10 Most Common Writing Mistakes

Avoid Writing MistakesWhen writing for an audience, there are few more embarrassing things to discover after submitting your work than a mistake, or worse yet, mistakes in your submission. Not only are they embarrassing, but your mistakes could cost you future work with the publisher or diminish your credibility in the eyes of your readers. To avoid such mishaps there are aspects of your writing that you should review before you submit your work. Here are a few of the more common mishaps that might occur in your writing.

1. Proofing

Not proofreading your writing might be one of the greatest mistakes you can make. Even great writers must often read and reread their work to ensure that it is fit to be seen by others. Proofing your work is even more important if you know that the only editor reviewing and revising the work will be you. To ensure that you catch a majority of your errors, consider reading your work aloud to hear how it sounds as you speak the words. You may be surprised by how many additional mistakes you catch with this method, even if you’ve already proofread your work several times.

2. Improper Word Use

When you proofread your work, there are many issues for which you should be on the lookout. One of the more major and most common of these mistakes is improper word use. Mistakes like using ‘your’ instead of ‘you’re’, ‘there’ instead of ‘their’ or ‘they’re’ and ‘it’s’ instead of ‘its’ are some of the likely culprits you might find lying in wait for you along the way.

3. Word Choice

If you aren’t sure of a word’s meaning, look the word up before you use it in a sentence. Using eloquent words just because they sound good could leave you looking pretentious, uneducated, and your readers left scratching their heads as to what you were really trying to say. Sometimes simpler is better.

4. Tense Change

Didn’t it sound weird when I am saying that I will not changed tense in a sentence? Moving back and forth between tenses can stick out like a sore thumb. We aren’t conjugating Latin verbs here. Chose a tense and stick with it.

5. Online Writing

One of the best ways to become frustrated with online writing is by using an internet site’s application in which to write your work. There is nothing wrong with writing your material in an application with which you are comfortable and then copying and pasting your work into the site’s submission area. Just ask someone who has spent an hour or so writing an article only to have it swallowed by the internet and not having a saved copy to refer to. As a side note to this tip however, be sure to check for glitches in the formatting of your work that may have been altered or affected by the move before you submit it.

6. Copy and Paste

When working online, you might find it beneficial to copy and paste the directions for your writing directly onto your work page. By having the instructions for your assignment available to you upon whatever software you are using to write, you can quickly and efficiently refer to the publisher’s or client’s guidelines. This reference tool can keep you on track and on topic. Just make sure you don’t forget and accidentally submit these instructions along with your work.

7. Long Sentences

In this day and age, people just aren’t up for long sentences like they used to be. Most readers want quick and easy information packed into short powerful sentences, and would prefer not to be lost in a sentence that just keeps going on and on for the sake of taking up space, and those same readers would likely be appreciative of sentences that are kept to a minimum of a line or two rather than three or four lines like this one is turning out to be.

8. Fragments

Sentence fragments can throw. Your readers for a loop. See! While short, compact sentences can often be a writer’s best friend, it helps to ensure that those sentences are complete and make sense. Otherwise, you may be leaving your work choppy and nonsensical.

9. Broad or Overly General Statements

Saying that Harry Potter is the best movie ever, might be true in your opinion, but that doesn’t mean it’s true for everyone. Saying stocks are a great investment, may be true to some extent, but are all stocks really a great investment? It is important to keep the opinions and statements you place in your writing, qualified and backed up with supporting evidence.

10. Slang and Abbreviations

In this age of quick texts and fast information, it’s often easy to forget that not everyone understands what LOL or BTW means. Those who aren’t familiar with such terms might think you are referring to the new NBA, MLB, or NFL, which in many areas of the world aren’t commonly known abbreviations either. My point here is that in a world globally connected through the internet, it’s important to remember that what is commonplace to you, might not be common knowledge to those reading your work.

This is a guest post written by Tom Walker, a writer and designer from the UK who works for a printer supplies company specialising in Epson Stylus cartridges, toner and paper. You can read more of his writing about print media and design on their blog.

(Photo: bookgrl)
About Guest Writer

This post was written by a guest writer. We've had some great guest posts on writing on Get Paid to Write Online. I hope you enjoy them as much as we do!


  1. “If you aren’t sure of a word’s meaning, look the word up before you use it in a sentence.”

    Boy, you got that right. Something that’s “pretty close” can really embarrass you.

    I once worked with a guy who began a newsletter column with the sentence:

    “We stand today on the prepuce of a new era in health care delivery…”

    • Absolutely right…however (who could have seen that “however” coming?): The advice presumes that the person misusing or misspelling the word knows that he or she is guessing. In my experience as an editor and a teacher, and from just knocking around for half a century, I think that’s seldom the case–they think it’s right, so there’s no red flag to prompt them to double-check. The only remedy I’ve come up with is to encourage writers and students to find someone whom they trust and who is willing to read over their material before submitting it. Two heads, etc.
      .-= William J Reynolds´s last blog ..Alright, Already! =-.

