Common writing errors — and how to fix them

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This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world to find websites, books and articles to help other writers. Today I discuss a blog post about how to fix common writing errors…

Mistakes are an inevitable part of life. Especially for writers.

But you don’t want to submit those mistakes to editors (or embarrass yourself by requiring any readers to see them.)

A recent post by Carol Tice, under the headline “Fix These 10 Common Writing Errors,” outlines 10 tips for bomb-proofing your writing.

They are: 

  1. Proof your headlines and subject lines
  2. Be sure to offer a ‘nut-graf’
  3. Paragraph frequently
  4. Use commas judiciously
  5. Eschew state-of-being verbs
  6. Be judicious with adjectives
  7. Don’t ramble
  8. Offer an intro and an extro for every bulleted list
  9. Use “connectors” between paragraphs
  10. Proofread the whole document thoroughly

As Tice puts it: ” If you recognize yourself in some of these common writing errors, don’t feel bad. Keep studying the types of publications or websites you’d like to write for. Try to soak up their writing-craft conventions. Look at how they start and end pieces, how they cite research and interview sources. You can reverse-engineer better writing for a prospective client with a little bit of sleuthing.”

And as a bonus, be sure to check out the discussion in the comments beneath Tice’s post, relating to passive voice. The conversation illustrates the difficulties many people have with simply identifying the passive.

A verb is not passive simply because it is boring, inactive or written in the past tense. It is inactive because the reader doesn’t know who is performing the verb. For example, the sentence Mistakes were made is passive because the reader can’t know who made those mistakes.

To make the sentence active, simply reveal the actor. For example, The CEO made some mistakes or The teacher made some mistakes.