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10 Writing Mistakes that Will Guarantee Your Blog’s Failure

This is a guest post by Gregory Ciotti of SparringMind.com.

You have the ideas.

You have the expertise.

You have the ability to project them well on your blog, and you are quite confident in your writing ability.

Yet, unknowingly, you could be building a sinking ship, punctured by these ten writing mistakes that will doom any blog to failure.

You needn’t be disheartened, however, as any blogger can avoid them. It just takes awareness of their existence, and a keen focus on giving the reader what they want, at all costs.

Do you make any of these ten fatal writing mistakes on your blog?

1. You have nothing to say

When blogging, you have to understand that in order to succeed, you need to give your readers what they want.

So then, what is it that readers really want?

They want you to provide them a solution to what they are seeking, even if what they are seeking is nothing but entertainment.

They also want to hear what you have to say. This doesn’t mean that they are intrigued about what you had for lunch. But they do want a personality behind the words they are reading. Otherwise, there is no connection that they can make to the words, and what they are reading becomes empty.

Making sure you have something to say makes writing easier and faster. When you have nothing to say, you are forced to write sentences that sound meaningful but deliver nothing.

2. You’re not specific

Consider the following two headlines:

  1. How I Got A Lot Of Facebook Fans
  2. How I Grew My Facebook Fan Page To 6,683 Fans In 4 Months

Which one of those do you think is going to offer the most in-depth information? The second one, as it called to our innate desire to hear the specifics.

The reason readers love to see details and examples is because they value their time, and they are not interested in hearing another cookie cutter “how-to” that provides no examples to show whether or not it works.

In your writing, your examples can sell your whole post. If you can back up the claims of your headline with a detailed example, you will have your readers reading from top to bottom, and then anxiously awaiting your next post.

How can you lead your readers if you don’t lead by example?

3. Your word choice is too complex

Almost any time I encourage people to write simply on blogs, they always disagree by saying that simple writing is boring. But they fail to see my point.

Articulate and meticulously crafted writing very much has its place, but sometimes bloggers fail to realize their medium and their audience.

It’s not that the web is only suited for simple writing, but it definitely benefits from it.

Getting your point across can be much more effective if you cut out the fluff, and will guarantee more people will read your posts from beginning to end—a critical part of being a successful blogger that people await updates from.

Why not put this to the test yourself? In your next post, keep it simple, using longer words only when other more direct options will not do. I guarantee you will find writing on your topic more enjoyable, and you will get to the point of each post far more quickly.

4. Your paragraphs are too wordy

This point is very closely related to the one above. Again, I feel a disclaimer is needed here. I’m not saying a long, comprehensive post is not suited for the blogospohere—in fact these types of posts add a lot of value and are often a great way to show your talent.

What I’m talking about is the dreaded fluff. In the same way fluff causes you to write with unnecessary adjectives and words you had to use a dictionary to look up, it can also wreak havoc on your writing structure.

In blogging, you should keep your paragraphs short for the same reason you should keep your wording simple: they are easier for people to read and understand.

The last thing you want to create on your posts is confusion. Your writing style needs to give people what they want, and people do not want to be confused—they want information. Give it to them.

5. You keep using the passive voice

Speaking of what readers want, did you know that in English, readers prefer the Subject, Verb, Object sentence structure? This is called the “active voice.”

“Long sentences annoy readers.” English readers like that.

“Readers are annoyed by long sentences.” That..? Not so much.

Did you also notice how the second option there—the passive voice—makes simple statements use a couple of unnecessary words? This can add up over a long blog post.

Although you cannot always use the active voice, as a blogger, you should try to as often as possible.

6. Your descriptions are empty

Worse than lacking details, is trying to force descriptions onto examples that don’t need them.

In writing these are known as “qualifying words,” and they include the likes of: very, little, rather. They add nothing to the meaning of your sentences, and take away their impact by lengthening them for no reason.

