Elevate Your Writing Skills: Top 10 Content Blunders to Avoid

Elevate your writing skills

Key Takeaways:

  • Most people make the same types of mistakes in their writing.
  • Recognizing common writing mistakes can guide you to improvement.
  • Mistakes in writing can be sentence level or issues with the bigger picture.
  • Most common writing mistakes can be fixed with simple changes.
  • Writing is an evolving art that benefits from practice and feedback.

In the buzzing world of online content, think of polished writing as the twinkle that catches a reader’s eye. Every sentence, every word, can be a cozy invitation to stay a little longer or a tiny nudge saying, “This might not be the place.” And while there’s no secret recipe to whip up perfect content every time, knowing where others often slip can be handy. So, grab a cup of coffee or tea, and learn about the top 10 writing mistakes and the content writing tips that fix them.

Mistake 1: Passive Voice Overuse

Imagine you’re sitting around a campfire, and someone says, “The cookies were eaten by me.” Sounds a bit mysterious, right? That’s passive voice. But if they said, “I ate the cookies,” that’s straightforward and active. When you overuse passive voice, it can make stories feel a bit roundabout. Think of it like a twist in a novel — purposeful once in a while, but every sentence shouldn’t be a riddle.

Mistake 2: Run-On Sentences

Run-on sentences can bury your main points, making it hard for readers to follow along. Imagine jamming two (or more) complete ideas into one sentence without the correct punctuation or connectors. A classic example: “I love ice cream it’s my favorite dessert.” It reads like two thoughts squished together.

So, how do you spot them? Look for sentences that juggle too much. If reading a sentence feels like running a marathon without a break, you’ve probably got a run-on.

Breaking them up isn’t as tough as it sounds. Use one of these content writing tips to help you tame your run-ons.

  • Use a period: “I love ice cream. It’s my favorite dessert.”
  • Add a coordinating conjunction (such as “and” or “but”) with a comma: “I love ice cream, and it’s my favorite dessert.”
  • Use a semicolon if the ideas are closely related: “I love ice cream; it’s my favorite dessert.”
  • Toss in an em dash: “I love ice cream — it’s my favorite dessert.” 

Mistake 3: Inconsistent Tenses

Picture this: you’re engrossed in a story about a character’s childhood. One moment they “play” in the garden, and the next, they “played” with their toys. If your narrative starts to feel like time travel, you may be experiencing the magic (or mischief) of inconsistent tenses. They can whisk readers between past, present, and future, and while time jumps work for sci-fi, it leaves readers dizzy and confused in other forms of writing.

Inconsistent tenses disrupt the flow of a narrative and make the content feel less polished.

Here are a few tricks to maintain a steady timeline.

  • Decide early: Before writing, decide if you’re reflecting on past events, describing the present, or imagining the future. Settling on a primary tense helps maintain consistency.
  • Proofread with purpose: When revising, look for tense shifts. Sometimes, they sneak in without notice.
  • Ask for feedback: A fresh pair of eyes often catch things that may have been overlooked. So, share your piece with a friend or use an online tool.

Mistake 4: Overuse of Jargon or Complex Vocabulary

Navigating the maze of jargon and intricate vocabulary in writing can be challenging. If you overload a piece with complex terms, it might be off-putting to readers, pushing them away before they truly grasp the message. However, that doesn’t mean sacrificing eloquence.

It’s essential to strike a balance. While sophisticated vocabulary can elevate content, the heart of the message should always be clear and relatable. 

Mistake 5: Lack of Parallelism

Parallel structure, or parallelism, is all about maintaining a consistent pattern within a sentence or among sentences.

For instance, consider the following sentence: “She likes hiking, to swim, and playing guitar.” Notice how it feels a bit off? That’s because the activities are listed in different forms: “hiking” (gerund), “to swim” (infinitive), and “playing” (gerund). Now, let’s apply parallelism: “She likes hiking, swimming, and playing guitar.” 

