1. Overusing Adverbs and Adjectives
Think about which sentence is more effective: “This product is effective and gets the job done” or “This really great product is very effective and really gets the job done super well.” Not only do the extra adverbs and adjectives fail to make the product seem any better, but they actually cause a little mistrust around both the product and the seller. The overuse of adverbs and adjectives makes the pitch seem unprofessional, as if the retailer is trying too hard to convince the reader, rather than being confident in the product’s ability to sell itself.
2. Comma Splicing
Writers often push two separate sentences together with a comma, when really they should remain apart. Make sure you know when to end one sentence and being the next. For instance, “She had a dog, it was red.” is a comma splice. It should read “She had a dog. It was red.”
3. Using Too Many Buzzwords
The audience doesn’t want to feel like you are selling to them, even if you are. Words like “synergy,” “eco-friendly,” and “natural” have lost their meaning. Be more specific and your audience will trust you more. If the product contains less harmful chemicals than the leading brand, say exactly that, rather than just vaguely toting that it is “eco-friendly.”
4. Using a Passive Voice
“Your carpets will be cleaner” is much less effective than, “This will clean your carpets!” Using an active voice engages your audience and is more effective at getting your point across. A passive voice puts your audience to sleep and screams of a lack of confidence in the product.
5. Forgetting Your Audience
Writers sometimes forget that a real person will read their articles (hopefully). Today, there is so much emphasis on search engine optimisation, having a certain percentage of unique content, and packing in as many keywords as possible, that writers forget to actually write for a human, not a search engine. Quality content, that benefits the intended audience, really is the best way to generate traffic. Think about your audience first, before concentrating on SEO.
6. Formatting Errors
Paying attention to paragraph structure and sentence placement is important. No one wants to read a giant block of text on the screen. Format paragraphs into bite-size chunks of information and you’ll keep your audience’s attention until the very end.
7. Not Proofreading
Today there is a big emphasis on creating large quantities of content as fast as possible. Time is money, and for writers, the faster they write, the more money they make. However, it’s always worth it to take the time to proofread. Quality trumps quantity every time, especially when it comes to convincing writing. Providing slipshod work full of typos and typos will not help the writer, your business or your audience.
8. Misusing Quotation Marks
Quotation marks have a place: when quoting someone, word for word, not when the writer wants to indicate irony. Saying the company is having a big “sale” causes confusion in the reader – is the sale not real? Writers often mistakenly use quotations when they want to indicate emphasis of a word or phrase, but this is an astoundingly incorrect usage.
9. Space Filling
Trying to meet word requirements has created a rise in writers creating filler content. This includes: repeating points they’ve already made, in slightly different ways, stuffing sentences with extra adverbs and adjectives and adding unnecessary detail. All of these space-filling techniques bog down the writing and decrease the quality.
10. Assuming Your Reader is Not Intelligent
Your audience is probably just as intelligent as you are. If you can see through your writing, so can they. Space-filling, repetition, and salesman-like vernacular will stick out like a sore thumb and annoy your audience. It’s always instantly clear when a writer assumes that his or her audience is not very smart – there’s no quicker way to lose their attention.
11. Sounding Fake or Salesman-like
“You won’t believe your eyes when you see the results!”
“Act now, before this exclusive offer ends!”
Do these sounds familiar? They will to your reader too, and it’ll likely be reflected in their lack of business and trust.
12. Using the Wrong Word
A good writer must know the difference between “its” and “it’s”, “there,” “they’re,” and “their,” “then” and “than,” “affect” and “effect”, and many other common confused homophones. Unfortunately, however, a shocking amount of them do not. If you are unsure about the spelling of a word, look it up!
13. Switching Verb Tenses
Writing quickly often results in writers forgetting what verb tense they are writing in. Make sure you are consistent with your verb tenses to avoid confusing the reader. For instance “She went to the cafe and has eaten a sandwich” causes confusion concerning when she ate the sandwich – whether it was before or after she went to the cafe. The writer meant to say “She went to the cafe and ate a sandwich.”