For instance, you could say this style of writing “is basically a little annoying, rather, there is very little reason you should be writing like this.”

Yikes! As Mark Twain once said:

“Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write very; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.”

7. You don’t embrace what works

Surprisingly, in a world where many bloggers try to copy the success of others, a growing problem that has recently surfaced is the faction of bloggers trying to be too “different,” embracing the call of being a “purple cow” while ignoring the tried and true standards that work.

Simply put, your blog shouldn’t be above doing list posts, round-ups, interviews, and so on.

These methods work, and writing to give your readers what they want isn’t a bad thing. Don’t think you won’t stand out just because you create a few posts using formats that have been proven effective time and time again.

8. You often ramble in your writing

Let me tell you about rambling, it’s like this one time I was trying to come up with a post for problogger.net about huge writing mistakes bloggers make, and the power ended up going out before I could save my post, and I thought maybe I should write an entire post about saving your writing, because it’s really important for bloggers to make sure that there best thoughts aren’t erased by some sort of haphazard…

Okay, I’ll stop.

Notice a trend in these writing problems? You aren’t giving readers what they want. Maybe, maybe, you run a blog where readers come around just for your rants. Most likely, however, you don’t—your readers come for information, and they come for examples, as always.

Don’t ramble: give them what they want.

9. Your blog is repetitive

Bloggers with specific niches everywhere just did a double-take.

No my fellow blogger, you can keep writing about tech, food, fitness, or naked skydiving until the end of your days for all I care. The danger in repetitiveness is not the subject matter, but the presentation.

How-to posts, all day, every day, may be what you want to do, but it can become a drag for readers who come back often. As you progress and continue writing for your blog, you may find yourself sick of writing these posts as well.

Instead, mix up the type of posts you put out. Text interviews, critiques, a huge resource list—the types of post that you can write are endless. Even better, change the entire medium in which you present your writing. I’m talking about writing for podcasts and videos, specifically.

Writing a script for a podcast or a video session can be a totally unique take on your writing.Not only that, it gets your blog out on different media, allowing people to discover your site through your external videos and podcasts, and gives long time readers another way to “hear your voice,” quite literally in this instance!

So don’ be boring, mix up writing style, and mix up presentation media. Your writing, and your blog, will be better for it.

10. You don’t edit

Have I driven the point home that you need to be thoughtful of your reader? Maybe I should re-read my section on repetitiveness!

Honestly, it may feel good to simply “crank out” a successful post, but you are placing too much faith in your talents and not enough importance on your reader if you don’t go back and edit even your best “one-shot” works.

This goes beyond simple grammar and spelling edits as well. No reader of yours will ever expect for you to be the perfect writer, and it’s okay to add a touch of personality into your blog. In fact it is quite welcome.

You should, however, not be afraid to edit your own thoughts. Re-read posts and cut out anything that doesn’t add to the post in a meaningful way.

Read the post as best as you can from the perspective of a reader: “Would I care about this section?” is a question that should come into your mind often.

Write for your reader

The running theme through all of these mistakes is the lack of attention being paid to the reader.

While writing may be an expression of your†thoughts, you won’t be the only one reading them (if you aspire for your blog to be read by more than you and your cat, that is!).

Sit back after each post, after each line, and ask yourself: does this benefit my reader? Do they get something out of this line? Is it needed for the post as a whole to be a success?

You can’t make your blogging style flawless, but you can darn well try to make your reader happy!

Are you a WordPress user like Darren Rowse? Then you definitely need to check out Sparring Mind, the WordPress content marketing blog, which shows you that you don’t need to be a tech geek to create amazing content on a superb WordPress site.

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Comments

  1. Nice mistakes / tips Gregory, I think for #2 a lot of people are afraid to get specific because they want to make their keywords match their target, which is ridiculous in my opinion, your example of make precise headlines with numbers (xxx amount of fans) is much more eye catching and appealing.