Parallel structure plays a pivotal role in ensuring clarity. By presenting ideas consistently, the writer makes it easier for the reader to follow along and grasp the intended message. When everything structurally aligns, the content becomes more digestible.

Mistake 6: Missing or Misplaced Commas

Comma conundrums often trip up even seasoned writers. Some typical blunders include missing commas in a direct address, leading to unintended meanings like the humorous “Let’s eat Grandma” instead of “Let’s eat, Grandma.” Another hiccup occurs when writers join two independent clauses with a comma, resulting in a comma splice. There’s also the case of misplacing a comma in a direct address or omitting it after introductory elements, creating confusion for the reader. 

Here are some more examples where commas make a big difference:

  • I love my parents, Lady Gaga and Humpty Dumpty.
  • I love my parents, Lady Gaga, and Humpty Dumpty.
  • My brother who is a doctor lives in Boston.
  • My brother, who is a doctor, lives in Boston.

Mistake 7: Dangling Modifiers

Dangling modifiers are words or phrases intended to modify a word, but they don’t actually correspond to the word they’re supposed to modify. This results in amusing and perplexing sentences that can leave readers scratching their heads.

Consider the sentence: “Walking to the store, the rain started pouring.” The way it’s written, it sounds like the rain was taking a casual stroll to the store. The writer likely meant something like, “While I was walking to the store, the rain started pouring.”

Dangling modifiers can create confusion and disrupt the flow of the content as readers pause, backtrack, and reread the sentence to grasp the intended meaning.

Mistake 8: Repetition and Redundancy

Unnecessary repetition in writing can be a pesky pitfall. While emphasis has its place, excessive redundancy can dilute a message, making prose feel monotonous or overbearing. Readers can perceive repetitive content as a sign that a writer lacks confidence in conveying their message or originality in their thought process. 

Mistake 9: Inconsistent Voice or Style

Tone and voice in content are akin to the seasoning in a dish — they flavor writing with identity. Tone refers to the mood or attitude conveyed, be it formal, humorous, serious, casual, or any shade in between. On the other hand, voice is the distinct personality or style infused by the writer, making their content recognizable and unique.

Together, tone and voice serve as a bridge between the writer and the reader. They can resonate with readers on an emotional level, fostering trust, aligning values, or simply making the content more relatable and engaging. 

Inconsistency in tone and voice can jolt the reader, disrupting the narrative flow. Imagine settling into a profound documentary, only to have it suddenly switch to a cartoonish commentary. Such shifts can be jarring and might even cause the reader to question the credibility or intent of the content. 

Mistake 10: Ignoring the Target Audience

Since reader groups bring different ideas, backgrounds, expectations, and personal experiences, writing for a specific audience can help narrow your focus and satisfy your intended audience. Keep your content on point, be precise, and make your readers feel like you’re speaking their language.

Using Content Writing Tips to Improve Your Writing

Every sentence has the power to pull readers in closer. Although there isn’t a secret recipe to achieve perfect writing, being aware of common mistakes can guide your process. Remember that writing is an intricate art that can be improved through practice and an understanding of who you’re writing for. 

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Rick Leach, the Vice President of Content Operations at Crowd Content, is a seasoned professional in orchestrating large-scale content initiatives. At the helm of a dynamic team of content managers, QA specialists, and production assistants, he oversees the team’s production of high-quality content for businesses around the globe. Rick's expertise extends beyond operations management to providing strategic insights on scaling and producing outstanding content, making him a respected voice in the content creation industry.

Rick's journey in the content industry is preceded by more than five years as an Advertising Sales Manager at The Tampa Tribune, where he refined his skills in media sales and advertising. And his entrepreneurial spirit is evident in his successful 17-year venture as the proprietor of an e-commerce business.

On a personal front, Rick's life is as fulfilling as his professional endeavors. A proud U.S. Navy veteran, he enjoys a blissful family life, married with four children and a grandchild. Originally from New England but now residing on the Gulf Coast of Florida, Rick is an avid fan of the Boston Red Sox and the New England Patriots.

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