5 Common Mistakes That Make Your Writing Less Impactful.
When it comes to impactful writing, less is more.
But tightening your writing by omitting needless phrases is harder than one may think.
If you struggle with long-winded sentences, refer to this list of common writing mistakes. It will help tighten your writing style, focus your key message and communicate it clearly, minus the redundant content.
Note: Editors will check a few things when analyzing a piece of content, including:
- Macro Edits — To evaluate the framework of the storyline, such as how the content flows, if it makes sense, the writing tone, and if the piece answered queries that readers asked.
- Micro Editing — Which entails going deep into the nitty-gritty of editing processes and language issues.
With that in mind, consider these five common mistakes that make your writing less impactful and what you can do to remedy them.
1. A Needlessly Long Introduction
If your intro is over 152 words, it’s long by most search engines’ content standards.
Curating an attention-grabbing introduction can be challenging. Why?
It gives readers a look into your sense of logic; which means your writing style, research competence, and, ultimately, the effectiveness of your findings and conclusions.
As the saying goes, “you never get a second chance to make a good first impression.”
The pressure is on.
A good blog introduction should satisfy three things;
- Motivate readers to keep reading, for example, using a personal story to make it relatable.
- Introduce a new point of view (POV) on the subject. For example, using a (relevant) joke, including an expert quote, describing an issue, etc.
- Readers want actionable content so, set up the scene by including a sneak peek of what to expect. Ideally, state what a reader will learn or be able to do at the end of the captivating read.
Tip — Once you’ve written your lede, re-read it to determine if you should add or delete any sentence or paragraph lines without losing the plot.
If you struggle to create a captivating opener, finish the draft first, then jot down a few words that play off the article title.
2. Non-Factual Explanations
I compare this to a technique in the illusion world called “handwaving.” A magician uses it to shift the crowd’s attention from the actions behind a magic trick.
Writing a piece with little to no backup or proof, what you’ve written effectively, becomes redundant.
A thought-through explanation logically describes the stages in a process that tells your readers how an object works or why something happens.
Tip — Don’t assume all readers comprehend your content, nor should you overestimate or underestimate a reader’s intelligence.
Use details to prove a point, whether explaining how to convert pdf files to word or proving that oranges help keep colds at bay. Whenever applicable, link relevant claims to authoritative sources.
3. Misuse of Passive Voice
By definition, passive voice is a grammatical voice where a VERB dominates the SUBJECT of your sentences.
For example, “The movie was enjoyed by all,” “The ball was chewed by the dog,” or “Vegetables are disliked by children.”
At its core, passive voice misuse makes your writing weak.
Readers are hooked by a proactive main character.
So why, in today’s fast-paced world, would you want to drag your message when your competition includes easily-consumable entertainment mediums that readers can choose over your content?
Using an active voice where applicable will shift your writing from mediocre to superb.
Learning to spot and replace passive voice misuse for an active voice will increase your chance of keeping readers glued to your web pages longer.
Tip — Ensure your subject is doing the action. Only use passive voice when you need to conceal the subject performing the action to emphasize an action, an object, or when the subject performing the action is unknown.
Avoid using passive voice when you have an ACTIVE protagonist.
You can use;
“The make-up does not suit the skin tone,” instead of “The skin tone isn’t suited by the make-up.” Or,
“The ball was thrown by Mark to Mary.” Instead of “The Ball was thrown to Mary by Mark.”
“The barista cleaned the coffee spill,” instead of “The coffee spill was cleaned by the barista.”
In a nutshell, first, identify the passive voice in your sentences. Second, assess the sentence to determine if (said passive voice) is being used appropriately, and if misused, apply the abovementioned tips.
4. Using long-winded sentences
This point is self-explanatory, but it’s worth reiterating. Using long-form content is acceptable when you need to provide detailed material on a given topic.
However, you’ve crossed the proverbial thin line between making sense and beating around the bush when a single sentence is more of a novel than short and sweet.