  2. Barbara Plotkin says:

    Great post! I try to plan my writing so that there is breathing room between what I believe initially is the finished piece and what I ultimately submit. I find that the longer I let the piece “rest” before going back to review it, the better it will be. Of course deadlines are always looming, but even just a few hours of “rest” can help and I tend to find and correct a lot of silly mistakes following this method.

  3. DeborahDera says:

    I agree with everything except for #5. Online writing can be a pain, for sure, but most of the online systems have “save” buttons and automatic save functions just like your word processor does. There’s no excuse for not having a “save.” I have several web-based clients and with a few I simply can’t cut and paste into their systems. Changing the formatting code errors (if I can at all) is simply unreasonable. I would, of course, prefer to type in Word, but I think you really have to review each situation on a case by case basis.

    • It depends entirely on the web software, I guess. While some of the more advanced software like WordPress has spellcheck/save functions, a lot of the poorer ones do not – and people just don’t trust web browsers like they trust their word processing software to save their work properly.

  4. I like the suggestion to paste the instructions to the working page.
    I always read my stuff out loud and almost always find additional ‘mistakes’.

    Thanks for the tips!

    I’m happy to say, that as of yesterday, I’ve submitted my first articles for a freelance writing site, textbroker.com It’s a starting place for me.. and much of my inspiration comes from you and your blog!!
    .-= Walker´s last blog ..Monday Morning =-.

  5. I completely agree with Jim in the way that small mistakes can really cause embarrassment.

    I have one colleague in particular (not a writing colleague I have to add) who has an awful grasp of the English language.

    In the past few weeks we’ve had several examples, but the most notable (or humorous!) was when they were talking about a book they were reading that featured some horses that were really poorly looked after and were almost dying.

    Apparently, they were emancipated horses.
    .-= Dan Smith´s last blog ..Just a quick update =-.

  6. Tom Walker says:

    Thanks for your comments, guys. I tried to include all the mistakes I’ve noticed when trawling through the web…some of them are unmissable!

  7. Thanks Dean!
    I’m definitely guilty of #5.You illustrated that point really well above.

    And with regards to looking up words, I spent years thinking that ‘salubrious’ meant the exact opposite to what it does. Luckily I never used it in a piece of writing, but I did avoid many neighbourhoods described as such…

  8. I have always had a problem with long sentences. Some of my work were rejected earlier and after proofreading several times, I found out that the rejection was because of long sentences.

  9. Thanks for this Dean. I think most writers would have fallen on the edge for at least 1 out of the 10. I can’t help but using the copy and paste technique, always find this to be helpful. Great post.

    .-= Jerry Okorie´s last blog ..Social Media Cheat sheet =-.

  10. I agree with your points. The number one thing that annoys me most when I read articles online or offline is the fixation with using buzzwords, jargon and corporate-speak. Writer should write in plain English and concentrate on getting the message across not impressing readers with meaningless terminology.

  11. As a writer, I really enjoyed your post. #4 is a particular pet peeve of mine. Also, I hate to be the jerk to point it out, but you have a typo in #4- should be choose instead of chose. We ALL need to remember #1! I am guilty of posting typos on my site even after proofreading. Sometimes having a different set of eyes do the proofing is key.

  12. As they say, keep it short, catchy, and simple! Quality is King when it comes to writing a stellar copy that will make even those who hate reading… get on the habit. Cheers!

  13. Sharon, thanks for having Tom here. Wonderful choice!

    Tom, awesome, sage advice. I’m glad I read these as there are several that do apply to my writing. Time to get out the ol’ polish.

    .-= George Angus´s last blog ..Read An E-Book Week =-.

  14. I thoroughly enjoyed this post. I know that I am guilty of some of these transgressions from time to time.


  15. Ray Martin says:

    Thank you so much for this. I am guilty mostly of the change of tense error. I try not to, but I still manage to.

  16. Great post!!!thanks for sharing!!!!

  17. I need this, what an excellent post. I will be sharing this with other bloggers for sure. 🙂

  18. Good post. Although writers already know these ‘rules’, and anyone who doesn’t should be paying the likes of you and I to know them on their behalf 🙂

  19. Thanks for the tips! I’ll keep these in mind.

  20. Tip #3 Word Choice
    If I am not sure what a word means, it is very possible that the reader will not know either. Another word should then be used.

  21. Thanks for putting up a informative and educative write up.

  22. These are the basics, but it is certainly good to be reminded of them once in a while. Perhaps all that outsource content writing should pay close attention…

  23. What a pleasure to read such a well written post. Thank you!

  24. Thanks for a great post, Writing effectively is something that most people should strive to do. I know I certainly see (and make) my fair share of writing gaffe’s each and every day.

    While one mistake will not kill a blog post, numerous ones certainly do greatly decrease my faith in what is being said.

    • When you write for a living, you will make a few mistakes, but proofreading thoroughly is a good way to identify and correct them, Steve. Glad you liked the post. 🙂

  25. Proof-reading for sure! You’d think that as an english lit major I would have it down pat but there are always words that make it through. An interesting addition to this might be “#11 Supplement Written Material with Pictures / Media Content” Sometimes, no matter how beneficial an article may be, it can drag. Photos draw attention and encourage readers to engage the written material more intensely to find out why there are such pretty pictures.

    Just a thought!