14. Over Capitalizing
Poor writers also tend to over capitalize when they want to emphasize, such as “This Product is really Great!” However, this is grammatically incorrect. “Product” and “Great” are not proper nouns and capitalizing them is not an accepted method of adding emphasis.
15. Misusing Apostrophes
Apostrophes are used to show possession and indicate contractions. In the case of “It’s” and “Its,” the apostrophe version indicates the contraction “It is”, whereas “Its” shows possession. If you are unclear on when to use an apostrophe, don’t guess. “It’s her ice cream” and “It’s Karen’s ice cream” are correct, but “The cat plays with it’s ball” is not.
16. Trusting a Spell Checker
Spell checkers will not catch everything. They often miss grammar and punctuation errors and will also miss typos if it creates a word which is grammatically correct, but not the word you meant. For instance, typing “work” instead of “word” would go unnoticed by a spell checker.
17. Writing Too Informally
The formality of the piece depends on the audience and subject of your writing. Often writers will write too informally, using colloquialisms such as “ain’t” and “y’all,” and speaking to the audience on too familiar terms. In the context of writing web content for a professional business and advertising their services, this would be too unprofessional.
18. Writing Too Formally
In contrast, writers will often write too formally for the audience. When writing blog posts, for instance, the tone should be friendly and engage the reader as if you were talking directly to them. Writing a blog post as if it was an academic essay will push the reader away. In short, know your audience and the context of the piece.
19. Not Using a Grammar Book
Even spell checkers and grammar checkers slip up when it comes to grammar rules, never mind your own imperfect memory. Often, any long sentence will be flagged as a run on sentence, even if it is grammatically correct. Use a grammar book for rules you don’t know and avoid relying on the computer to tell you how to write.
Tone is more apparent in writing than most writers realise. If the writer is bored and playful whilst they are writing, it will show in the finished content. Think about what you really want to say and how you want it to come across before you start writing. Your honesty and sincerity will be appreciated.
21. Fragmenting Sentences
Another common mistake writers make, when trying to create emphasis, is fragmenting sentences. “But see for yourself.” Is not a complete sentence, and fragmenting it to create emphasis is unacceptable.
22. Ambiguous Pronouns
“The monitor and the keyboard are sleek and clean, and it works great” contains an ambiguous “it.” Does the monitor or the keyboard work great, or do they both? If there is ever a pronoun that could be ambiguous in your sentence, risk redundancy and use the noun you mean to indicate for clarity. “The monitor and the keyboard are sleek and clean, and the monitor works great” is much clearer and less confusing. The repetition is acceptable when needed for clarification.
23. Unnecessary Detail and Descriptions
Padding writing with unnecessary detail and descriptions is a common error when writers are trying to meet a certain word count. When describing a dress for sale, writing, “The dress comes to about an inch above the knee, has a pattern of yellow flowers covering a blue background, and the flowers are about an inch apart from each other and contain five petals, each with a short stem descending from the centre petal” is more detail than anyone considering this dress would ever want, especially if there is a picture attached to the advert. It produces clunky, cluttered writing, and bogs down the reader.
24. Too Much Repetition
Words, phrases, or sentences can all be repeated too much in the course of one article. Talking about how “great” a product is, because it has this “great” feature and does this “great” thing is just as annoying and meaningless to the reader as repeating that the deal “only lasts for two more days” every paragraph. Trust that the reader has a decent memory and keep the repetition to a minimum.
25. Ineffective Anchor Words for Hyperlinks
Hyperlinks are most effective when linked to anchor words that effectively communicate what the link is leading to. Instead of saying, “for a list of common writing mistakes, click here” with the words “click here” as the linked text, write “Here’s a list of common writing mistakes” making “list of common writing mistakes” the linked text. For clarity and SEO purposes, chose effective anchor words, and while you’re at it, avoid those common writing mistakes.