This is a guest post by Stefanie Flaxman of Revision Fairy® Small Business Proofreading Services
Writing mistakes happen.
Unfortunately for you and your readers, writing mistakes are like speed bumps on the blog post open highway. They slow down the reader and remove her from your world—the created reality that you share through your text.
Since you only have a few seconds to impress new readers, it’s critical to make all facets of your content flawless. If your writing confuses readers or hinders their experience because of a glaring error, you’ve failed.
Here are 21 common writing mistakes that turn off new readers. Eliminate them to demonstrate that you are an authority on your subject and get new subscribers.
1. You have no proverbial welcome mat
Display your personality on your Home, About, and Contact pages to attract and retain readers. Avoid generic descriptions.
Your content is hardly the only item on a reader’s to-do list. Immediately entice viewers and offer them something of value if they stay.
Let’s use ProBlogger as an example. Darren has a brief bio at the bottom of every page on his site, as well as a current video on the Home page. New readers quickly know the person behind ProBlogger.
Darren looks happy in his bio photograph because he makes money blogging. He also wears glasses. Perhaps a new reader wears glasses and likes that he and Darren have something in common. The bespectacled reader decides to read Darren’s blog instead of another blog advice site. (You get the point.)
Inviting tag lines and snazzy logos can also work well. What makes you different from the other bloggers in your niche?
2. Your posts look like Wikipedia articles
Content can reveal your individuality and remain professional. Don’t mindlessly spit out facts.
3. You don’t answer “W? W? W? W? W? H?”
Give your readers a complete story that they’ll want to share.
Answer “Who? What? When? Why? Where? How?” in your content.
The art of effective blogging strikes a balance between traditional journalism concepts and the casual, interactive tone that is characteristic of new media.
4. Your posts don’t include images
People like visuals. They go to the movies, watch television, and look at art in museums. Photos complement your text and improve a reader’s experience.
Think 360 degrees of SEO. Use the main keyword that you’re promoting in your post for the name of a photo file and its alt text (title tag). You may also provide a descriptive caption with the photo to offer the reader a synopsis of your post.
All effective writing isn’t necessarily in the headline and body text.
5. Your paragraphs break the four-line rule
Avoid redundancies and edit paragraphs to four lines or less. Structure your posts for short attention spans.
6. Your headlines break the goldilocks rule
If Goldilocks was on a search for the best headline (not a perfect bed to sleep in), she’d choose one that is not too short, not too long, but “just right.”
Do you want people to retweet your headlines? Keep them succinct and juicy.
7. Each post does not have a byline
Post bylines give readers information about you if they haven’t first viewed your bio or About page. They introduce you and build trust with a potential new subscriber.
Use the space at the bottom of every post to connect with readers.
Bylines are an excellent opportunity to link to products or services that you offer.
8. You use too many incomplete sentences
Incomplete sentences, abrupt tangents, and parenthetical thoughts can be disruptive. Use them sparingly.
9. Your posts include obvious factual blunders
Make sure that your links correspond to the proper, active URLs. Check the spellings of names/titles. Is “Wednesday, March 9” really a “Wednesday?”
Inaccuracies in simple elements of your posts are only a result of laziness.
10. You make “actual word” typos
Many pubic relations firms (oops, I mean, “public” relations firms) are familiar with this type of error. Spell check won’t alert you when you type an incorrect word that is spelled correctly.
There’s no prize for proofreading fast. Examine your text so that each word is the word that you intend to write.
The occasional “actual word” typo even appears on ProBlogger. (In the fourth paragraph of the ProBlogger guest post, the word “A” should be “At.”)
11. You use incorrect or excessive punctuation
You can express your voice and tone without distracting eyesores, such as “?!?!”, every time that you’re flabbergasted. Simply end sentences with periods, instead of transitioning with ellipses.
Learn the specific functions of each type of dash: hyphens, en-dashes, and em-dashes. If you’re not sure how to use a certain punctuation mark, look it up.
12. Your blog has inconsistencies
It’s easier to spot inconsistencies when you follow the four-line rule for paragraphs. Be careful with:
- Name references. If you mention the name “Darren Rowse,” refer to him as “Darren” or “Rowse” in the remainder of the text. Don’t alternate between the two.
- Hyphenated words. If you use the word “copy-editor,” don’t write it elsewhere in your post as “copy editor” or “copyeditor.”
- Spelling. If you write the name “Stefanie,” don’t also spell it “Stephanie” when you refer to the same individual again.
- Numbered items. If you promise “Five Tips” in your headline, list five distinct tips in your post.
- Paragraph breaks. Make sure that paragraphs don’t accidently run together after your publish.
13. You use vague words
Edit words from your first draft until they are refined and specific. Each sentence should be crisp and clear.
14. You confuse plurals and possessives
I’ve even written “letter’s” in first draft copy when I intended to write “letters.” Pay attention to apostrophes and plural words when proofreading to double-check that they are used correctly.
15. You include too many links in posts
Limit links to relevant, useful articles that supplement your writing. Set links to open in new browser tabs or windows, so that readers don’t navigate away from your post.
16. You misuse double and single quotation marks
Use single quotation marks for quotes within double quotation marks.
17. You smother direct quotes
Give direct quotes space, rather than cluttering them within a paragraph. Use block quotes to highlight important information or quotes that you analyze.
18. You make word choice errors
Do you know the difference between the words “compliment” and “complement?” “Premier” and “premiere?” “Stationary” and “stationery?”
Unlike “actual word” typos, you may be unaware that you continually make these writing mistakes. Regardless of your niche, if you don’t use the proper words, you’re going to look like an amateur writer.
19. You use too many bold, italicized, and upper-case letters
They’re unattractive, at best, and look like spam, at worst (similar to excessive punctuation).
20. Your blog’s font is too small, big, or fancy
When I get too aesthetically ambitious, I remind myself of the KISS principle: Keep It Simple, Stupid.
I’m launching a new blog soon and recently had fun browsing Genesis Framework themes for WordPress. (No affiliate link here. Just good stuff!)
There’s a style for every taste, yet all design aspects are simple and straightforward—which ultimately enhance your writing.
21. You publish first-draft copy
A sloppy rant may have been appropriate on your LiveJournal in 2003, but first-draft copy does not always communicate your message effectively.
All blog content is an opportunity to demonstrate your superb writing ability. Perform every step of the writing process: writing, editing, proofreading, and more proofreading. Treat your blog like a professional publication, not a hobby.
How do you keep your blog and your reputation spotless? Share your techniques with me in the comments below.
Stefanie Flaxman is an online proofreader who corrects business, marketing, and educational documents in 24 hours. Check out Stefanie’s free report, Business Proofreading Tips Other Proofreaders Don’t Want You to Know, and connect with her on Twitter.