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Eliminate 21 Reputation-Crushing Writing Mistakes from Your Blog

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.

About Guest Blogger

This post was written by a guest contributor. Please see their details in the post above. If you'd like to guest post for ProBlogger check out our Write for ProBlogger page for details about how YOU can share your tips with our community.

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Comments

  1. “It’s critical to make all facets of your content flawless.”

    I agree. I make too many mistakes, and if I wanted to build a premier website, it was going to have to be flawless. So, early on, I hired an editor. It has been one of the best choices that I have made.

  2. This is a great checklist! I’m aware of them all and work to keep them out of my posts ;), but it’s always great to have a “pre-flight” to go through to make sure the words are going to fly true. Thanks!

  3. Tony Page says:

    Why is the post below still awaiting moderation? Surely you know the best way to deal with such an embarrassment is to fess up and point out that this emphasises the relevance of your advice?

    Tony

    Tony Page says:
    2/26/2011 at 11:31 pm

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    “Make sure that paragraphs don’t accidently run together after your publish.” Hmmm, that’s two!
    Sorry, Stefanie, couldn’t resist it…
    But I certainly agree with your sentiments!

  4. This is a really useful post Stefanie, and a great reminder for me to re-read, re-read, and re-read my posts before hitting the Publish button. I try not to let grammatical errors get in the way when I’m reading someone else’s blog, but to be honest it can be distracting and I find myself mentally proofreading instead of enjoying the flow of the content.

    Good grammar is invisible, but bad grammar and poor spelling jump out like warning lights to many readers.

  5. Excellent advice. After editing, proofing, and using all kinds of tools, I let my wife review it. She is brutal.
    Bill

  6. Heather Hill says:

    Stefanie,
    I couldn’t agree more about your “no distractions” link in new window theory.

    When I am reading and I see a link, I too like to have it open in a new window. Then I can go back after I’ve read the current article and I don’t feel like I’m missing out. I’m so glad to hear someone else say that!

    I’ve heard people say that, that’s what the big back arrow means. But I don’t agree, I’d rather keep my attention on one thing at a time.

    So I 100% agree with you about opening windows in a new tab.

    Maybe one person said that before, and others just followed suit!

  7. Awesome post Stefanie! I’m not 100% accurate on everything I write, but it’s nice review articles like this from time to time in order to correct some of the things that are defective. So thank you sharing this important information.

  8. Fred Tracy says:

    This is a really valuable post. Particularly the part about having a byline. I don’t have a “real” byline at the moment, just a bit about signing up for e-mail updates, so I need to work on that. Thanks. :)

  9. Michael King says:

    Sometimes when I write and in the zone, I neglect many of the basic writing techniques. So this is very useful information to ensure the quality of the posts. Thanks much!

  10. A really enjoyable read that provides a comprehensive step by step approach of things to do and things to avoid. I particularly drawn to Item 7, having a byline, this is something I do not currently do but after reading this will certainly implement. Thank you for sharing, Phil.

  11. I agree with Phil, very enjoyable and packed with good info. Having a byline is essential.

  12. Barb Sawyers says:

    Thanks goodness for proofreaders. Good list, but I think the absolutely most important mistake to avoid is confusing words that sound alike, especially it’s and its. The distinctions help us understand each other. Missing them can also make you look stupid. More at http://www.stickycommunication.ca/2010/07/operation-bad-grammar-the-biggest-easiest-targets/

  13. There is some great advice in this post Stefanie. I really liked the goldilocks rule in point number six. With so many articles and links going around on Twitter every day it’s essential to try and come up with a captivating headline that stands out from the majority of others.

    Your comments in point 11 also struck a chord with me. I particularly dislike the overuse of exclamation marks, especially at the end of mundane sentences that don’t need one! (see what I did there?)

    Finally, point 12 about inconsistencies is also a very important one for bloggers. If you’re writing multiple posts every day it’s not always easy to keep track of the little things you’ve mentioned.

  14. Adidasi says:

    yes,we must do it perfectly cause some readers are critics

  15. Hi, this checklist is super helpful for a wannabe blogger like myself. I’ve bookmarked and will use it. Thank you!

  16. These are some good quality tips.Will we useful for content of my new website content.thanks

  17. If one thing is not working, then I go to the next. I am also cheap. I am not willing to use

  18. Nixon Press says:

    I have’t written many blog posts yet however do write technical reports for a living. Another useful tip (props to a mentor and Ed Dale) is to just let your writing or post sit overnight before publishing and proof read the next day. You’d be surprised how many mistakes you find and how much better you can improve your quality.

  19. Joan says:

    Great article Stephanie! As an online PR company owner, I have definitely seen some bad blogs in my day. I especially like the point you made about how important it is to include who, what, when, where and why in every blog. Just because some one is writing for the web and not a printed publication doesn’t mean they can throw journalistic integrity out the window. Well done.

  20. Mary says:

    I didn’t understand RSS when I started blogging: I thought it was ok that sometime I edited posts 3 or 4 times in the 1/2 hour after I first hit publish, because most people would see the finished product, not the almost-right close-to-final draft. I felt mighty embarrassed when I realised that the RSS folks only ever see the first version.

    Shortly after that, I reorganised things, and now every one of my sites has separate blogs for:
    1) production: the real blog.
    2) pre-production: a private blog where I write articles, and can hit publish as often as I like
    3) documentation: another private blog where I keep reference info about how the blog is put together and marketed.

    When I have a bright idea about a post that may be useful … I just hit new-post in the pre-prod blog, and write as much as I can at that time. No more yellow stickies, lists of posts etc. And I’m never short of a topic to write about.

  21. Mulika says:

    Great tips! For No’15, not being the most technically minded blogger out there, I would like to know how to make sure my links open in a new window or tab. I had never thought of the fact that what I was in effect doing was giving readers an open invite to leave my blog!

    Thanks once again!

  22. Jerrick Yeoh says:

    Mostly you cannot find those problem mistaken in the first time you wrote. That why you need to double check and read again and again of your article before you post it to reduce down the minimum mistake. But some people would like to use his own language in short form or else which to show a welcoming blog and more social rather than too formal.