You may have a great story to tell, but if you’re hampered by poor writing habits then you’ll struggle to rise above the common herd and have your wonderfully masterful prose appreciated by the world as much as it undoubtedly deserves.
Amateur writers aren’t alone in their bad habits – professionals suffer from them as well. Hopefully the discussion in the following list will help you to eliminate some or all of the ones that you might be afflicted by.
1. Exclamation Points
Exclamation Points should be used sparingly, if at all. The more of them you use, the less credible your words become. A good writer can usually get the tone of their message across without feeling the need to resort to their use.
Of course your subject matter also dictates whether they might be appropriate – using them in an academic or company business post would be much less appropriate than in a post describing your latest vacation.
2. Long Paragraphs
People reading on the internet, particularly mobile users, tend to scan text rather than reading from top to bottom as in a book. Their eyes tend to jump around the screen, glancing at headings, images and key phrases.
Thus it’s become common knowledge amongst those writing online posts or articles that they should keep their paragraphs short, the usual advice being 1-3 sentences. Any more than that and you risk losing your reader’s attention.
When tempted to use buzzwords, always be aware of the audience for whom you are writing. It may work for certain audiences, but confuse and mystify others. When writing for general audiences it’s best to eliminate them entirely, or at least accompany them with a definition.
If the context is ok then by all means include them – just be careful not to overuse them.
4. Being Boring
Most readers won’t mind too much if you make occasional spelling or grammar mistakes, but commit the crime of boring them and they’ll be flitting off to one of millions (billions?) of other blogs in a nanosecond. Chances are they’ll never cross your virtual threshold again.
One sure way to bore people is to have your sentences ramble on and on without a period – on the net, favor short sentences.
Unless you’re writing for academia, stick to plain english and use short words rather than long ones. Most readers prefer to be lazy, so don’t wear them out. Mostly they’re reading your blog hoping to find solutions to ther problems, and couldn’t care less about your extensive vocabulary.
Another tip to avoid being boring is to ruthlessly edit your copy, eliminating as many unnecessary words as possible.
Ok this is a tough one (God knows I’ve put it off for long enough!) When it comes to procrastination it seems that different things work for different people.
Procrastination happens when people are anxious or have dread about an important job that needs to be done. They’ll go watch television or open up Facebook rather than deal with it right away.
One solution is to break down the task into smaller ones. First complete the outline and title, then focus entirely on the requirements of the first paragraph.
Mark Twain said “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.” In other words, do the task you like least straight away and you won’t have to procrastinate about it.
6. Editing Before Completing Your First Draft
If you try to edit your work as you go you risk losing the writing flow, as well as focussing on how it’s written rather than what is written. If you’re trying to edit every sentence after completing it then you’ll probably forget your ideas and lose writing momentum.
Thus most experienced writers recommend to make it a rule to leave the editing until you’ve finished the first draft. Then you can check your spelling and grammar and capitalized words etc, and possibly use a tool like Grammarly to help you find your mistakes.
It’s also often a good idea to have a third party do the editing for you – you can hire Virtual Assistants on sites like Fiverr.com for instance for a reasonable fee.
“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” When it comes to blogging, sadly, there are a multitude of flatterers out there in the blogosphere. Why bother going to all the trouble of creating your own post when you can just copy and paste?
Well for one thing it’s bad for SEO (Google will penalize your website for it), and for another it’s bad for your reputation, since it’s probable that sooner or later someone familiar with the original source will stumble upon your stolen prose and make a fuss about it.
Mind you most of the plagiarizers out there aren’t completely lacking in subtlety – they’ll usually plug the hijacked text into a ‘content spinner’ before proudly posting the result on their blog.
However Google has made a massive investment to detect spun content, and if they detect enough of it on a site that site can get hit with a huge search ranking penalty.
So do the right thing and take the trouble to create your own original content – you’ll reap the rewards with SEO, traffic and conversions.
8. Not Writing an Outline
Another bad writing habit, the failure to commence writing a post without first creating an outline can end up costing you a lot of time and unnecessary trouble. A good outline is also handy for beating the dreaded ‘writer’s block’.
After you’ve selected a topic and created your headline, the next step is to come up with some key points. If you’re having trouble coming up with more than a couple then you probably need to do some more research.
Once you have enough key points then you should be able to produce a rough draft that will form the basic skeleton of your post. Remember too that each blog post should have one key message that you’re trying to convey to your readers.
What other bad habits should be added to the list above? Let me know in the comments.
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