  2. Katie Moore says:

    This was a very good post. A lot of what I read in this post is what our PR Online Tactics Professor is trying to teach us in her class. I often find myself guilty of some of these mistakes and try to fix them whenever I have time. I thought the part about editing was interesting seeing as the author of this post is missing point number seven (or the label) and his last point isn’t number. I think the author forgot to check himself. I really can’t criticize though. Even when I do edit my posts I still miss things in them because I have been over the material so many times it gets burned in to my brain and I can’t see the mistakes. I will pass this post on because it’s a useful resource for bloggers. So many blogs have these mistakes, but not everyone is perfect. Well, at least the first time around.

    • Josh Sarz says:

      Woah, you’re right. The 7th point is missing. Makes me think of Greg did that on purpose to check if we were really paying close attention to his post.

      But nonetheless, I enjoyed the post. I’m also guilty on some of them.

    • If you have time, it’s good to have a capable party proof read your work even. Another set of eyes is always better than just a pair.

    • As much as I’d like to take credit for Josh’s idea (leaving a number out because I was testing you) the actual culprit is that I sent the wrong copy to Georgina! (content manager of Problogger)

      Totally my fault for sending her the incomplete version, maybe I should make #7 “Always Organize Your Guest Post Documents Carefully” ;).

  3. I read this with great interest as I do sometimes wonder why thing I am so proud of writing might not be resonating with others. I know I am too wordy, I use far too many adjectives (this sentence alone proves it!) but that is also the thing I love about writing. If someone told me I wasnt allowed to express myself in such a way again I think I’d have to give it all away. Its at the heart of why I love writing. As Julia Cameron says: “picking words is like picking apples: this one looks delicious”

  4. Shophi says:

    Thanks to problogger, I’ve successfully started writing blog related to online advertising and marketing. I regularly used to visit problogger for its original content, amazing ideas and tools for writing blogs. The ideas listed herein are really quite informative on how to engage the audience in a blog on a long term basis.

  5. Hando says:

    I have tried to start a blog a few times but it has always failed because of the writing. Reading this post really helps me to understand what was lacking. My major problems where: 8. You often ramble in your writing and 4. Your paragraphs are too wordy. I think if writing does not come naturally to a person, even knowing all the tips and tricks it is till not easy to change it and if I would start blog again I would till start rambling without even realizing it. Old habits are hard to break.

  6. All depends on the blog though. I’m trying to create a work of avant-garde literature – so it is complex and hard to understand a lot of the time. Maybe that’s why I have no readers.

  7. Victoria says:

    This is an amazing list of goodies you’ve posted here. I try to pay attention to these details all the time, but the one about the active vs. the passive voice is something that had bells ringing in my head. Thanks for the increased awareness and great tips!

  8. Carolyn says:

    It’s not exactly part of “writing” but I’ll add one more: use your own photos instead of stock photos. Now, this obviously depends on your niche, but it can really help to both show your personality and that you actually know what you’re talking about.

    For example, if I’m writing a post on how to make homemade bread, I could go out and get some great stock photos of hands kneading bread. But if I take a photo of my own hands doing it — even if it’s not technically as good a photo — it lends authenticity. It’s definitely a part of #2!

    • That’s a good point Carolyn. Adding your own photos makes the post even more personal. You’re showing that you know what you’re talking about. You’re actually ‘doing’ what you’ve written about.

  9. I think you covered the major points the best. I think it is essential to be able to think and review some of these types of things before or during our blogging periods of time.

  10. Steven Fogg says:

    Greg,

    Some great tips here. I’m a communications & marketing guy, not a writer. I’ve worked really hard to try and write engaging blog posts and put more of my own personal “voice” in what I write.

    I just wrote a thousand word post, which is probably my longest yet on cause marketing. I’d be interested if you could critique that!

  11. Jo Castro says:

    Thanks for a helpful post.You’ve covered some useful common-sense points which as bloggers many of us forget, a lot. Two that specifically resonate with me are: Be Specific and Provide a Solution – even if that solution is only entertainment. It’s too easy to write away, hit the Publish button and think you’ve created a great information post, only to look at a list of pointers such as this and realise it could have been written so much better. Will definitely use your points as a check list.