Blog Editor and Content Strategist at Help Scout, Emily Triplett Lentz, says;
“Your writing will be more concise and persuasive when you lose the overused adverbs and adjectives that ultimately detract from the meaning you wish to impart.” A well-known culprit is the over-use of adjectives and adverbs such as “very,” “actually,” “quite.”
Tip — You can avoid overused words that lose their meaning by learning to spot them from a mile away. It also helps to keep a thesaurus handy to find alternatives.
Reword filler phrases such as:
“I think that tea is sweeter than coffee,” to “I think tea is sweeter than coffee,” or “Tea is sweeter than coffee.”
According to US Editor at The Next Web, Bryan Clark, you can eliminate filler words from your sentences without losing their meaning when you ask yourself;
- Does the word(s) add or detract from the meaning or flow of the piece?
- Can I read a complete sentence without feeling winded?
5. A Non-Existent Conclusion
Where an attention-grabbing introduction serves to hook readers, a captivating conclusion will neatly tie things up to ensure readers come away satisfied.
The beginning and conclusions are what the readers remember most.
Therefore, writing a memorable conclusion that ensures readers remember you and your story is vital to help your piece stand out from the rest.
Tip — At its core, an excellent conclusion will not only tie a story together but will further reiterate your theme in the end.
You can evoke different emotions while ensuring the takeaways come up strong by;
- Detailing supporting arguments and citation to avoid being ambiguous. A conclusion can also state an opinion or provide a solution without (necessarily) recycling words.
- Using a conclusion as a chance to ask readers to engage with your content further, thus ensuring that you direct them to important information or give them something exciting to look forward to.
- Cuing the reader that the article is coming to a close, make use of transition word(s) of summary, for example, “in other words,” “in short,” “in summary,” “in conclusion,” “to sum up,” to mention a few.
While some conclusions can be challenging to draft, your end goal is to tie-up everything in a neat and memorable package.
End things on a positive note, provide the reader with a sense of closure, and summarize key points of your piece.
Now that you’re aware of the five main writing mistakes, let’s address micro issues that most writers get away with, in the absence of a keen “grammar police,” AKA seasoned copy editors;
- Spelling and grammatical errors are a major pet peeve in the writing community, as they can potentially cost online businesses a whopping 50% of their sales.
Make use of premium spell-checking tools to keep sloppy misspellings at bay.
- Homophones are words that sound the same but are worlds apart in spelling and meaning. An excellent example of familiar pair of homophones includes “they’re,” “their,” and “there,” or “affect” and “effect.”
Check out examples.yourdictionary.com, a site dedicated just to identifying and understanding how to best use homophones.
- Apostrophe mishaps can turn any sentence into jargon. Without an apostrophe, a misplaced punctuation mark or lack thereof turns “your” into “you’re,” effectively giving new meaning to a sentence.
- Commas are arguably among the most commonly misused punctuation marks and, thus, a cause of contention in writing styles. Should you use the Oxford comma rule “X, Y, and Z” or the “X, Y and Z” with a missing that last comma?
Will it be:
“Let’s eat grandma.” Or, “Let’s eat, grandma.”
The correct comma placement, in this case, can save grandma’s life or turn her into pizza toppings!
Always use commas to indicate a pause in a sentence, either between phrases, passages, or items on a list.
- Using repetitive words in an article is a sign that you’re struggling to communicate your content. It helps to re-read your piece aloud to determine if you’ve already used the exact words before in your article. Then reduce or replace frequently used phrases.
To sum things up;
While the abovementioned are my top five most common writing mistakes, including macro and micro issues I often encounter, some are style blunders that are up for debate.
The most important thing is to learn from the mistakes you make with each piece you write.
Make a point of re-reading your articles and take note of the feedback you get, be it from your blog readers or boss, and amend as you see fit.
Also, continue honing your writing skills using online writing tools like Grammarly, Hemmingway editor, CoSchedule, Yoast, etc.
They provide feedback and writing suggestions that can help improve your vocabulary, grammar, punctuations, and much more.
Did I miss anything?
I would be interested to hear your insights in the comments section below — happy writing.