I’ll be honest with you. I’m sure you’ve heard some of this information before in other articles, books, and courses.
However, I still see writers making the same mistakes.
How many times have you read a post that gave you valuable information, nodded along to many of the points, only to never apply the tips in your life?
I’ve done it a buttload of times, and I know you have to — so don’t even lie to me. Today, that pattern breaks.
Today, you take this information, use it, and make your writing better. So, let’s begin.
1. Useless repetition
There are two types of repetition. Repetition to bring a point home, and unnecessary duplication that makes you sound a little tiny itty bit like an idiot. See what I did there?
Sometimes we do this with words. For example, “we gathered in a round circle.” It’s like, no shit, Sherlock. Here I thought you gathered in a triangular circle.
Other times, we do this with entire phrases. “I looked around the entire room. My eyes took in everything in the small place.” If you looked around the whole room, then we know your eyes took in everything.
While you’re editing, watch out for these sneaky redundancies. You’ll catch them faster with practice.
2. Keeping in “that”
What sounds better? “I thought that if I apologized, that Alex would forgive me,” or, “I thought if I apologized, Alex would forgive me.”
Don’t be fooled by my What sounds better? question. I’m not actually asking for your opinion — there’s a right answer.
The latter sentence is better. It’s clearer, and you can see how useless “that” is. There are exceptions, but I trust you’re smart enough to figure out when it’s right to use it and when it’s not.
If it’s not, then bye-bye, “that.”
Tip: Use the Find command on your laptop to search for “that.”
3. Making sentences the same word-length
Here’s a paragraph from the first blog post I ever wrote.
“We live as people who depend on others for happiness. We wait for people to make us feel good. We expect people to tell us we’re beautiful.”
Crap, sorry. I fell asleep on my keyboard.
As you can see, same-length sentences are boring. Here’s how I’d write that now.
“We depend on others for happiness. We wait for others to make us feel good and call us beautiful.”
It’s a short example, but you can already see the difference. So, vary your sentence length.
Five words. Fifteen. Eight. Eighteen. Ten. And so on.
4. Being emotionless
Yesterday morning I wrote an article called “Your Creativity Has Not Left You.”
It’s supposed to be a motivational type of story for writers who can’t write (because the Universe is funny like that).
Anyway, I didn’t just want some inspirational shit anyone could write. I needed to add emotion. So, I talked about a scenario I went through that I knew others would be able to relate to.
That made all the difference.
I don’t expect every post to be emotional, but when it can be, add it. Be vulnerable.
5. Comma splices
A comma doesn’t signify the end of the sentence, a comma isn’t a full stop.
Unless you’re writing dialogue or purposefully adding a comma instead of a period, watch out for those small assholes. Use a period at the end of a sentence.
Easy enough, yeah? (Apparently not because I make this mistake a lot.)
The phrase above should be: A comma doesn’t signify the end of a sentence. A comma isn’t a full stop.
There are three ways to fix a comma splice. You can add a conjunction, change the comma to a semicolon, or make each independent clause its own sentence.
6. Refusing to erase personal anecdotes no one cares about
Earlier today, I was editing an article, and there was a story of mine in it, but I realized there was no point in sharing it.
I kept trying to find a way to keep it in because I wanted people to read it, but in the end, I knew it would have to go.
It’s not that your stories aren’t interesting (sometimes). Some just don’t belong in specific articles. Unless your aim is to bore or confuse the fuck out of your reader, leave em’ out.
7. Leaving sentences in only because they’re well-written
“In writing, you must kill all your darlings.”
— William Faulkner
You’ve heard it before, and yet, you refuse to do it. Sometimes you’ll have a stroke of genius and come up with a beautiful metaphor, or you’ll articulate something so well you think you deserve a Pulitzer.
No matter how wonderful a phrase, cut it the hell out if it doesn’t make sense with the article, or if it doesn’t add anything to your main point. You don’t have to murder and erase its existence from the face of the Earth.
Just cut and paste it to another document. Easy. Well, not easy, but you know what I mean.
8. Not reading your work out loud
No one’s asking you to scream it from the rooftops, so I don’t know why you’re refusing to do this. After you’re done editing, read. your. article. out. loud.
Why is this so important? It’s all about flow and making your article a smooth read. You want your readers to have a great experience as they read your work.
As you read, watch for any time you stumble, get stuck, or run out of breath. Add commas or erase them. Add words or delete them. Make sentences less wordy — but don’t make every sentence the same length, as we talked about.
Basically, edit anything that sounds like crap.
9. Not using contractions
I do not like our president. Women will not stop until they have equal rights. Positive LGBT representation should not be this hard to find. I am not sorry for these example sentences.
Nobody in the freaking world talks like that. Use contractions when you write.
Don’t. Won’t. Shouldn’t. I’m. Isn’t. Wouldn’t. That’s the natural language we want from you. Not some WALL-E shit.
10. Not using phrases you can shorten to one word
I learned this point from Dr. Clare Lynch. She (basically) says to stop being so extra and to reduce long phrases that have no business being so wordy.
“Despite the fact that” → “Although”
“I came to the conclusion” → “I concluded”
“We came to an agreement” → “We agreed”
Avoid that shit like the plague. Oh, and an extra tip? Stop using clichés like, “avoid it like the plague.”
Now you know ten more mistakes to watch out for when editing. The question is — what are you going to do about it?
Will you move on and forget this information, or will you finally apply it in your next editing session?
(P.S. There is a right answer.)