Breaking your bad writing habits

Bad habits go beyond binge-watching Netflix and pigging out on potato chips. As a writer, you likely have a few bad habits up your sleeve—whether you realize it or not. I used to have a knack for using exclamation marks excessively. What can I say? I’m an excited writer! However, there are four common habits among writers that need to be remedied. What are they and how can we fix them? Read on for more details.

IGNORING YOUR AUDIENCE WHEN YOU WRITE

When writing in high-pressure, deadline-driven environments, writers often forget a thing or two. One of those can be our audience. In a mad rush to get the words out of our head and onto the paper, we sometimes forget who we’re writing for. Or, in a freelance world, we may cave in to the demands of our clients and write whatever they want, however they want it. So, that 2,000-word blog post your client wants you to write for new moms? Not the best idea. Knowing your audience, they don’t have time to sit and read 2,000 words with a flailing newborn in their arms.

Instead, keep your readers in mind. Position yourself as one of them, and write what they’d want to read. If you think it new mom won’t dive into a 2,000 essay, then suggest a shorter blog, or a three- or four-part series to break it up.

HIDING YOUR TOPIC BETWEEN THE LINES

New writers often fall prey to failing to address their topic right off the bat. Otherwise known as “burying the lede,” it refers to not addressing the most interesting and attention-grabbing elements of an article up top. Readers shouldn’t have to read too far to know what it is you’re writing about. Especially in today’s digital realm, where you only have a few seconds to grab a reader’s attention, your blog posts and online articles need to hit home early on.

When writing, remind yourself that readers are rushed. Find the most captivating element of your topic, and lead with it. Only then will you be able to draw a reader in. Then, get to the point and tell them exactly what you’re writing about. Too much information can bore readers, and so can too many statistics. Instead, include hyperlinks to the statistical source, or include a list of quick facts at the end of your copy.

OVERUSING THE SAME WORDS AND PHRASES

Words or phrases that don’t add anything to a sentence can quickly be omitted. As writers, we often lean on these without even knowing it. If you can read the sentence without those words/phrases, then delete them. For example, “As many of you already know, summer work hours will begin this week.” How can we fix this sentence? By cutting to the chase. “Summer work hours will begin this week.” Much better and more concise, too.

When you edit your work, cut these words out. The more you write, the more obvious they’ll become. Then, instead of crossing them out in the editing phase, you’ll be able to catch them as you write—if not before.

INCLUDING JARGON OR COMPLEX WORDING

If you’ve read my blog on writing with clarity, then you (should) already know that plain language always wins. Readers shouldn’t have to stop and Google words as they go. Use simple words so that the majority of readers understand your copy. Save corporate jargon and scientific terms for technical reports. Writing for the public should appeal to the masses. Also, Short sentences of approximately 10 syllables also help to present ideas succinctly.

These are just a few common writing habits that I’ve cut out of my writing. They’re also some of the most common elements I look for when editing others’ work. Which bad writing habits would you tack to this list? Comment below, and let’s tackle them together.