  12. Rita says:

    Great tips, well stated. I’m a journalist, so writing my blog is the easiest part. What’s more difficult for me is the marketing.

    Rita blogging at The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide

  13. You said it all: “The running theme through all of these mistakes is the lack of attention being paid to the reader.”

    Respect your reader by putting the proper care and preparation into each post.

    Thanks, Gregory.

  14. Great advice. This might sound strange but I think twitter has helped me to write concisely. If you pretend you’re writing for twitter you automatically cut out any unnecessary words.

  15. #2 makes readers flock to your blog or head for the hills. Be specific. Be direct. Readers know instantly what you have to offer and decide to stick around or go. Either way, you save both parties’ time. Thanks!

    RB

  16. Steve says:

    Sme great tips here. I am commiting most of those errors on the current blog that I am developing, but realise that getting these fundamentals right will go a long way to the future success of my projects.

    Photos and videos are now easy to capture as well to augument your posts which can really add some punch to your content. The iPhone 4 has the capability to do it all inside the one handy little device.

  17. #2 is good for another reason too – SEO. Search engines love it when your specific – and it lets you rank for niche results easier.

  18. The not editing part is really a bad one. There is nothing worse than spelling mistakes and poor grammar. Also, the long paragraphs are a bit too much. Chop them down into three sentence structures.

    • Only after having to edit material from other writers did I truly respect and begin to enjoy editing. It made me much better at editing my own work and ultimately translated into not just my prose but poetry and songwriting. Sharpening one discipline can help you with others.

  19. Jhon says:

    Gregory,

    From those mistakes mentioned above, I often wrote not specific and forgot to edit.
    I think my mistakes are bad and should be corrected as soon as possible.
    Anyway, thanks for remembering me with the 10 mistakes.

  20. Daniel says:

    I have been guilty of sometimes using large words or quite difficult groups of words, when trying to get some information across to the reader.

    I sometimes forget that not everyone will be able to understand the point I am trying to make.

    Spelling mistakes and bad grammar are quite common out on the web.

    There is a political blog I visit from time to time, where the Author manages to even spell his post titles incorrectly(Some of these mistakes are really bad).

    Ironically, this same Author laments the drop in Education standards, and lectures others regarding this.

    This Blog is said to be the most popular in the country, and the site pulls in a massive audience.

    I have seen some sites where I am struggling to read the content, due to the grammar and spelling being so bad. Yet, these sites are doing very well.

  21. Josh Sarz says:

    Great post Greg. I love “5. You keep using the passive voice”, I’m not quite sure but I might be guilty of this one in my blog.

  22. Rakesh says:

    These are some of the most common mistakes, we blogger do. Though we have read these types of suggestion several times still not follow them, thanks for reminding us once more time that ” we should not kill our own blog”.

  23. Paul says:

    Excellent list of “writing mistakes”. I am guilty of several. The part about writing for your reader is a very important one. I’ve read many blogs who rant and rave about what they think and never care about what their readers are really wanting.

    Paul

  24. This was great. Definitely great tips for bloggers. I just wrote this piece “On Writing Well, a Blog?” http://payusnomind.info/?p=320 I dig keeping it simple. Clear communication is the whole point.

  25. Sinea Pies says:

    I am just coming to a place where I know that I must evaluate my style for the sake of my readers. I absolutely love How To’s but not everyone does. Variety is the spice of life! Thank you for these great pointers and the link to Sparring Mind, too.

  26. Steve Scott says:

    Gregory,

    Your post nails some important points. Sometimes it isn’t what you say but how you say it. Huge blocks of text, rambling writing, lack or clarity and focus etc etc. all will kill your blog.

