I caught a published tweet where I wrote “advanced” instead of “advantage.” I resisted banging my head on the desk when I saw the error. Chalk it up to another creative homonym mistake — an easy to miss and fix mistake. Watching for these seven mistakes and fixing ’em add power to your writing.
- Leaning on crutch words. I write many product reviews especially for books and games. Sometimes I struggle to find a new way to say the same thing when I’ve written many reviews. I challenge myself to find other words to use to avoid making a habit out of crutch words. However, sometimes you have to use some words often because simpler is better.
- Using series. Killing the list beefs up the writing, limits boredom and forces you to take a more creative route. Can you recall reading an article that went on with a list of over five items or phrases? Canceling the series cuts the monotony in the writing. If I need a series, I limit it to three or four items.
- Repeating words. Repeated words isn’t the use of “apple apple” but rather using a less common word twice in a sentence or paragraph. This one is a hard one to catch because the words work fine. This doesn’t apply to the little words like to, is and in — although, I try to avoid using “is” as much as possible.
- Abusing empty adverbs. I learned this lesson from William Zinsser’s On Writing Well, which has stuck with me since reading it. I save these words for when I really want more emphasis. Empty adverbs: completely, really, truly and very.
- Relying on -ly words. OK, this sounds similar to #3. Not all adverbs add stress to a sentence like the reallys and verys do. Forcing yourself to skip the -ly for something else can help you “show instead of tell.” Instead of: “She sloppily completed her homework.” Try: “Unreadable scribbles ate up the lined paper.” Not award winning, but you see the difference.
- Slipping on homonyms. Typing one word when I’m thinking another. (For example, I typed “advanced” when I meant “advantage.”) While “advance” and “advantage” don’t sound alike, my fingers sometimes slip and type the wrong thing when the brain thinks the right one. I flinch most with this error. I fear the reader thinks I don’t know the difference between “too” and “to” and “your” and “you’re.” I do. The brain, eyes and hands do its own thing without my permission.
- Overdoing “to be” words. This one is hard to do. Oops, I did it again. Tossing out the “is” and “was” strengthens your writing. Trying to shed “to be” feels like twisting your brain. Instead of driving yourself nuts, accept that you’ll use some. It also helps to take a break from the writing and revisit the “to be” on the next round.
How about you? Share a simple fix it writing tip or easy to miss mistake.