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7 All-Too-Common Writing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

This is a guest post by Ali Luke.

Are you damaging your blog’s chances of success … without even realizing it?


Photo Credit: Anonymous Collective on Flickr

Lots of very good writers still get some blogging basics wrong. And if you know writing isn’t your strong point, avoiding these seven mistakes will make your posts dramatically better.

This is a guest post by Ali Luke.

Are you damaging your blog’s chances of success … without even realizing it?


Photo Credit: Anonymous Collective on Flickr

Lots of very good writers still get some blogging basics wrong. And if you know writing isn’t your strong point, avoiding these seven mistakes will make your posts dramatically better.

Mistake #1: Only Writing when Inspiration Strikes

Inspiration is a powerful force … but a fickle one. If you only write when you’re inspired, you’ll start to confuse your readers with three posts one week and no posts for the next month.

Avoid it: Learn to turn inspiration on when you need it. That could mean having a writing ritual where you always sit down with a coffee in your favorite mug at blogging time. It sounds a bit silly, but it can really work for getting you in the “write” mood.

Mistake #2: Not Having One Clear Point

Many bloggers get tripped up by knowing too much, rather than too little, about their topic. It’s easy to end up throwing everything into your post – only to end up with a rambling, chaotic piece that goes off in five different directions and makes it tough for the reader to engage.

Avoid it: A little forward-planning will ensure your blog post does have a clear point (which can, of course, be split into sub-points). Coming up with a great, focused title can be a good way to pin down the point of your post.

Mistake #3: Having a Long-Winded Introduction

Introductions should grab the reader and move them swiftly into the main content of the post. If your introduction goes on for too long, you’ll lose the reader before you’ve even begun.

Avoid it: Cutting the first paragraph you wrote often works well to sharpen your introduction. If that isn’t going to work for yours, you can almost certainly trim down the rest – for instance, you don’t need to spell out, blow by blow, what you’re going to cover in your post.

Mistake #4: Writing in Long, Dense Paragraphs

Reading on a screen is tougher than reading on paper, and if your post is made up of long, dense blocks of text, people will click away before reading a single word. If you’re used to writing academic material, you may find this a particular problem.

Avoid it: Write in short paragraphs, and use subheadings and bold text to break them up. (You might prefer to do this while editing rather than during the first draft of your post.) A good rule of thumb is to keep paragraphs to no more than three sentences.

Mistake #5: Being Too Formal

Most blog readers expect a friendly, chatty tone – and they don’t want to read posts that sound like lectures. Complex vocabulary and technical jargon often put up a barrier between you and the reader, as do passive sentences. (“The ball was thrown” = passive; “I threw the ball” = active.)

Avoid it: When you edit, look out for overly-formal words. If you need to use jargon or acronyms, explain them. Keep sentences short, simple and direct – you’re not trying to impress your high school English teacher here.

Mistake #6: Leaving Out the Call to Action

A “call to action” is a prompt like “Check out my new book here” or “Leave a comment below to tell me what you think.” It’s a powerful way to increase engagement and conversions – but many bloggers end their posts without giving the reader any clues about where to go or what to do next.

Avoid it: With every post you write, ask yourself what you want the reader to do after reading it, and write a call to action. Bonus points if you can easily link it to the post itself. (E.g. “subscribe to my blog” works well if your post is part of a series – readers won’t want to miss the next part.)

Mistake #7: Publishing Without Editing

If you breathe a sigh of relief as you finish your draft and hit “Publish” straight away, you’ve lost the opportunity to make your post as good as it could be. Publishing without editing results in posts that aren’t quite there – with half-realized thoughts, or lots of spelling mistakes.

Avoid it: Let your post rest for at least a few hours before you read it through and make edits. Pay attention to the big picture (structure and flow) as well as the details (spelling, grammar and punctuation).

Have you spotted one of these mistakes on blogs that you read? Or is there a mistake that you need to watch out for in your own writing? Let us know your thoughts in the comments…

By Ali Luke

Ali Luke blogs at Aliventures, tweets as @aliventures, and has two lovely children who only occasionally try to delete her drafts-in-progress. She’s working on some special resources for writers/bloggers with kids: if you’re interested in those, just fill in the short survey here and leave your email address.

26 replies on “7 All-Too-Common Writing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them”

Good stuff. About #7, I think it’s also important to check for factual errors in addition to grammatical ones, and verify your facts before hitting that publish button.

Also, many bloggers also tend to use English/language/words that are often too complicated. Your content will probably be seen by people all across the world, essentially anyone with internet access. It is important to keep it simple when it comes to language. You’re writing for a broad base of audience from different parts of the world.

Thanks, Aaron, those are great additions. I absolutely agree that fact checking is important (and I often find the editing stage a great time to triple-check that I’ve spelt all names correctly, as it’s very easy to make a slip there).

Very good point about keeping language simple: it’s obviously important when writing for an international audience, as you say, but it’s also the case that simple words tend to be more powerful and engaging for everyone.

