Make sure you don’t commit any of these massive blunders when you write your next piece.
Writing is a series of choices. As you work on a paper, you choose your topic, your approach, your sources, and your thesis; when it’s time to write, you have to choose the words you will use to express your ideas and decide how you will arrange those words into sentences and paragraphs.
As you revise your draft, you make more choices. You might find yourself asking the following questions:
- “Is this really what I mean?”
- “Will readers understand this?”
- “Does this sound good?”
Or something to that effect, and rightly so.
No matter what your content is about, there are some rules you need to follow. You may write on a variety of subjects and topics – sports, religion, politics, fashion, business, entertainment, etc. It won’t matter if your articles are riddled with errors.
Here are some tips to elevate your level of writing and six terrible writing mistakes to avoid. These are the ABCs of writing mistakes.
Common Writing Mistakes (1-3)
In this post, we will focus on the first three writing mistakes.
1. Using tired clichés
2. Redundancy (repetition)
3. Synonym abuse
A – Avoid Cliches
A cliche is a word or phrase that has been so overused in writing that it’s no longer effective. They may be idioms, similes, metaphors, sayings, etc.
Can you junk these cliches?
1. As cool as a cucumber
2. Every dog has its day
3. No pain, no gain
4. A clean slate
5. A pain in the neck
6. A penny saved is a penny earned
7. All your eggs in one basket
8. Dead tired
9. Add insult to injury
10. Beat a dead horse
11. Too little, too late
12. Actions speak louder than words
13. Laughter is the best medicine
14. Those in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones
15. Grab the bull by the horns
16. Apples to oranges
17. It goes without saying
18. Hit the nail on the head
19. In a nutshell
20. Blood is boiling
Avoid these business clichés
1. Think outside the box
2. Low hanging fruit
3. You win some, you lose some
4. Walk the talk
5. Win-win situation
6. Paradigm shift
7. Go viral
In conclusion, try limiting your cliches. We would say avoid them like the plague, but that’s a cliche in and of itself!
“A good writer is a great writer when they can make the cliché work again.” – Gossamer Silverglow
B – Be Concise
Just say it once. There is no need to use two words or sentences to say the same thing. It’s easy to catch and correct.
Examples of Inefficiency
Here are some examples of inefficient sentences, and the correct way to write them:
i. That way is the right direction.
Correct – That is the right direction.
ii. That insect is a weird looking bug.
Correct – That is a weird-looking bug.
iii. There are over 20+ people in that room.
Correct – There are over 20 people in that room.
iv. She heated up the hot stove
Correct – She heated up the stove
Eschew obfuscation and espouse elucidation. Be clear and crisp in your writing and never use a big word when a diminutive one will suffice.
Learn from the esteemed author Ernest Hemingway was famous for his short and terse writing. His writing was minimalist, yet anything but simple. Hemingway kept it short, sweet, and to the point. He even crafted a story in just six words, which was as follows:
For sale: baby shoes, never worn.
Common Redundant Phrases
Be sure to avoid the following phrases as they are repetitive:
- Past history
- 6 AM in the morning
- Still remains
- Advance planning
- Blend together
- Nearby vicinity
- I think in my opinion
- Actual fact
- Revert back / reply back
- Protrude out
- Each and every
- Anonymous stranger
- Empty space
- Adequate enough
- Postpone until later
- New innovation
- Few in number
- Exact same
- Most unique
- First and foremost
- Unexpected surprise
- Brief summary
- Descend down
- Grow in size
- Added bonus
- Foreign imports
- Free gift
- Add up
- Trailing behind
- Ask a question
- Nostalgia for the past
- Shrink smaller
- Hopeful optimism
- Cameo appearance
- Basic necessities
- Absolute guarantee
- Thawed out
- Many various
- Rise up
- Penetrate into
- Completely fill
- Whole entire
- Joint collaboration
- Repeat again
- Tuna fish
These terms are also known as ‘tautology’. Say no to redundancy. Don’t be redundant and don’t use more words than necessary or be highly superfluous.
“If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.” – George Orwell
Ironically, the above quote could be shortened to just “cut words if possible”.
Never, Ever Use Repetitive Redundancies.
Another mistake to avoid is restating the last word of an acronym (ATM machine, PIN number, HIV virus, LCD display, CIA agency, etc.). This is known as RAS syndrome (Redundant Acronym Syndrome syndrome). You may have noticed that all of these are TLAs (Three-Letter Acronyms).
Unless you are using the additional word for emphasis (for example, “free gift” is used a lot in marketing), there is no need for it. “General public” may be another tautology, but it can also be used to mean “in layman’s terms” rather than publicly available.
Sometimes, a word itself is redundant such as ‘irregardless’ and ‘overexaggerate’, so beware.
We’re not saying that a good writer should never repeat themselves (we have certainly repeated ourselves in past blog posts), but that needless repetition brings down the quality of your writing. Not all redundancies are bad, but eliminating them helps make your writing crisper. Redundancies should be killed to death.
Reread and proofread, because if you reread your work, you will find on rereading that a great deal of repetition and repetitiveness can be avoided by you rereading, proofreading, and editing, or having someone else reread, proofread, or edit. This message has been brought to you by the Department of Redundancy Department.
“Finding words that capture your meaning and convey that meaning to your readers is challenging. When your instructors write things like “awkward,” “vague,” or “wordy” on your draft, they are letting you know that they want you to work on word choice.“ – The Writing Center, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
C – Curtail Synonym Abuse
A synonym is a word or phrase that means nearly the same as another word or phrase in the same language. Words that are synonyms are said to be synonymous, and the state of being a synonym is called ‘synonymy’.
Synonyms can be any part of speech such as nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs or prepositions, as long as both belong to the same part of speech.
Examples of Synonyms in Parts of Speech
Synonyms aren’t just limited to nouns. Here are synonyms sorted by part of speech.
Verb – Buy and purchase
Adjective – Big and large
Adverb – Quickly and speedily
Preposition – On and upon
Switch Synonyms Softly-Softly
Note that synonyms are defined with respect to certain senses of words. For example, ‘He expired’ means the same as ‘he died’, yet ‘my passport has expired’ cannot be replaced by ‘my passport has died’!
Synonyms are similar to tautology except they usually aren’t used one after the other. Synonyms are important as you don’t want to state the same word or phrase multiple times in a row. However, make sure the sentence still makes sense with the synonym swapped in.
Although it may be boring to write or read the same word over and over, learn to replace with care. This is especially true with dialogue, as people often resort to using synonyms for “said”. This ends up having the opposite effect, as the focus should be more on the actual dialogue and not whether the character said, told, requested, uttered, vocalized, or begged it.
If you’re not sure if one word can be replaced with another, leave it be. Often times, words like “said” are just glanced over and aren’t as important as we believe them to be.
“I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Optimize Your Content With Opteamize
Those were the first three things to watch out for as a writer. You may not be the next Hemingway, but remember that ‘ABC’ for writing content stands for ‘Always Be Concise’. Flowery prose isn’t bad, but unnecessary text is.
No cliches, redundancy, or synonyms. Have you committed any of these terrible writing mistakes yourself? If so, be more vigilant next time.
Update: Part two has now been published. Read the conclusion.