Whether you are writing a blog post or a press release, a feature article or a technical paper, your credibility as an “author” is based on what you’ve written and how it is written. For example, I immediately make judgments about the ability of an author of a news announcement if the press release starts off stating that a place or a thing is pleased, honored or excited (Example: Company XYZ is excited to announce…) People have feelings; places and things do not. The proper way to write that sentence would be: Company XYP announces…
It also gets me when authors start out sentences with “There is” or “There are.” We use there is, and there are in sentences to say that something exists, but because these phrases are so commonly used, they often come across sounding very informal in writing — instead sounds more like the author was speaking to me one-on-one versus writing a piece to be consumed by a larger audience. I prefer to not to use these avoid these phrases to start sentences and will always re-word or re-phrase sentences to avoid whenever possible (just ask Todd, I edit a lot of these out of his sentences!).
Those are just a couple of examples, but there are so many more tips and tricks to watch out for when writing. To make sure audiences don’t get tripped up on grammatical or style errors when reading your content, follow these tips to avoid making common writing mistakes…
- Keep it simple
- Stick to one thought/main point per sentence
- Refrain from using jargon or informal terms (like slang) whenever possible
- Define acronyms or uncommon phrases
- Follow AP Stylebook standards on how to reference people, places and things
- Know your audience
- Write to and for the people who you want to read your piece, don’t worry about the rest
- Use correct punctuation
- Avoid missing commas — Commas imply that there should be a pause taken between words. They may seem insignificant, but they're actually quite important. Here are a few instances when to use them:
- After an introductory element: Always use a comma between an introductory word or phrase and the rest of the sentence. For example: According to Amber, commas are very important.
- In a compound sentence: A compound sentence has two or more parts that could each be a single sentence, joined by a conjunction. Before the conjunction, insert a comma. For example: Amber likes to edit her own content, but Todd uses Grammarly for editing.
- With a non-restrictive element: If there is a part of the sentence that could be removed, and the sentence would still make sense, use commas before and after to separate it from the rest of the sentence. For example: Amber, who has been writing and editing content for 17 years, is a PR consultant for Signature Style PR + Marketing.
- In a series: When making a list, put a comma after each item except for the last instance to notate the end. For example: Amber needs to write a blog post, edit an article and distribute a press release.
- Know when to use and when not to use apostrophes
- For example, do you want to use “Its” or “It’s” – figure it out!
- Make sure your verb tenses are correct and to end all of your verbs properly
- Determine if you are writing in past, present or future tense and read each sentence to make sure it matches the tense you’ve chosen (Don’t shift tenses throughout your piece!)
- Make sure you have subject/verb agreement – if the subject is singular, the verb needs to be singular; if the subject is plural, the verbs should be plural too
- Be consistent with pronouns when referring to something or someone — do not shift pronouns, pick one and stick to it throughout your copy
- “I” and “me” are first person
- “You” is second person
- Third person is more formal, such as using someone’s a proper name or title
- Watch out for sentence fragments, incomplete sentences and run-on sentences
- Write in complete sentences, with clearly stated subjects and verbs
- Add words or punctuation to complete your thoughts
- Choose the right words
- Know the difference between words that sound the same but mean different things depending on how they are spelled. For example: There, Their and They’re or Affect and Effect
Need help with your writing? I’m here for you…I love editing and will be happy to give you advice on how to polish up your pieces. Just let me know how I can help!