The mistakes new writers can make often occur because of not being aware of a problem.
All writers, including the experienced, make mistakes, errors, and typos. But the key to good writing is knowing how to fix a problem.
If you are a new writer, don’t worry. Once you understand the basics, you can improve your writing very quickly.
Yes, there are hundreds of grammatical terms and literary devices. But you don’t need to know them all to write well.
The ten common mistakes new writers can make
Writing is a skill and a craft, and like learning any other skill, you need to practice and perfect your techniques.
When you are new to writing, it takes a little time to perfect and hone it.
Yes, anyone can write. But to write well and please your readers, you need to get the basics in place.
When these become a habit, your writing will improve in leaps and bounds.
Here are what I classify as the top ten areas where you can quickly improve the quality of your writing.
1. Not choosing a point of view
Whatever you write, you need to select your point of view before you write the first word.
Mixing points of view in a piece of writing is one of the most common mistakes new writers make.
You need to choose one of the three basic points of view: first, second, and third person.
For a biography or memoir, you would usually use the first person. It uses the pronouns I, me, and my to tell the story.
An advice article would use the second person with you and your.
When it comes to a novel or short story, the third person is the most common. It uses he, she, it, and they to tell the story.
With experience, it is possible to change or alternate the point of view in a text.
But for new writers, it’s always best to keep your point of view consistent.
2. Too much passive voice
So many writing advice articles you read talk about reducing or eliminating the passive voice.
Sure, there are times when it is appropriate. But ninety-five percent of the time, the active voice is a much better choice.
The problem with the passive is that it doesn’t say who did what.
It was decided that the wedding would be postponed. (Passive)
The bride and groom decided to postpone the wedding. (Active)
It’s usually very easy to change a sentence from passive to active.
Once you make it a habit to use more active voice, your writing will be much more interesting.
3. Over describing
Wordiness is a common mistake new writers can make, and it is quite distracting for readers.
Using more words doesn’t improve a piece of writing.
Here’s a simple example.
There is a convenient little corner store not far from my house that sells almost all of the necessities that I need to buy each week. (Wordy)
The corner store near me sells almost everything I need. (Concise and clear)
One of the most common causes of wordiness is when you use the grammatical expletive.
If a sentence starts with there is, there are, it is, or it will be, you have a good candidate to rewrite more clearly and concisely.
You can use two very good dialogue tags. They are said and asked.
But it is a clear sign of an inexperienced writer when you see poor dialogue tags that try to insinuate action.
he spat angrily
she whispered quietly
he moaned despondently
Yes, there are hundreds of words for said.
But said is almost invisible for a reader, which makes it the best choice for dialogue tags in most cases.
5. Misplaced modifiers
A modifier does what the word indicates. It’s a word or short phrase that modifies something else in a sentence.
There are different types, including misplace, squinting, and dangling modifiers.
But they all create a similar problem of confusion or unclear meaning.
One of the easiest examples is with the adverb only. It is very easy to misplace it.
He only eats fish.
He eats only fish.
The first example could mean that he doesn’t cook, catch, or keep fish as pets. He just eats them.
But in the second, it is clear that he eats fish but no red meat or poultry.
The best advice with modifiers is to place them next to the word that you are modifying.
6. Writing for everyone
No form of writing will be for everyone in the world to read.
A writer needs to think about the type of reader that will appreciate your writing.
When you have this in mind, your writing becomes more focused.
For a new novelist, the genre often dictates the type of reader a story will attract.
Historical romance fiction may suit a more mature reader, while vampire romance will suit younger readers.
An article writer or blogger will appeal to a specific subject or theme.
Writing about restoring vintage cars would probably attract more mature male readers.
Writing without thinking about your readers is a common mistake for some new writers.
7. Poor research
As a writer, you will cover a lot of topics. But you can’t be an expert on everything.
Thinking that you know something is not the same as being 100% sure you are correct.
Failing to research is one of the easiest mistakes new writers can make.
Whenever you include facts, references, quotes, dates, or historical information, do your research and check your facts.
Never rely on your memory or what you think you know.
8. Editing while writing
Trying to be a writer and an editor at the same time will always slow you down.
It will also interfere with the flow of your thoughts and ideas.
Never worry about grammar or vocabulary when you are writing. Write, write and just write.
Leave all the editing work aside until you finish writing your text.
9. Using outdated words
When I see a writer using words that they think will impress, it’s a sure sign of an inexperienced writer.
Words such as thus, henceforth, forthwith, wherewith, thrice, or behoof might be tempting to use to show off your vocabulary.
But they are now generally obsolete and have little practical value.
You can also date yourself by using words like outta sight, groovy, stewardess, or actress.
English is constantly changing, so keep your vocabulary choices up to date.
10. Not checking grammar and spelling
Of all the mistakes that new writers can make, this is undoubtedly the worst one.
Never publish anything before you do a thorough grammar and spelling check.
New writers rarely have the luxury of a professional editor and proofreader.
However, there are plenty of checking tools available now for writers.
If you plan to write for pleasure, there are many free tools to check your writing.
But if you want to write to earn an income, you should really consider investing in a quality writing checker.
Like any other skill, the more you learn about writing, the better you will become.
If you can eliminate these ten common mistakes, you will certainly improve very quickly.
Once you make the changes, they will soon become a habit and part of your muscle memory.
Writing is rewarding, but at times, a challenging craft.
Every writer, including the most experienced, is constantly learning and improving.
For new writers, that’s what you need to do too.