Improve your writing habits with these 10 tips

Do you have bad writing habits?

Want to write clean, consistent web content or newsletters?

Fed up with spending t
ime trying to figure out why your text doesn’t read right?

Here are a 10 tips that may help improve your writing technique. Please note: these tips are a guideline only. They are not carved in stone and, depending on your nationality, may not apply.

  • Tip 1
  • Tip 2
  • Tip 3
  • Tip 4
  • Tip 5
  • Tip 6
  • Tip 7
  • Tip 8
  • Tip 9
  • Tip 10

Are you using words and phrases too often?

Excessive use of the same words or phrases will give your readers a sense of déjà vu. Too much repetition is overkill! Read through your content and if you find certain words and phrases have been used excessively, use a Thesauras to find other words to use instead.

Don’t use too many “if”s, “and”s or “but”s in the same paragraph or start several sentences with the same word.

Do avoid excessive use of the same words that add little or no meaning to your text. Remove any repetitive verbiage.

Conflicting subjects

Don’t use an inconsistent structure for your list items.

Incorrect usage:

Articles in this section include:

  • Planning your Website
  • Create a Site Map
  • How to write your Web Content
  • Domain Name Registration
  • Choose a Web Host Provider
  • Websites colour scheme
  • Resources for your website images

Do reword your list items to make them more consistent

Correct usage:

Articles in this section include:

  • Planning your Website
  • Creating a Site Map
  • Writing your Web Content
  • Registering Your Domain Name
  • Finding a Web Host Provider
  • Choosing your website's colour scheme
  • Sourcing images for your website

Don’t lose track of what the subject is. If this happens your verbs will not match.

Incorrect usage:

  • Neither of the images are good.
  • The title, as well as the sub-heading and paragraph, contain key phrases.
  • One-quarter of our clientele are from Guelph.

Do make sure your verbs match by checking whether your subject is singular or plural.

  • Neither of the images is good.
  • The title, as well as the sub-heading and paragraph, contains key phrases.
  • One-quarter of our clientele is from Guelph.

The use of "they" when referring to a collective group

It’s a common mistake to pluralize a collective group, such as company, staff and clientele, which should be considered as a single unit.

Don’t refer to a collective group as “they”.

Incorrect usage:

  • The Government said they would reduce income tax.
  • My service provider added more features to their control panel.

Do use “it” unless there is an exceptional reason.

Correct usage:

  • The Government said it would reduce income tax.
  • My service provider added more features to its control panel.

Hyphenated adverbs ending in “ly”

This is a common mistake, but an adverb ending in “ly” modifies the verb that follows it so there is no need to hyphenate them.

Don’t hyphenate adverbs that end in “ly”.

Incorrect usage:

  • Click here for recently-added articles.
  • This badly-bruised apple is no good to eat.

Do treat adverbs ending in “ly” and the verb that follows as separate words.

Correct usage:

  • Click here for recently added articles.
  • This badly bruised apple is no good to eat.

Using “which” instead of “that”

It’s a common mistake to set off an essential clause with “which” instead of “that” and to add comma. “Which” should be used with a non-essential clause and does require commas.

Don’t use “which” to set off an essential clause (instead of “that”) and don’t add a comma.

Incorrect usage:

  • The website which we completed last week has been uploaded.
  • The images which were too large for the page have been resized.

Do use “that” to set off an essential clause and “which” for a non-essential clause.

Correct usage:

  • The website that we completed last week has been uploaded. (essential)
  • The company that uses our graphic services the most comes from Cambridge. (essential)
  • Your website, which we completed last week, has now been uploaded (non-essential)
  • XYZ Ltd, which uses our graphic design services the most, comes from Cambridge. (non-essential)

Notice the difference in the two sets of clauses. When used with a non-specific noun (the website or the company), the second clause is essential. If a more specific noun is used (your website or XYZ Ltd), the second clause becomes non-essential.

Wordy structure; long-winded phrases

Don’t use pointless verbiage. There’s nothing worse than having to wade through a page of long-winded phrases.

Do use more concise phrasing. Replace wordy structure with one word where possible.

Avoid Replace with
At the present moment now
In view of the fact that because
Has the capacity to can
So that you can to
On the assumption that if
Preceding the commencement of before

If you can think of any more wordy phrases, let us know. We will add them to the list.

Using “that” instead of “who”

Don’t: use “that” to refer to people

Incorrect Usage:

  • The client that needed a website last week hasn’t had time to write his content.
  • The lady that called this morning forgot to leave her name.
  • The entrepreneurs that attended the seminar found it very informative.

Do: Use “who” when referring to people.

Correct Usage:

  • The client who needed a website last week hasn’t had time to write his content.
  • The lady who called this morning forgot to leave her name.
  • The entrepreneurs who attended the seminar found it very informative.

Inconsistent use of the final comma in a series

Don’t alternate between including and omitting the final comma in a list or series of three or more items. Some writers will include the final comma, while others leave it out. While both practices are acceptable, they should be consistent.

Examples:

  • Your brochure, business cards, and sign are all ready.
    (OR: Your brochure, business cards and sign are all ready.)
  • First we design a template, next we add the content, and then we validate the code.
    (OR: First we design a template, next we add the content and then we validate the code.)

Do decide on one convention and always use it; consistency makes for easier reading.

Two dependent clauses do not need a comma

Don’t use commas between two dependent clauses.

Incorrect Usage:

  • I uploaded the website files, and gave the client the link to view them
  • The files were uploaded yesterday, but for some reason aren’t visible.

If the second clause can’t stand alone as its own sentence, a comma should not be used before it.

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