Don’t Make These 5 Writing Mistakes
Okay, “mistakes” might be a little harsh. Some of this is subjective.
And I’ll admit that, when it comes to writing and words, I’m easily annoyed.
If you’ve been around this blog for a while, you might remember my lists of annoying and disgusting words.
Maybe I respect the English language in some weird way, which leads to projecting my expectations on to other writers. I don’t know. This isn’t a therapy session, though, so I’ll get on with today’s post, which, of course, is about writing techniques that annoy me.
I know you didn’t ask, and you probably don’t even care, but here I am sharing anyway.
Don’t do this stuff:
Use unnecessary periods for emphasis.
You’re trying to emphasize a point, so you say something like:
“My stress level is off the charts right now. Off. The. Charts.”
“Oh. My. Gosh. That apple pie was so amazing.”
“John’s naval always protrudes from under his shirt. There. Are. No. Words.”
Don’t do this. Please. Stop.
Use white space to increase drama where there is no drama.
I’m a big fan of short sentences.
They add white space and make it easier for the reader to scan the page.
But it’s also a lazy way to attempt to add drama to your writing where there is no drama.
For instance, imagine me telling you about a tree in my front yard.
The tree has leaves.
The wind blows the leaves.
Sometimes, a leaf falls to the ground.
Sometimes, though, the leaf remains in its place.
On the tree.
Above the ground.
Foliage is awesome.
Use big words where big words aren’t needed.
George Orwell said, “Never use a long word where a short one will do.”
In writing, bigger is rarely better. With the exception of academic writing, larger words and longer sentences are usually a sign of amateurish writing.
While reviewing resume cover letters recently, I saw a lot of writing like this:
“I endeavor to utilize my writing expertise in a manner that brings vitality and originality to the content team in your organization. After freelancing for a multitude of multi-faceted, multi-national companies, I feel exceptionally qualified to communicate to your diverse audience in a variety of tones and styles that, I certainly believe, will match your pre-established criteria of exceptional, superior content.”
You lost me at “endeavor.”
If you’re a writer, your goal should be to communicate in a concise way. Get in and get out.
Build the great wall of text.
This is the opposite of using white space to increase drama where drama isn’t needed. The problem with this “technique”—if you can call it that—is that any level of drama you have within the copy gets lost inside this giant wall of words. Your reader needs to breathe. White space is their visual cue to take that breath. So if you just keep writing and writing and writing without building in any natural break points, you make it exhausting to read your copy. When writing for the web, I believe most paragraphs should have no more than three of four fairly short sentences. That keeps the writing fresh, at least visually, and it allows your reader to scan through the content easier. Because if you think someone is going to read a 1,000 word piece that you’ve broken up into two or three paragraphs, then you’re going to be disappointed. So do you follow me? Do you see what I’m saying about these walls of text? Aren’t you just aching for a breather at this point? Have you even read this far? Do you want to punch me? Okay, I’ll stop.
Write cliched marketing copy.
If you’ve spent five minutes on the web, you’ve probably seen something like this:
“Are you tired of reading the same books over and over? Do you want to spice up your reading life? Then you’ve come to the right place! 101 Books is your one-stop-shop for all things books. This life-changing blog is on the cutting edge of the book blogosphere. Here’s what reader Joe Smith said about 101 Books:
‘I love 101 Books!’ – Joe Smith
That’s great, Joe! And what about you, reader Jane Smith?
‘101 Books is awesome!’ –Jane Smith
You’re even more awesome, Jane!
So what are you waiting for? Subscribe to 101 Books today and watch all your literary worries float away!”
So what’s your take? Am I overly sensitive or does this stuff annoy you too? Did I miss anything?