Writing mistakes are easy to make. Even the most expert of writers makes them. And even if you proofread religiously, you’re likely to miss something. Everyone gets things wrong – that’s a fact. No one is immune from making writing mistakes.
1. Spelling Errors – Even though most people use spell check within their word processing document, sometimes errors sneak in because they’re actually words. One way to edit your document is to use a program like Grammarly.com, which can detect this type of problem.
2. Comma Misuse – People either use too many commas, or not enough. There isn’t really an in-between. People also fight about the proper use of commas. This article by Christina Sterbenz from 2013 is still a great read, though. You’ll learn a lot about commas, but remember – some people will still disagree. Learn more about commas .
3. Subject-Verb Agreement – Often people get mixed up when they use plural or singular and more when it comes to subject-verb agreement. Purdue OWL has a great subject-verb guide that you can learn a lot from to avoid this problem.
4. Avoiding Outlines and Structure – There aren’t too many people who actually like making outlines. Well, maybe some of the more linear thinkers out there. But, time and again writers who learn how to make outlines improve their writing many times over just by having an outline, to ensure that from start to finish all points are covered and the manuscript or article makes sense. The University of Washington has a great resource if you want to learn more about outlines.
5. Using Passive Voice – The cool thing about this is that using passive voice isn’t really grammatically incorrect. It’s really all about style. If you avoid passive voice when you write you’ll be more likely to write something understandable. The Writing Center at UNC-Chapel Hill has a great page all about passive voice that will help.
6. Overwriting – Using too many flowery words can take away from the meaning of your prose. When you catch yourself using too many superlatives, stand back and then use the delete key. One or two superlatives are enough, and zero is better. Don’t go crazy.
7. Using the Wrong Words – You know about these words: Two, to, too, they’re, their, there and so forth are words that are easily mistaken for each other. The college writing center at Meramec has a great handout of misused and confused words.
8. Using Qualifiers – Often qualifiers are needed (“very”, “extremely”, etc.), but sometimes they’re not. People tend to add too many qualifiers to their sentences, making reading clunky. When you put in a qualifier at editing time, if you can delete it and the sentence still works then you don’t need it.
9. Not Breaking Up Paragraphs – This is especially true when your work will be read online. Longer than five lines looks like a big wall of text. It’s hard to read. It’s hard on the eyes and the mind. If you find any reason to have super-long paragraphs, you’re probably over-writing.
10. Lack of Focus – This happens to the best of writers. You’re writing along just fine and then you lose your train of thought, or your article goes off into an entirely new direction. This is the entire reason for rough drafts. But, using outlines will help you remain focused. Research, make the outline, and fill out the introduction, paragraph transitions, and closing. Then fill in each point on the outline and your articles will be more focused.
If you have read though these ten writing mistakes that most people make, you’ve likely even identified some mistakes in this article. But, no one is perfect. You don’t have to be either. However, if you want to improve your writing, tackle one thing you do at a time until you’ve unlearned the behavior. Before you know it, you’ll be right up there with the best.
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