    People want to get in, get the information they want, and hopefully be amused or intrigued by your personality and unique voice. Lack of clarity in writing obscures any chance of that happening.

  27. tushar says:

    with me, the biggest fear is getting repetitive. i am afraid that after a year or two, my content will start repeating

  28. Jovie Onyema says:

    A lot of these points speak to me. wordiness, complex sentences….but i think i’m improving by the day. its probably the poet in me that gets in the way but i think a better blogger is one who can convey information as easily and as quickly as it takes.

  29. Bruce La Rue says:

    I disagree a bit with number 6. I like the British affinity for adverbs. They can put together four consecutive adverbs, and do it… really quite nicely, actually.

  30. John says:

    What if you want to write about how bad you are at writing blogs?

  31. Bougie Girl says:

    I love this post. Sometimes, in my haste to blog/market/podcast my posts can fall victim to unintended typos and awkward sentence structure. Thanks for the great reminder.

  32. My biggest take away from your post is cutting through the fluff and get to the chase. I also notice that as I am growing as a person, the tone of my writing follows my thoughts. When I cut more nonsense and be honest with my passion and what I want to do in life, my post follows suit. Thank you for reminding me about common mistakes that I can easily forget.

  33. Wendy says:

    I want to print, laminate and paste on the wall…LOL but seriously, this is bookmark worthy stuff. I’ll use it often. Thank you

  34. Rasul Sha'ir says:

    I guess my question would be “your blog is a failure because why? If you stated that, then I think you add a valuable missing dimension (imho) to this post. The simple fact that anyone TRIES to blog is a huge success. Blogging “successfully” means different things to different writers. Anyone who tries to blog (no matter what the ‘outcomes’ are) has succeeded in trying to create a voice for themselves in the digital market. This would be my recommendation on determining blogging success/failure (courtesy of Seth Godin) http://www.cnvrgnc.com/journal-old/2009/8/2/the-power-in-blogging.html

  35. Jeremy Cook says:

    Good post! I think #2 is probably the one that I need to remember the most.

    It’s funny though, per some advice on this blog, I’ve been going through some of my older posts to update the links and such, and it seems that my writing style has improved quite a bit. Of course that’s my opinion, so who really knows.

  36. My biggest take away from your post is cutting through the fluff and get to the chase. I also notice that as I am growing as a person, the tone of my writing follows my thoughts. When I cut more nonsense and be honest with my passion and what I want to do in life, my post follows suit. Thank you for reminding me about common mistakes that I can easily forget.

  37. I have looked at many ways to become a better writer, I will try implement these into future blog posts I do. Thank you

  38. Ana says:

    Now I’m really curious what #7 was, since the others were good tips :) .

  39. Jonathan says:

    Very practical advice and something I will be trying to keep in mind at all times. I guess we all have different reasons for blogging but theirs no point for me personally if I can’t engage my readers. I particularly guilty of rambling and I need to practive ‘active voice’ for my blog. Also, as it’s an MMA blog, I think my readers value practical advice that’s simply worded.

  40. Your tips are absolutely direct to the point and great headline. This points should be on my checklist before publishing my post.

    -make sure you have something to say
    -be specific
    -choose simple words
    -short yet informative paragraphs
    -use active voice
    -organize your thoughts first
    -proofread

  41. Stephanie says:

    Love the Mark Twain quote. So true. Cut out the “very”, “therefore”, “rather” and we’d all be better writers and happier readers!

  42. LK Watts says:

    Fantastic post with a lot of good info. It’s always vital to remember that unless you blog about things that are of interest to other people, your blog will be unsuccessful.

  43. Katrina says:

    How do we define ‘success’? Is it the same for every blog? For me, my blog is about the writing. I wonder: do all 10 of these ‘mistakes’ apply to me? I think failure means something different to me than it does to you. Thanks for this post, it has really made me think about what ‘success’ means to me when it comes to my blog.

  44. Kathy says:

    As a new blogger, I appreciate this information. I am printing and posting them next to my computer!