• Kim Funk

Ten Common Writing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Updated: Nov 16, 2019

Let's face it. Writing is hard. That's why we start learning to write almost immediately when we enter school. It's why writing is so heavily emphasized no matter how much education we have.

And today, in the age of the Internet, where content is king, it's essential. In order to be competitive, you gotta write that stuff down. That's how to reach your customer. And so that's what business owners do - they create a Facebook Page, an Instagram Account, a Twitter Account. Maybe they dabble in Pinterest.

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And they write content to keep their accounts relevant and in front of their prospects. Because that's what it's all about. Staying in front of the customer.

And mistakes happen.

Trust me.

I see them. All. The. Time.

Here are ten of my favorites:

1. Spelling (ahem Autocorrect) Errors

Your, You're; There, Their, They're; It's, Its; Effect, Affect. I swear, so many of these errors are autocorrect all the way. I get it. You're typing away on your phone - and you're thinking about a thousand other things and you hit the post button. An hour later, you look at what you posted and there's a glaring error. Oops! It can happen to anyone. Even professional copywriters (guilty here!) Although we take all the measures in the world to avoid such things, they do happen from time to time.

You can cut down on these errors by consulting a dictionary when you don't know how to spell something and proofreading what you've written a couple of times before you post it. Sometimes it helps to read the copy backwards.

2. Punctuation errors

Too many semicolons. A misplaced comma. Double periods. Uncertainty about whether the punctuation goes inside or outside of the quotation marks. A writer deals with these mechanics every day. And when you write every day, you become proficient at punctuation.

But if you're not used to it, punctuation errors can slip through the cracks. Review punctuation rules and mechanics. And consult a guidebook if you are unsure.

3. Misusing words

Its, it's. Effect, Affect. Regardless, Irregardless. Literally. Do you know what these mean and how to use them? Because even I have to double check effect and affect all of the time. And I'm a writer. Much of writing involves looking words up and making sure you are using them correctly.

It's a painstaking process. But using the wrong word can seriously hurt your credibility.

4. Run-on sentences

Is you name Ernest Hemingway? No? Then just don't use run on sentences ever. A sentence has a subject and predicate. That's it. Run on sentences make your writing convoluted and difficult to read. Cut that stuff down. Or no one will understand what you are saying.

Ernest Hemingway was a genius who mastered the art of communicating with a run on sentence. His work is phenomenal. It is also very difficult to read. Your audience is busy and they want clear straightforward copy. If they wanted to read Hemmingway, they would not be on your website right now. They would be reading Hemmingway.

The average reader reads at a 6th grade level. Write for the 6th grade level. If you have trouble, find software that will tell you what grade level you're writing for. Break your thought patterns into short straightforward sentences.

5. Redundancy

There's repetition and then there's redundancy. Repetition is good for persuasion. By the time the reader gets to the end of your content, they are compelled to contact you about your product. And that's a good thing.

Redundancy is when you use the same word or phrase over and over again. It makes your writing boring.

Read your copy aloud and then cross out all of your redundancies. Then, let it set for an hour and read it again. Cross out the rest of your redundancies. Repeat until all of your redundancies are gone.

6. Boring content

Whatever you wrote is just not interesting to read. Come on. You're excited about your product. That's why you went into business writing about your product. Make that copy sparkle. Channel your inner Shakespeare and create a catch phrase that folks will still use 500 years from now.

Your content should make your customer feel as though your product is the most interesting thing they've ever heard of. They'll want it all the more. Trust me.

7. Too much jargon

I wish I had jargon to say this but, you wouldn't understand me if I did. Maybe your field is highly academic or technical. And even if you're a business to business company, your customer may not have time to decipher all of the jargon. Or acronyms. Just don't. People don't remember acronyms or jargon.

You're not defending your PhD dissertation here. Your audience is your customer, and if you don't know how to explain your product as clearly and concisely as possible, they won't know that they need your product.

Read your copy aloud. Find someone who doesn't know anything about your product and read it to them. And then ask them if they understand what the product is.

If they don't revise your copy until they do.

8. Lack of Organization

Have you ever read something that makes no sense or does not tie into the headline at all? Yep. I think we all have. People are putting up content faster than you can say content. And that means, they're rushing. They're throwing things up there before they've organized their thoughts and taken the time to make sure their message is on point.

So they miss the point. And the reader - your visitor - is left feeling empty, confused, and betrayed.

Take the time to organize your thoughts before you start writing. What is it you want to say? How are you going to get your message across to your audience?

Then, once you're done writing, sit down and reread what you wrote. Does it make sense. Did your point come across?

9. Lack of research

Say you've got a blog, and you're writing about a new product or industry trend. Even though you may know a thing or two about your topic, you need to research it. One error can KILL your credibility. And you can lose customers over it. Research that product. And your market. Provide links to that research in your content.

Your customer wants to know you're an expert. And they want to know why you're an expert. Give them what they want.

10. Plagarism

While your idea may not be original, your content must be original. And it's super easy to copy and paste your research into your content and then not cite it properly. That's plagiarism. It will kill your credibility more than anything. And it's against the law.

Don't. I repeat. DON'T do this. It's easy to credit your sources. And if you need a reference book. Get an AP Stylebook. Just about every professional writer I know has one.

After you've written your post. Reread it and make sure it doesn't sound like anyone else's work. Revise. Revise. Revise until it sounds like you.

Are you overwhelmed yet? Because that's a lot of work. Fortunately, you don't have to do it. You can hire a professional copywriter to do the work for you. A copywriter's job is to make sure your content is clear, concise, persuasive and free of errors. Copywriters know how to write for a general audience in a way that's informative and engaging. And that's the type of writing that will sell your product and drive your business forward.

If you'd rather spend time running your business that writing about it, contact me today!

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