Writing mistakes can make your message seem unprofessional, hard to follow, or downright impossible to read. However, by writing clearly, you sort your ideas properly and help your audience along the way!
Unfortunately, even talented writers are often held back by common mistakes. Unfortunately, these are the nagging issues that seem to persist well beyond high school and into our professional and personal lives.
We want a world without writing mistakes, which is why we’re highlighting the five most common ones in today’s article. So, when writing your next article, email, novel, or just journaling for fun, use this handy reference! Let’s begin.
1. Mixing Up Similar Words
Modern spellcheck tools do an excellent job of saving us from misspelled words most of the time. However, these technologies might not detect when similar terms are mixed up and used incorrectly in our sentences.
Think of the classic trio of there/their/they’re or tricky homonyms like affect and effect. Unfortunately, these words will fly under the radar of many spellcheck programs and damage the credibility of your writing in the meantime.
Keep a mental list of the words and phrases that often get confused in your writing, and always proofread your piece in addition to the usual spell check.
2. Extra (or Missing) Apostrophes and Commas
As some of the smallest symbols in the English language, we don’t pay much attention to apostrophes and commas in most cases. Still, we’ve got to play by grammar rules, which means using these tools the right way.
Be sure to use apostrophes whenever you shorten words into an abbreviated form, like “can’t” or “won’t.” Apostrophes also indicate possession ownership, such as “Mike’s bike” or “Roy’s toys.” Don’t forget the “its vs. it’s” distinction, either.
When it comes to commas, the rules are slightly looser. You want to place a comma to separate an independent clause or after an introductory clause or phrase.
Commas also indicate a direct address to an individual and create lists that are easy to follow. As always, use commas appropriately in the context of dates, titles, numbers, and addresses.
Some writers overuse commas to appear more sophisticated. Commas aren’t always necessary! Sometimes it’s better to cut a sentence short and skip the comma for clarity’s sake.
3. Sprawling Sentences
Speaking of short sentences, run-ons are a common issue for writers at any level.
Longer sentences aren’t always better. The opposite tends to be true! If your sentences are sprawling and hard to follow, it’s time to get more concise.
Forming smaller sentences proves challenging at first. Reading flowery literature and dense scholarly texts doesn’t help. Instead, try experimenting with shorter sentence structures and see what happens. Short sentences rule!
You’ll soon find that compact, precise sentences are more effective than run-ons. This makes the editing process far easier, and readers will appreciate your efforts.
Meanwhile, this handy WordCounter will help keep your sentences in check. See if you can shoot for under 20 words per sentence in your next piece.
4. Incorrect Use of Quotations
Quotes are common in everyday writing, whether citing a primary source or writing dialogue. A quote shows that you’re taking the source seriously, but it needs to be executed with precision.
There are a few rules surrounding quotes that often go overlooked. Integration and comma placement are the most common. In addition, quotes should be introduced with care and logically flow with the piece.
For example, you would never just drop a quote out of nowhere with no leadup or transition. It helps to start a quoted sentence, then break to indicate the speaker or source before concluding the statement.
“Writing should be a joy,” said the poet, “not a chore.”
Also, note the placement of commas in this sentence that makes it easy to understand and stay on track. Punctuation around quotes can be tough to learn, but the rules are easy to apply once you know the ropes.
Remember that commas and periods always go inside the quotation marks, while dashes, colons, and semicolons go outside. Likewise, exclamation and question marks can be placed inside or out, depending on context.
5. Awkward Sentence Structure
An awkward sentence can leave readers confused, annoyed, and turned off from your writing altogether. Your goal is to make sentences flow naturally and create an easy reading experience for all.
Unnecessary shifts in verb tense and non-parallel structures can throw any sentence out of whack. “Agreement” is the key term here. Make sure every element of your sentence is aligned in the correct tense, with related ideas that fit together intuitively.
Everyone writes an awkward sentence now and then, which makes editing crucial. It can help step away and return to a draft later on or get a second opinion from a friend or colleague.
Writing mistakes shouldn’t hold you back from expressing your ideas and making an impact! So keep these points in mind for precise and flawless writing every time.