Common Content Writing Pitfalls
Updated: Jan 23, 2020
Successful content writing isn't easy. It takes experience, a dash of research, a pinch of know-how, and a sprinkling of mistakes to produce that delectable concoction of words and phrases that interest and engage your audience.
Now I can't pass all that along in a single blog post. But I can cover a few of the most common traps the English language has laid for the unwary content writer. Read on, arm yourself with knowledge, and give these pitfalls a wide berth for all your content writing endeavors.
Lose Crutch Words And Stand Tall
I understand, your audience wants to connect with you on a more personal level, and conversational writing is your avenue to get there. But there are limits to this style, and I draw the line at using crutch words.
Crutch words sneak into our speech when we're not entirely sure of how to proceed with our point ... you know?
I mean, sometimes we feel like we need to add parenthetical questions or exclamations just to prove our point. Or, even worse, we feel uncertain of the point we're trying to make and therefore add little disclaimers to our statements, I think.
Notice how those last few sentences lack confidence and authority? Yes, they are informal and conversational, but they take it a step too far. Own your statements, and write with certainty. If you want your readers to believe that you are an authority on a particular subject, you have to write with it.
I suggest you watch the video below for a little inspiration in writing and speaking authoritatively.
The poem recited in this video is by Taylor Mali
Be Active, Ditch Passive
Along with writing authoritatively comes writing in the active voice. The active style of writing always has the subject of the sentence performing the action. Such as:
Our marketing team wrote the article
The athlete climbed the mountain
We encourage good content writing
Conversely, the passive style has the action being performed on the subject.
The article was written by us
The mountain was climbed
Good content writing was encouraged
The passive voice is not grammatically incorrect, but the active voice will sound more authoritative every time. Therefore, get in the habit of establishing your subject first, and then introduce the verbs or descriptions.
Tautology - Say It Once
Tautology occurs when you use words together that mean the exact same thing. Exact same is an example of this, along with:
In my opinion, I think...
While your readers may not necessarily pick up on the redundancy, a tautology uses more words than you need. Remember, content writing is all about relaying a point concisely and with authority. So cut out the extra words to be decisive and specific in your writing.
It's easy to get into that writing groove as you keep writing and writing, and the words simply keep flowing before your very eyes, until all of a sudden, you have a ridiculously long sentence that could easily be split up into two or even three individual sentences, just like this one.
We're aiming for clear, concise, and authoritative writing. Run-on sentences, however, will leave this goal in absolute tatters! Break up those ideas, throw in a few transition words, and your sentences will shine. For example, we can break up our original run-on sentence and transform it into a clearer and more logical paragraph:
It's easy to get into that writing groove. You continue writing while the words keep flowing before your very eyes. All of a sudden, however, you have a ridiculously long sentence. But this long train of words could easily be split up into two or even three individual sentences.
Nail Down Those Dangling Modifiers
The golden rule for this section: make sure your modifiers have a clear and near subject. If you miss either of these points, you risk your sentence being misunderstood. Such is the case in the following example:
While running on the trail, branches kept snagging my shirt.
This sentence makes it sound like branches are running around the trail while wantonly grabbing people's shirts. We, therefore, have a case of a modifying statement missing a logical subject. A problem that screams for a fix before publishing!
Consider reorganizing the sentence to read: A branch snagged my shirt while I was running on the trail.
Another common problem is placing the modifier too far away from its intended subject. Consider the following sentence: The blogger wrote the article about backpacking gear with confidence.
So, the backpacking gear has confidence? No, that doesn't make sense. Try this instead: The blogger wrote with confidence as he described backpacking gear.
Now you know the top five writing mistakes that professional content writers should always avoid. Take out those unnecessary crutch words. Stick to the active voice as much as possible. Avoid repeating yourself with a tautology. Keep your sentences short and sweet by cutting out run-on sentences. Lastly, don't leave your modifiers dangling without their subjects.
Keep these points in mind, and your writing will be authoritative, direct, and clear!