Catching a person’s attention with the written word is becoming increasingly difficult in a world filled with visual, easy to access content. The competitive world of vlogging has flooded the space where writers once dominated in their preferred format.

But fear not. Craft your articles carefully and audiences will engage. Just be sure to avoid these five pesky mistakes that turn readers off and apply some of these rules.

EASILY CONFUSed WORDS

This is perhaps somewhat obvious to most, and seasoned writers wonder why those who mix the “Its” with the “It’s” continue to write—but you have to start somewhere.

Even for those who have written and published near on a decade or two, the occasional slip up occurs late at night.

The solution? Proofread and edit – after you’ve walked away from the piece. Give yourself a breather, go for lunch, take a nap, or indulge in some exercise before returning to the laptop to look for the obvious ones:

Its is the possessive of “it.”

It’s means it is.

There refers to location.

Their refers to possession.

They’re means they are.

Your is the possessive of “you.”

You’re means you are.

Effect (noun) means the effect experienced by an action.

Affect (verb) means the action that caused the effect experienced.

MISPLACING THE COMMA

To comma or not to comma, that is the question. When do we use it? Do we overuse it? Do we forget to use it? Do we ignore it?

Here are a few basic rules to keep your commas in place:

Rule 1: Use commas before “and”, “but”, “yet”, “so” and “or.”

The interior of a modern car is relatively quiet, but it is not soundproof.
Human existence depends on food and companionship, and these two factors are closely inter-related.

Rule 2: Always use a comma after an introductory phrase.

By 1803, Sydney had a regular produce market.

Rule 3: Use commas to set off phrases without changing the meaning.

Being a fast reader, she completed the test in the allotted time.

Rule 4: Use the comma between 2 or more coordinate adjectives.

The helicopter, with its spotlight, circled above.

Rule 5: Use the Oxford comma before the coordinating conjunction in a series of three or more items where there is a relation between words or groups of words.

Gerry is a handsome, brave, and kind man.

Mixing Tenses

Check the tense used in your work and ensure it’s consistent throughout. Using passive voice contributes to these problems.

Past tense: Lost, stole, threw, worn, won, written.  

Present tense: Losing, stealing, throwing, wear, win, write.

LACK OF ORGANIZATION

Writing is about pinning ideas down in a logical and well-connected format. The audience shouldn’t require a degree to unravel your thoughts, no matter the subject. Make it concise by using these basic rules while keeping word economy in mind:

Have you:

Introduced the topic?

Clarified the paragraph’s intention?

Checked for transitions?

Employed word economy?

Create an Outline: List, question, and map out the chosen topic. Have a firm introduction, body and conclusion.

List each paragraph’s intention: Map out where you want to take the paragraph. Stick to one topic per paragraph and treat it as its own story.

Check for transitions: Does each paragraph flow logically to the next one? Check for topic sentences at the beginning of paragraphs, construct your thesis, and employ an overall ease of transition.

Word economy: Cluttered, lengthy sentences tend to lose the reader and engage in passive voice. Try a minimal approach. Use one word where you’ve used three, and keep it simple. No one likes a showoff.

PASSIVE VOICE

Every writer has an Achilles heel and the passive voice used to be mine.

Active voice: A passing yacht rescued the survivors.

Passive voice: The survivors were rescued by a passing yacht.

Past and present tense plays a huge role in how passive voice plays out, but it can be sneaky too.  Worthy of an entire book, here are a few rules to avoid passive voice.

Eliminate “to be” and avoid lengthy, inflated sentences.

Use active verbs like must deliver verses the passive must be delivered, or he writes versus he had written.

The active voice does something, while the passive voice indicates the subject undergoing an action.

Chances are, if you’ve blundered on these mistakes more than once in an article, a savvy reader will unlikely return.


This article is a free and open source. You have permission to republish (5 Common Blog Writing Mistakes) under a Creative Commons license with attribution to TS Books

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