Unless you’re perfect, it’s likely that you have or will make some mistakes in your writing. The most common are typos, such as missing words, missing or too many punctuation marks, misspelled words, and the like. Many of these may be detected by your word processing software, but these minor errors are more mechanical than a reflection of your writing skill. More serious errors are in the writing or content itself. Following are a few common writing mistakes.
Whether you’re writing fiction or non-fiction, you need to grab or hook your readers right at the start. No matter how good the next section or chapter is, you don’t want to lose them at the starting line.
So, put your work away for a few days or even a few weeks. Re-read it with fresh eyes. If you don’t have a strong opening, take a shot at rewriting it. Your goal is to get the attention of your readers from the first sentence.
Too many unnecessary details and descriptions
Nothing bores a reader more than a book that’s filled with superfluous details and descriptions that don’t move the storyline forward. Again, whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, you don’t want your readers to have to trudge through extra words.
Peter Jackson, director, writer, and producer of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, said that he had to take J.R.R. Tolkien’s 1,200-page book and reduce it to a reasonable-size screenplay. To do that, he eliminated all the side stories to get to the main storyline—getting the Ring back to Mount Doom.
Charles Dickens was a brilliant writer, and some of his character descriptions go on for over a page. But unless you’re that good, don’t over-describe your characters or scenes or put in too many facts or details. When you do your first full read-through, decide what’s necessary to move your story forward and what’s not. Then eliminate what’s not essential to the main purpose of your work.
Unless you have to meet a minimum-number-of-words requirement, too many words is not effective for good writing. This mistake also includes the use of a lot highfalutin words and language to make an author appear to be smart. However, this is often a reader turnoff. Most writing (fiction or non-fiction) is about telling a story or talking to an audience. If you wouldn’t speak that way, don’t write that way. You’ll end up losing your readers.
Unnecessary redundancy or repetition
This writing mistake is saying the same thing twice, even though it may be said in a different way the second time. Even though you might say it differently the second time, it’s still redundant. Get it?
Effective repetition in writing can be used to teach, to help readers retain information, or to emphasize a theme or symbol. However, using a word or phrase over and over, with no apparent reason, makes for ineffective writing. The most common instance occurs in first-person writing, like a biography, where there’s an overabundance of sentences that start with “I” or someone’s first or last name. Other examples include repeatedly using the same word or phrase, or repeatedly using some detail or description.
If the beginning and ending are like bookends (no pun intended), then the ending needs to be as strong as the beginning. The ending should leave the reader satisfied. In non-fiction, the reader should have learned something, and the conclusion might summarize the theme. In fiction, the reader should feel that the story ended with a mystery solved or with the traditional happy ending, “they lived happily ever after” or the like. In certain cases, a story might have a cliff-hanger ending with a lead-in to a sequel or the next volume in a series. But never let the ending be like many song endings that don’t really end; the volume just goes down to silence.
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