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Thursday, February 5, 2015

The 7 writing sins

I may not always say it, but I'm very critical when it comes to evaluating written material. Apart from bad grammar and spelling, here are 7 common writing faux-pas that I find quite irritating. 
  1. INCONSISTENCY indicates lack of attention to detail.
    1. Verbs: use consistent tense
    2. Person: if starting in 3rd person, everything should be in 3rd person unless it doesn’t make sense to do so. In which case, maybe everything should be in 1st or 2nd person?
    3. Grammar: in general, good grammar would lead to consistency.
  2. REPETITION is boring.
    1. Avoid using the same word twice in the same paragraph. More than that, you've probably already lost me.
  3. BUZZ WORDS are a crime and sound amateur. They are generally vague/meaningless and could be better expressed otherwise.
    1. List of buzz words I don’t want to see:
      1. platform (get creative, don’t use it every sentence pretty pretty please with a cherry on top)
      2. innovative (what makes it innovative? do tell.. If someone has to tell me they are innovative, I start to think maybe they’re not..)
      3. user-friendly (what makes it user-friendly? do tell)
      4. many more to come...
  4. INCOHERENCE is confusing
    1. When writing an FAQ-style document, make sure the answer is ACTUALLY answering the question. If it isn’t answering the question directly, you’re either asking the wrong question or you’re giving the wrong answer. Or a vague answer (which is also a wrong answer IMO).
  5. NON-SEQUITUR breaks the flow and loses the reader’s attention
    1. Sentence B cannot follow sentence A in the same paragraph if the ideas they contain are not related at all. I ate an apple this morning. My shirt is green. WHAT?
  6. VERBOSITY does not make you sound smart. ELOQUENCE is concise.
    1. Try to make every word count. Especially pay attention to the adjectives and adverbs you’re using. Do each of them add meaning to the sentence? Does the sentence’s meaning change entirely if you remove any of them? If not, cut them down!
    2. Remember that, nowadays, attention spans are shrinking and nobody has time for anything. You’ll win more of your audience by being concise.
  7. THE OBVIOUS is uninteresting.
    1. If you have nothing to say, don’t say anything. If you have something to say, make sure it’s insightful, thought-provoking, or just simply not obvious things that the reader probably already knows.