October 7, 2016

Four Writing Habits to Break Out Of

Happy Friday! As of Thursday, I'm holed up in my apartment, riding out Hurricane Matthew. Class and work have been cancelled from 5 PM Wednesday through today, so I've been locked up in my building since Wednesday afternoon. Today's post is inspired by some content that I've read recently. If you read this post, you know that I'm a grammar Nazi. When I lived in NYC, I would count the comma splices on the signs posted in the subway and compare notes with my best friend. I wish I was kidding.


This post is not intended for writers in the strict sense of the word; it's intended for bloggers, content creators, and college students who have research papers to write. Truthfully, this post is for anyone who can hold a pencil and draw letters with it. Just like anything else, writing (and by association, blogging) is something that you have to practice if you want to get better at it.

If you haven't found your writer's voice yet, that's okay, but you should make sure that whatever written content you're putting out there— a blog post, a short story, even a lengthy Instagram caption designed to bring in traffic— is not only relevant, but also grammatically and syntactically correct. So, here are a few things that I think every writer should strive to avoid. 


Regular grammatical errors


Typos and mistakes happen. We're only human. But if your posts consistently have obvious grammatical mistakes— the repeated misspelling of one word or the incorrect usage of everyday/every day,* for example—your readers are going to notice. Proofreading is essential; it doesn't have to be perfect, but don't keep making the same errors out of carelessness. 
*Everyday is an adjective, used to describe a noun. Example: Her everyday routine consists of making her bed and drinking coffee. 
Every day is not an adjective; it functions as a noun. Example: She makes her bed and drinks coffee every day.


Redundancy in structure/syntax


I am a huge advocate for varied sentence structure. This came up in some class back in the day (I'm thinking middle school English), and it's stuck with me over the years as a hallmark of good writing. Varying your sentence structure can be as simple as throwing your concluding phrase at the front of your sentence or using fragments for emphasis (this tends to be strictly a creative writing thing, so I do not recommend testing it out on your academic writing, but I argue that it can add a lot to a novel). If all of your sentences start the same way (e.g. I think... I would... ), it starts to read blandly, and your readers might get bored and not want to finish reading.


No transitions


I don't see this a lot in blog posts that I read, and in published novels it's virtually nonexistent (I say virtually because I haven't read every published novel out there), but I do see it. Recall those umbrella diagrams from grade school that you had to label with main ideas, paragraph ideas, and transition words like "firstly," "next," and "lastly" to help you write your essay. By now, you should have acquired more advanced transition words, but the principle is the same: don't blindside your readers by jumping from one topic to another with no warning. This suggests inconsistency and that you have trouble telling your story or getting your point across, neither of which are impressions that you want to give your readers.


+ Not penning an "entry point" for your readers


This pertains mostly to bloggers and digital content creators, but I suppose it can apply to book writers, too. I try to pose a question at the end of each of my blog posts to invite people to comment. If you don't have a "jumping off" point in your writing, readers might not know how to interact with you or reply to what you've shared, even if they want to.

What do you think of my tips? Did I miss anything?

2 comments

  1. I know I need to work on my comma splicing, but I totally agree with you on all these points! Grammar is something which makes me stop reading a post if it's too obtrusive.
    Good to know there's others out there too!
    -Caitlin

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey, Caitlin! I think a lot of people with a good grasp on grammar feel this way. I try not to be too harsh when it comes to this, but, as I mentioned, if mistakes are rampant in a blogger's every post, the content starts to become less enjoyable :(

      Delete

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