“Bad writing habits? Me? What? I’m a great writer and I don’t have any bad writing habits to worry about!”
Sorry to break this to you, but no one is perfect. I’m sure you are an excellent writer and you can fill pages and pages with your beautiful and concise prose without batting an eye. However, you are only human and within your writing there will always be mistakes which crop up again and again.
The first step is to be aware of your bad writing habits, so that you can train yourself out of them and improve your writing.
Find Your Grammatical Blind Spot
As a writer, you are excellent at grammar. You cringe when people use “Your” instead of “You’re” on their Facebook statuses and you read over all of your emails to make sure that you haven’t made an equally embarrassing mistake before sending them. However, even the best writers can have a “grammatical blind spot” which is an error they keep repeating but never noticing.
There are so many grammar and spelling rules to remember that almost no one in the world knows them all. You might have mastered “their, there and they’re” but there are many other mistakes that even great writers commonly make without realizing. For example, you have probably used the word “irregardless” although it is not actually a word at all. Look it up!
If you can’t find your grammatical blind spot, ask another grammar nerd to spot it for you because it sometimes takes a fresh set of eyes to catch what you missed.
Stop Writing about Stale and Boring Topics
The next step to breaking your bad writing habits is to stop letting your brain go on autopilot and churn out clichéd and boring ideas for articles and blog posts. If the topic of your article already exists in 10 different versions on the internet and everyone has read it before: Stop.
Is there any point writing an article which is so tired and overdone that your eyes glaze over with boredom even as you are writing it? When you write blogs or web copy like this your brain lapses into employing overused writing patterns and tired metaphors which are familiar and tame.
In order to break out of your bad writing habits you need to shake up your topics and write something that you have never written before. Come up with a new twist on the subject and approach it from an entirely different direction. You will find that the fresh topic will engage your mind and help your writing feel more exciting.
Look Closely at the Words You Repeat
When you write hundreds of articles and blog posts per month such as I do as a freelance copywriter, you will start to eventually see patterns emerging in your natural writing style. You will repeat phrases and use certain words again and again.
For example, I have recently become aware that I use the word “important” a lot when I am writing informative or educational web copy. I am constantly writing, “the most important thing to remember about X is,” or “another important aspect of…” or “it is very important to…”
“Important” is an absolutely fine word to use in any of those situations, but I find that I use it so much it can become repetitive within my writing. If you have a word or a phrase that you use too often, it’s time to break out the thesaurus.
Look up the word on an online thesaurus and find as many synonyms for it as you can, then try to use those alternatives when you are writing. For example, instead of using “important” I can also use essential, imperative, chief, critical, vital, determining, influential, primary, necessary, serious, leading, major, foremost, overruling, paramount, predominant, prime and relevant. Adding all of these different words into my writing will make it more diverse and interesting to read.
Even the best writers in the world have some bad habits that they fall into every now and then. The important (whoops, I mean crucial) thing to keep in mind is that you can always be aware of your bad writing habits and continue to improve them.