A lot of what makes you a good or a bad writer comes from the habits you acquire and maintain. Of course, all writers have their own individual styles that make them different from each other, but writing habits still play a significant role and can greatly enhance or impair the overall quality of the texts they produce. So how does one avoid bad habits and acquire good ones? Well, the only way to do so is to know what these habits are and constantly be on the lookout for them. In this article, we gathered some of the worst offenders. While you will not automatically become a top-notch writer if you steer clear of them, doing so will greatly improve the quality of your texts, help you develop your own voice, and even make it possible to offer your services as a professional writer.
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Beginner writers often feel that the best writing is the one that is beautiful and intricate. They look for long and unusual words to replace short ones, string clauses one after another, and in general, strive to make their writing as convoluted as possible. Which is exactly the opposite of how you should write. When you try to say something in writing, less is more. Expressing your idea in a few simple words trumps a wordy multi-clause sentence every time.
Hence our advice: whether you write an academic assignment, a newspaper article, or a piece of content for your website, get rid of every single word, phrase, and sentence you do not need to drive your point home.
Dampeners are words and expressions that writers use when they do not want to make an absolute statement, like “apparently”, “seemingly”, “probably”, “somewhat”, “may”, “might”, “sort of”. Sometimes they are called for. For example, if you write a marketing paper about a real company and want to emphasize that the information you present is not necessarily 100 percent precise even if it may seem so (e.g., a report based on a focus group that may or may not reflect the real business situation). However, 9 times out of 10, writers use these words because they feel insecure and are afraid of expressing their opinion directly.
Do not do so. It makes your writing look weak and indecisive, which is a bad thing whatever you write, be it a dissertation or a creative writing essay.
Superlatives are words like “very”, “exceedingly”, “quite”, and “really”. Again, there is nothing wrong with them per se, and even top copywriting specialists use them occasionally. However, writers often use them when they are not necessary – usually as a modifier before an adjective to emphasize a certain quality. However, this often leads to an opposite effect, because thus you turn a binary concept into something that has a range of values. For example, when you say that something is “perfect”, you mean that something is as good as it can get. However, when you say that something is “completely perfect”, you make it sound like something can be more or less perfect, which makes no sense and leaves one wondering if what you talk about really reaches the status of full perfection.
Any article on writing mistakes is bound to mention passive voice, right? You have probably heard it hundreds of times: do not use passive voice, ever, under any circumstances. Well, we will have to disappoint you – there is no law that says good writing should not contain passive voice. Sometimes it is appropriate, sometimes it is not, and you have to decide for yourself when to use it and when to avoid it. Usually, it is the right thing to use when you want to focus the attention on the object of the action rather than the agent because the agent is of little consequence. If you try to mechanically reorganize such a statement in an active voice, it will usually look awkward and unnatural.
Whether you write academic papers, compose your own novel, or work as a freelance ghostwriting specialist for an online service, you will not get very far if you do not start every new piece with an outline. An outline ensures you do not forget to mention what you should mention, that you do not repeat yourself, that you always know how to tie individual parts of your paper together. You may create an ultra-short outline that consists only of the most basic information about different parts of your paper or a detailed one that carefully elaborates on every paragraph, but one thing is certain: you should use some kind of outline for all your writing.
If you ask anybody working for a writing services company what the most time-consuming and unproductive writing habit is, they would answer that it is editing your paper while you write it. Many custom writing companies directly instruct their employees to avoid doing it, because they heavily depend on their output, and this kind of behavior greatly slows down their work.
You know what we mean: you look at a sentence you just wrote and you think, “This phrase looks kind of off to me”. You change a couple of words in it, then you decide to rephrase it in its entirety. Lo and behold, you’ve just spent ten minutes writing and rewriting an insignificant portion of your paper that you will probably delete when you get back to this part of the text later on.
Do not do this. Make a point of pushing forward even if you are dissatisfied with some of your wording. You will have time to edit it later on. Right now, focus on finishing the paper.
Of course, it is far from being a complete list of bad writing habits. We can enumerate many more: overuse of transitional phrases, too many dashes, nominalization, and verbification, using “this” without a subject, to name just a few. However, one can continue such a list indefinitely, and the bad habits we mentioned here are among the worst. Avoid them, and your writing will improve in no time!