The Top Five Writing Mistakes Professionals Make
Judy Cullins c. 2006
Yes, you know your subject. You also need to think about
entertaining and informing your audience. You need to make
your book or other writing easy to read. If your writing
lacks organization and compelling, vital sentences that
convince your readers to keep reading, they will leave your
book or web site immediately. There goes your
Try my "Check and Correct" for These Top Five Mistakes
1. Stop Passive Sentence Construction.
When you write in passive voice, your writing slides along
into long sentences that slow your readers down, even bore
Before you put your final stamp of approval on your writing,
circle all the "is," "was" and other passive verbs like:
begin, start to, seems, appears, have, and could. Use your
grammar check to count your passives. Aim for 2-4% only.
Correct: "Make sure that your name is included on all your
household accounts and investments." "Make" and "is
included" --the culprits. Create more clarity with this
revision," Include your name on all household accounts and
investments to keep your own credit alive after your
2. Stop all pompous language and phrases.
Well-meaning professionals often use the word, "utilize."
You see this criminal in resumes, military directives and
medical or lawyer documents. "Utilize not only puts people
off because we don't relate to "jargoneze," but because we
want simple language. Think of Hemingway who knew that one
or two syllable-words work better than longer ones. What to
use instead? "Use."
When you aim at 10th grade level, you make it easy for your
audience to "buy." Attempts to impress your audience with
research babble or long words fail because they sound unreal
and create a distance from the audience. Your reader wants a
savvy friend, not an expert. You must hook them at the
chapter beginning, middle and even the end. Engage your
readers so they will finish your book.
3. Show, don't tell to keep your audience reading.
When you take the lazy shortcut using -ly words like
suddenly, or the adverb "very," your telling makes your
reader yawn a "ho hum" and stop reading. Instead show
"suddenly." For example, "When she saw the pistol, she ran
and slammed the door behind her, shows "suddenly." Instead
of "Alice was fat," say "Alice's girth prevented her from
buying just one airline seat."
Circle the -ly and very words and sit down with your
Thesaurus and replace them with power words that describe or
4. Reduce your -ing constructions.
Think of a title that inspired you in the past. I like "Jump
Start your Book Sales" by Marilyn and Tom Ross. "Jump
Starting" lacks power because it doesn't ask for action.
"-Ing" construction implies passive. Next time you think
heading, title, or even compelling copy, think command verbs
as sentence starters as well as using other strong verbs and
nouns. Keep your sentences active using verbs in either
present or past tense.
5. Take the "I" out of your writing to satisfy your reader
Whether you write a book introduction, biography, chapter or
web sales message (did you know these are part of the
essential "hot-selling points?"), keep the "I's" to a
minimum. Your audience doesn't care about you, only what you
can do for them. Think about where your audience is
now--their challenges or concerns. Remember to answer their
question, "Why should I buy this from you?" Put a big YOU at
the top of each page you write. Write three or four
paragraphs. Then, circle the "I's" and vow to replace them
with a "you" centered sentence or question.
So instead of telling your story, (I know that's important
to you) put your story in the third person. Use another
name, maybe a client's or friend's. If you think your bio is
important, instead of placing a long passage on your home
page, place it instead, on your "About Us" page. On your
book's back cover, put your longer bio and photo inside the
back cover page, so you can put more of what sells on your
back cover--testimonials and benefits. Get everything you
write checked by a book or writing coach to make sure it
You cannot only get more sales from what you write, you can
put yourself out there as the savvy friend to your audience
who wants a problem solved. In the long run, these satisfied
readers will return to you again and again--even buy your
products and services.
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Book and Internet Marketing Coach, Judy Cullins, can help you build credibility and clients, sell a lot of books, and make maximum profits. Author of 11 books including Write your eBook or Other Short Book Fast and The Fast and Cheap Way to Explode Targeted Web Traffic" Get her free eBook"20 High Octane Book Writing and Marketing Tips" and two free monthly ezines at http://www.bookcoaching.com