What are your most common writing mistakes? The more quickly you recognize them, the faster and better you’ll write! Here are several mistakes that experienced freelance writers, novelists, and writing instructors often make — plus several tips for strong writing.
Before the writing tips, a quip from Socrates:
“Employ your time in improving yourself by other men’s writings so that you shall come easily by what others have labored hard for.”
Basically, he’s saying that to be a successful writer you need to learn from other writers’ mistakes and stop making the same old writing mistakes. These tips for strong writing will help — and for more grammar tips, read Mignon Fogarty’s Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing.
Common Writing Mistakes – Plus Tips for Strong Writing
Using weak words repetitively. “I use some weak words, such as “maybe” and “endless”, repetitively in fiction, but it’s not such a big problem in non-fiction,” says freelance writer Maija Haavisto, of Fiikus. Her tip for strong writing? “Go through your text with a fine comb several times to see if you repeat the same words or sentence structures. Once you know what you’re prone to repeating, go through your new texts with the Find tool. I usually underline the words I use repeatedly and then delete some.” Haavisto also reminds writers to put words that aren’t absolutely necessary out of their misery!
- Fellow scribes, Haavisto’s writing mistake highlights the importance of knowing yourself as a fiction versus non-fiction writer. You may make different mistakes in different genres.
Overusing em dashes (–) and ellipses (…). “One of my pet peeves is when I edit others’ writing and EVERYTHING is in quotes,” says author Angela Shipp, of Blue Healer Diary. Her writing tip? “While an em dash can create a flexible and decisive pause, sometimes a comma or semi-colon is as appropriate and less distracting to the reader. A comma or semi-colon can easily provide a pause and imply contrast or association, in a more elegant fashion.”
- Both of Shipp’s writing mistakes are ones I commit often! I love em dashes and ellipses – and I’ve read that they make writing more casual and reader-friendly. Interesting that my love is her pet peeve…different strokes for different scribes! (I also have a problem with exclamation points!).
Starting too many sentences with “so.” Writer and writing instructor Dawn Goldberg of Write Well Me overuses the word “so” both in speech and print. Her tip for strong writing? “When I’m blogging, I restrict myself to one ‘so’ in my post. It’s a tough limit. I want to use it SOOOOO much!”
Creative writing instructor Kimberly Davis, of Kim’s Craft Blog, has extra help for writers: “Just cut the ‘sos’ and ‘wells.’ Usually, the transition works fine without them.” She adds that it’s okay to indulge in a few of these to sound casual and “voicey” – just not too much.
The its/it’s writing mistake. “I am a writer/editor so my it’s/its problem is particularly embarrassing,” says Judy Clement Wall, of Zebra Sounds. Her writing tip? “I do an actual search of the document, highlighting every “it’s” and “its” to be sure they’re right. I do the same thing for “there,” their,” and “they’re.”
- Easy writing tip: it’s = it is.
You know, I wish I could, control the whole, comma thing. Novelist and freelance writer Kathleen Fuller, who has three books coming out soon, overuses commas, which makes her writing choppy and hard to understand. Her tip for strong writing? “Get a good grammar book and study it. Sounds boring I know, but if you know the rules (or at least how to find the rules) you can save yourself a wee bit of embarrassment. The Chicago Manual of Style is the best. It’s really long and dull, but it’s the best resource around.”
For more writing help, read 5 Ways to Improve Your Writing.
Fellow scribes, what are your most common non-fiction and fiction writing mistakes – and what are your tips for strong writing? I welcome your thoughts below…