing opportunities or go to volunteermatch.org for ideas.

2. Volunteer Your Editing Skills to Schools

Students of all ages and backgrounds could use a little writing help, and many teachers welcome writers to share their expertise. See how you can help a school in your community by volunteering your writing and editing skills—or just visiting to discuss your profession.

3. Guest Blog for a Website

Whether you get a link back to your website or not, guest blogging is a great way to volunteer your talents to another writing professional or startup business. Be willing to blog about whatever would help the website gain exposure and readers.

4. Write for a Community Newsletter

Newsletters contain valuable information for the community. If you have a newsletter you like to read, why not contribute to it? Animal rescue groups, arts councils, chambers of commerce, and other local organizations put out newsletters regularly. Find one that interests you and get crafting!

5. Write a Letter to an Inmate

Check with local and regional prison and correctional facilities for direction on writing letters to inmates. Or, see if a local church has a prison outreach program that encourages inspirational letter writing.

6. Draft a Response to a Newspaper Editorial

Did you read an article recently that got you thinking? Newspapers like to print responses to their editorial pieces from readers. You won’t get paid, but you will get noticed—and read.

7. Contribute to a Nonpaying Magazine

Nonpaying magazines may not be your first choice when it comes to submitting your work, but your contribution can pay off in more ways than monetary reward. You’ll help the editors fill their calendar, support your peers, and give readers the gift of the written word. Submit to a nonpaying children’s magazine or e-zine, and impart your knowledge for the benefit of the next generation of readers and writers.

8. Host a Writing Workshop

Got kids in the neighborhood who like to write? Invite them over for a fun day of writing activities. Play word games, write stories based on a popular theme, or have the kids rewrite a favorite fairy tale. You might also volunteer to host a writer’s workshop at your public library or other venue.

9. Help Fundraise with Free Content

Fundraisers help a worthy cause or an individual in need. Write content to help fundraise, and see how your writing can bring in money to improve the lives of others. If you don’t know where to fundraise, look online for fundraising options where you’re work might be needed.

10. Write a Review

Holiday books and movies are popular this time of year. Volunteering to write a review helps people decide which one to pick. When writing a review, avoid going on a rant. Try to find the positive in everything, but be honest about your opinions and experience. You might also write a review on a new restaurant in town.

11. Tutor for Adult Learners

Want to help adult learners become better writers? Sign up to offer tutoring help. Check with the library or a community center for information on volunteer tutoring work.

12. Volunteer with Distributed Proofreaders

If you like to proofread, volunteering with Distributed Proofreaders might be just the ticket. Distributed Proofreaders welcomes help from anyone who enjoys working with words. You’ll help proofread public domain e-books as part of Project Gutenberg and can do it a page at a time or whatever fits your schedule. For more information, go to https://www.pgdp.net/c/.

Image by Shayla

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exclamation-point-64050_960_720Drills aren’t just for military personnel. In fact, just about anyone can benefit from training exercises—writers included. Here are seven simple drills that can boost your writing skills and make you better at your craft. Try one a day this week, and see how they improve your clarity, creativity, and style.

Take a quiz. On something writing related, like spelling, grammar, or vocabulary. Quizzes can be found in magazines or online and can help refresh your memory and expand your writing knowledge. Plus, they’re fun to do. You might be surprised at how much you know—or don’t know.

Rewrite a sentence. Pick a sentence, preferably a complex one, from a favorite book or a magazine or newspaper article. Now rewrite the sentence to make it stronger, clearer, and more readable. Or, using your unique style, revise the sentence to reflect a different tone.

Read content. From pamphlets to signage to blog posts, content comes in all forms, and taking notice of it can help you become a better writer—especially when you analyze it, edit it in your head, and ask yourself what works about it and what doesn’t.

Study a word. Is there a word you’ve run across lately that intrigues you? Look it up, then study its definitions and origin. Use it in a sentence or in speech. Get comfortable with the word and incorporate it into your writing and vocabulary.

Write a filler. You know those short, front-of -book pieces in magazines, like a list of tips, a simple recipe, or a brief how-to? They're easy to create and a great way to learn how to cut words and write short. Give one a try.

Review punctuation rules. Punctuation is often underused, overused, or misused. Review the rules of punctuation from your favorite style book and experiment with using each mark. Keep in mind that rules are meant to be guidelines, not set in stone.

Write an acrostic. Acrostic poems aren’t just fun to write; they exercise the brain. The best part is, you don’t have to be a poet to write an acrostic. Need some help getting started? Check out these tips on writing an acrostic poem.

Do you have any other drills that help boost your writing skills? Please share your thoughts!