Long winded opening paragraphs are sort of like my thing. You know, like wearing a fedora or something. OK, ok….you’ve got me there. I could probably cut the opening paragraph out of everything I’ve ever posted. Good point 🙂

Well, you just *might* be able to get away with long opening paragraphs as a stylistic quirk, Alexis … but I’m not sure I’d recommend it. 😉 Good luck seeing what you can cut out!

Good tips, especially editing – I wrote an article yesterday and proof read it no less than five times. Each time I found at least one spelling error as well as some grammatical errors. I also left out a call to action, thanks for the reminder.

Thanks, Roz! I’m always amazed at how many times I can proof-read my own articles and *still* find errors … it’s often much easier to spot the mistakes in other people’s writing. I think our eyes and brains tend to glide over the words a little too easily when they’re familiar to us.

Great post and definitely something I will keep an eye on. I think the most difficult part for me has to be the editting and mistake 7 definitely rang true. For some reason I have always had trouble with that. A trick that has helped is read the post out loud though. I can usually catch some errors but really wished I had an editor to check my posts!

Reading out loud is a great trick, Dan — I’m always amazed what I catch when I do that! I also find that printing a post out, or even simply changing the font, can help me see errors more easily.

Thanks for including the part about editing at the end. I’m still amazed at the amount of bloggers who just do a brain dump into their post and then hit publish. Yikes! Nobody is ever going to write something perfectly the first time. You can forget words, or points, or references.

I love the suggestion to disconnect for a few hours. I try and do something away from the computer during that break. If it’s impossible, I’ll do something fun, like play a quick game of Solitaire (not at work!) or check my social media accounts.

Great post, Ali!

Thanks, Mandy, really glad you enjoyed the post! I think brain dumps are great for working through ideas — but definitely not so good as finished blog posts: like you, I still them happening a lot in the blogging world. If my post encourages just one blogger to plan and edit more carefully, I’ll be happy! 🙂

*cough* It’s hard to admit that I know for a fact my sentences are sometimes way too long which could have been simplified if split up into two or sometimes even three.

I have to agree on using a “comfortable” informal ‘language’ within the English literature if I may when considering you are writing to an international audience to whom I assume the majority English being their second language. (see what I mean about my sentences? I’ll get there with more practice 😉 )

I have only recently started taking the “let your drafts sit for a few hours before editing” approach and I can honestly say that my overall quality has improved tremendously. I couldn’t agree more on that we tend to glaze ‘easier’ over our own, more familiar words than those of others. I think especially since you know exactly what you’re about to say next as opposed to reading someone else’s writing and having the urge to fully concentrate or you may miss-interpret the message the writer intended to portray.

Thanks for these wonderful reminders!

Thanks Ruan, and it’s great to hear that your extra attention to editing is paying off. 🙂 I think it’s natural for us to write quite long sentences sometimes, and I often use the editing phase as a chance to revise these.

I think it’s absolutely worth keeping in mind the fact that many of your readers won’t have English as a first language — and for me, that means avoiding slangy or regional phrases, even though I keep my posts informal in other ways (e.g. by using contractions).

I was guilty of #4 for many years and boy was I long-winded. I can’t tell you how much better my writing is now compared to years ago when I wrote using long paragraphs. #7 is SO important – people won’t do anything unless you guide them down the yellow brick road. Thanks for this great list!

Thanks Suzanne! I think a lot of people (well, me, at least!) are naturally a bit long-winded in writing … it definitely takes time to learn to write more concisely. It’s great you can see the improvement over the years. 🙂

Keep writing. I think over the last 3 years I’ve written over 1 million words or very close to it. I’ve improved over the years, but I still fall into ruts.

It helps to read plenty within your industry and outside of it. I actually get a lot of great ideas veering into different niches to see what people are writing about. I get all kinds of ideas doing this. Plus it’s fun.

Finally, don’t take criticism personally. I’ve had many readers point out typos. I’m typo prone despite editing. It’s just me. It’s embarrassing, but I’m not going to let fear of publishing prevent me from publishing online.

Jon, great tips, thank you! I think that not taking criticism personally is crucial. We all make occasional typos (I find I can spot other people’s typos a mile off, but my own always elude me…) — thankfully, some readers are kind enough to point them out in an email or direct message, rather than in the comments!

I always struggle to find inspiration when it comes to writing on my own blog.

Mistake #4 – that’s a very good tip, I like the way you have laid out this post.

Thanks Mark, glad you enjoyed the post! Good luck with finding inspiration — I often get ideas from reading other blogs, or from asking my readers what they want to know more about.

Good point #2.

I can catch myself doing that sometimes, which can not be good for me.

Formal writing can have its place, but definitely not the majority of your writing style.

Keep your content interesting as possible and inject your personality into it!

Thanks for the article on writing Ali!

Thanks Samuel! I think readers love to have some personality in blog posts.

I know that for some bloggers, a quite formal style comes naturally (perhaps from writing a lot of essays in school) — but developing a conversational approach is definitely worth the time and effort.

Very good tips. I think #1 can sometimes be helped by paying heed to #2 on your list. If you find yourself putting too much into one post, see if it can be turned into multiple posts. Thanks for the very well written and helpful article!!

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