Forget improving your diet. Forget going to the gym. This year, we suggest that you resolve to #WriteBetter! Poor writing is a bad habit that’s so 2013. In this month’s edition of Design on the Haus, we’ll help you keep this resolution by providing some tips.
Here, we’ve offered you a list of our top five writing pet peeves. Eliminate these bad habits from your writing diet and you’ll kick-start your plan to make your communication much healthier!
1. Pitiful punctuation
Have you read Eats, Shoots & Leaves? It’s one of my favorite books about grammar. If a panda “eats shoots and leaves,” we know what his diet is. If he “eats, shoots and leaves,” he’s a fierce bandit who kills his waiter before he departs. See what a difference a misplaced comma can make? Keep that in mind when you’re writing. Precision in punctuation counts. If you still don’t believe me, see below:
2. Frivolous filler
In school, most writing assignments had a length requirement. As a result, many of us learned to pad our writing with unnecessary words. If you picked up this bad habit in school, now is the time to drop it. No one wants to read diluted writing – especially not in this age of information overload. Get to the point quickly. Reread your piece after you’ve finished and strike everything that isn’t absolutely essential.
3. Just too much jargon
The words you use to speak with your colleagues are not the words you should use in an article, even if it’s about your work. Unless you are writing for a trade publication like Civil Engineering or Architectural Record, your readers will be put off by words they don’t understand. If you need to use terminology that your Aunt Carol wouldn’t understand, introduce it first with a brief explanation. This is especially true for acronyms.
4. Abandoning your audience
Similarly, your piece should have an angle that’s relevant to your audience. Every publication has a different set of readers. Take this into consideration when you write. If you don’t, you won’t get published or have any readers!
5. Using no-no words
Aspire/inspire, beacon, composition, connection/connectivity, contextual/context, dynamic, green, improve, innovate, metaphor, nimble, one (as a pronoun), seek, unique
If you only take one thing away from this blog post, let it be this: stop using the above no-no words in your writing! Push yourself to replace these words and find a more specific, descriptive way to express your meaning. For an extended list of overused words from the New York Times, click here – and see the suggestions in the comments below the article.
What bothers you most when you read bad writing? Let us know by tweeting your pet peeves to @HausmanLLC with the hashtag #WriteBetter!
Posted by Beth Connolly