6 Bad Writing Habits to Ditch in 2022
As we begin a new year, many of us are making resolutions to make our lives a little better in 2022. Many resolutions revolve around the addition of something (more exercise, more self care, more travel), but the removal of something from our routines can be just as impactful.
It’s easy to get comfortable in the content creation process, but doing so makes it easy to overlook some of our bad writing habits.
Here are a few practices that can prevent you from doing your best work, along with advice for turning it around.
Getting organized is one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions and for good reason. Chaos regularly leads to more chaos. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or burned out, getting organized can have benefits for your day-to-day workflow and overall mental health.
How to fix it:
- Sign up for PR Newswire for Journalists. Set up a custom newsfeed with PR Newswire for Journalists to ensure you’re notified of the latest news announcements in your target industry. Users can customize their feed by industry, keywords, geography and more. Want to cut back on the number of emails? We can send you a daily list of headlines to keep your inbox clean.
- Write an outline. Suffering from writer’s block or unsure where to start? Staring at the blank page when you begin a new post can be daunting. Start with an outline to organize your thoughts and research before you dig into the more fleshed-out writing.
- Find the perfect app or tool. In addition to these organization tools, there are many other sites and apps out there that we think can help you with every stage of your writing process. These are some of our favorites for streamlining your day-to-day routine.
- Make a checklist. I am a checklist person. I make myself a to-do list each morning with tasks I need to get through that day. It helps me prioritize and ensures I don’t forget anything major. For writers, using a checklist for your blog posts and articles can be a helpful way to make sure all the major elements are taken care of before you hit “publish.”
2. Too much jargon
Clear and concise writing is key to keeping readers on the page and encouraging them to come back for more. If they have trouble understanding or following your writing, they might not stick around. Using more natural language can also have SEO benefits; users are more likely to use natural language in their search terms – so write for them and boost the chances that your content will come up in search results.
How to fix it:
- Know the best practices. Read our post with tips for avoiding too much jargon in your writing.
- Get the right tools. Utilize tools like Grammarly and Hemingway to get an idea of where you may need to simplify your writing.
- Read your draft out loud. Reading your own writing aloud is a great way to spot mistakes, confusing phrases, too-long sentences and more. If it doesn’t sound natural out loud it’s also not going to read clearly.
3. Too much passive voice
Passive voice is when a subject is a recipient of a verb’s action. For example, editors despise passive voice is active and passive voice is despised by editors is passive. Writers and editors tend to prefer active voice because it’s clearer and more direct. You might be tempted to use passive voice because it sounds fancy, but like using too much jargon, using too much passive voice can turn away readers. I’m not recommending you cut out 100% of the passive voice in your writing — sometimes it just works — but you should learn how to identify it and use it sparingly.
How to fix it:
- Learn more about it. Our post from 2020 covers how you can use — and abuse — passive voice in your writing.
- Get help from tools. WordPress plugins like Yoast and extensions like Grammarly and Outwrite can help you identify instances of passive voice and offer suggestions for how to rework them.
4. Not thinking about SEO
Your writing might be great, but if you’re skipping over SEO basics, you’re making it tough for readers to find your content. If search engines don’t have a clear idea of what your post is about, who the target audience is, or what problem your content is solving, chances are low that your article will surface in search results.
How to fix it:
- Start with an optimized headline. Your headline is the first (and sometimes only) thing a reader sees. Follow these headline writing tips the next time you’re writing a new post.
- Understand formatting best practices. The structure of your post plays a role in holding a reader’s attention. Here are some content formatting tips to remember.
- Keep voice search in mind. Content creators can no longer ignore the importance of voice search in SEO and organic search. We have a few strategies to help you optimize your digital content to compete in search and increase organic traffic.
- Get some backup. It can be difficult to keep track of all the changes in SEO and Google algorithms. Tools like Yoast can help flag SEO issues with your pages and provide suggestions on how to get them more in line. It’s also helpful to subscribe to an SEO newsletter like Search Engine Roundtable so you can stay caught up on the latest industry news and best practices.
5. The quick edit
We’re all pressed for time, short-staffed, or both. And maybe you’ve reread your piece so many times that you’re confident you’ve caught all the mistakes. But taking enough time to thoroughly proof your post or article is critical. It’ll make you and your editor’s lives easier.
How to fix it:
- Learn how to self-edit. Read these tips for editing your own work so you can feel more confident about your final draft.
- Read your post out loud. Yes, reading out loud is a fix for another bad habit. Trust me: This practice will make all the difference. It will help you catch awkward wording, run-on sentences, repetitiveness and more.
6. Not reading enough
You need to see what else is out there to inspire and improve your writing. Reading more can also help you find what you don’t like, so make it a mission to find out what others in your niche are writing about. You can also branch out to see how writers for other beats are creating content to connect with their readers.
How to fix it:
- Get all the newsletters. Sign up for industry newsletters to get a feel for what your peers are covering and what stories are trending. These journalism newsletters can be a great place to start.
- Know the best sites. Whether you write about tech, food, or finance, you can find trusted news sites in your industry that are full of impressive writing. Check out our roundups of top news sites and start reading.
- Subscribe to niche blogs. Smaller publications that focus on a more specific topic can be great places to find unique writing with a personal touch. The readers are passionate and so are the writers. Our regular Blog Profiles recognize standout blogs covering a wide variety of topics, from coffee to horror movies, electric vehicles and pet grooming.
- Listen to podcasts. OK, fine, this isn’t reading, but adding podcasts to the content you consume can help you develop an ear for natural language that will benefit your writing. Remember, if your writing doesn’t sound natural, you might be in trouble. And there’s a podcast for everything, whether you want to listen to episodes covering your industry or try something a bit more outside your coverage area. Unsure of where to start? We have a few favorite journalism podcasts you should try.
What bad writing habits are you trying to fix in the new year? We’d love to hear about it! Share in the comments or tell us on Twitter @BeyondBylines.
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Rocky Parker is the Digital Content Lead at Cision PR Newswire. She works with journalists, bloggers, and content creators to create their targeted newsfeeds from PR Newswire for Journalists. Rocky has also counseled on content writing best practices. Check out her previous posts for Beyond Bylines. In her free time, Rocky can usually be found cooking, binge-watching a new show, or playing with her puppy, Hudson.