Five Common Writing Mistakes That Bloggers Make – and How to Fix Them

blogging mistakes I spend a lot of time working with bloggers. Most of them are pretty good writers – but they end up making some all-too-common mistakes. This means losing readers’ interest and attention – and losing potential customers.

Are you making any of these five mistakes?

#1: Missing Out Calls to Action

A “call to action” is where you encourage the reader to do something, normally at the end of a post. It might look like this:

Thoughts? Questions? Please share in the comments.
(If you’re on the homepage, click on the headline and scroll down to find the comments)

– From The New Style of Writing for the Net (Are You Up with the Play?)

In this simple call to action, Mary not only encourages the reader to leave a comment, she also pre-empts a possible question they might have on how to do that.

Your call to action should create a win/win scenario for you and the reader. For instance:

  • “Leave a comment below” – increases your comment count and the chance of this reader coming back, and makes it more likely that the reader will remember/use the material you’ve provided
  • “Subscribe to my newsletter” – adds the reader to your list, and means the reader will get valuable tips/advice/ideas/offers/etc from you

It’s often a good idea to give specific instructions, like “Subscribe to my newsletter: enter your email address in the box below and hit ‘Go’” – something that seems obvious to you won’t necessarily be obvious to your reader.

#2: Inconsistent Writing Style

If you’re still in the process of establishing your writing voice, you may find that your writing slips and slides between different styles. This can be jarring for the reader: one minute, you’re chatty and bubbly; the next, you’re formal and stand-offish.

Here’s an example:

One must endeavor to write in a style that resonates with one’s reader. Usually, you’ll want to be friendly and direct: your readers will thank you!

Okay, that’s a bit exaggerated – but you can see the sudden switch in tone between the first and second sentence. Words like “endeavor” are pretty formal (“try” would be a good alternative) and the use of “one” is formal and a bit archaic (“you” works well instead).

When you edit your writing, watch out for any inconsistencies: words or phrases that are too formal, and words and phrases that are too informal. Be particularly careful about the use of exclamation points or smiley faces – these might be fine in an email, but a bit out of place on your business blog.

#3: Stream-of-Consciousness Writing

If you sit down to write a blog post without a plan, it’s natural to simply write what comes into your head. This is sometimes called “free writing” or “stream-of-consciousness writing” – it’s a great way to get past writers’ block or to build a regular writing habit, but it’s not a good way to produce a coherent, structured post.

One symptom of this is explaining the reasoning behind your writing:

So, I’m writing this today because I totally forgot last week – and I know you want to hear about how my travels are going! I thought I’d start off with a little story about something that happened yesterday.

This isn’t terrible writing, but it’s also not all that engaging; it’s unnecessary chit-chat, and detracts from the main point of your post.

Another symptom is a post that rambles around and feels disjointed. When you edit, read through your posts as a whole, and check that each paragraph leads into the next. Creating a plan before you write – even just a list of key points to cover – can help you organize your thoughts and improve your post structures.

#4: Using Jargon

Whatever you blog about, there’s a chance that your industry has some jargon. You might not even recognize this as jargon because it seems so familiar to you – as a blogger, for instance, you’re probably used to words like widgets and themes and tag clouds.

Your reader might not know much about your field. If you’re a designer, for instance, and your blog is aimed at potential customers, CMYK might mean nothing to them. You’ll need to spell out the acronym (“CMYK stands for cyan, magenta, yellow, key/black”) but you may also need to write a beginner-friendly post to link to with more information.

Often, jargon can simply be avoided. Do you really need to write “the helicopter view” or “the 50,000 feet perspective” when you could just say “the long-term view”?

#5: Being Too Wordy

Most people over-write. They say the same thing twice, in slightly different ways, or add in unnecessary words and phrases. Usually, the more concisely you can express something, the stronger your writing will be.

You can normally cut out phrases like:

  • In my opinion…
  • I think…
  • I believe…

Readers know that your post is an expression of your opinions, thoughts, and beliefs. Unless you’re drawing a distinction between common opinion in your niche and your differing views, you don’t need “disclaimers” like these.

Many other phrases can be replaced by a single word:

  • It is almost always the case that = Usually
  • You need to take into consideration = Consider
  • On the other hand = Although

It’s hard to avoid wordiness when you’re drafting, so don’t agonize over every sentence at that stage. Once you’ve written your post, though, look through for any phrases that you could cut or shorten, and for any paragraphs where you’ve ended up saying the same thing several times. (Keep the strongest expression of your point, and cut the rest.)

What writing mistakes do you see cropping up again and again in the blogging world? Let us know your thoughts in the comments…

From WTD contributor Ali Luke of Aliventures. Ali is a writer and writing/blogging coach. Her ebook The Blogger’s Guide to Effective Writing teaches you how to construct great blog posts, write for the web, edit your work, and develop your blogging voice. Click here to find out more.

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36 Responses to “Five Common Writing Mistakes That Bloggers Make – and How to Fix Them”

Read below or add a comment...

  1. Dindy says:

    Outstanding advice Ali – succinct and on target. Great way to start the writing week.

  2. Steve Maurer says:

    Great post, Ali!

    I think my biggest problem is #5, being too wordy, although I often need to watch #2 as well.

    Steve
    Steve Maurer recently posted..What Your Writer Needs to KnowMy Profile

  3. I think the biggest error most bloggers make is they don’t post on a regular schedule. I don’t care what the schedule is — could be once a week, like Study Hacks, or could be every weekday, like me (www.publicationcoach.com) but COMMIT to it! I find it so disappointing when bloggers don’t take this simple step!
    Daphne Gray-Grant recently posted..Meet Mr. Media Training!My Profile

    • Ali Luke says:

      I think this one’s a huge mistake, Daphne — in fact, the only reason I didn’t include it in the post was because I wanted to stay focused on writing-related mistakes. So thanks for adding it in the comments!
      Ali Luke recently posted..21 Ways to Grow as a WriterMy Profile

  4. Thomas Derry says:

    Excellent advice! Will definitely link to it in a future blog post.

  5. Karin says:

    Great advice! Thank you.

  6. Charles Tutt says:

    Nothing new but praiseworthy.

  7. Bill Polm says:

    Great advice, Ali, as usual.
    Practical, spot-on, and helpful.
    The two the I needed reminding are: be careful with jargon (it’s annoying when a writer uses insider talk I don’t know) and wordiness (hey, I’m a wordy guy!).
    Bill Polm recently posted..Don’t Miss Mary Jaksch’s Essential Post on Guest Post PitchingMy Profile

    • Ali Luke says:

      Thanks Bill! I find jargon a tough one to avoid … it’s all too easy to slide into using the language that comes naturally to us in our professional domains. Definitely a good thing to look out for while editing!
      Ali Luke recently posted..21 Ways to Grow as a WriterMy Profile

  8. Hi Mary! I’ve been here once before, and I’m glad I stumbled across here again…

    I ran a blog for 7 years, making all these mistakes, and I was completely screwed by it.

    I shut down everything, hibernated, re-engineered, re-branded, and re-launched with all the mistakes fixed and…

    … I ROCKED IT.

    Even still, I recently missed a call to action, it can still happen, and I’m really grateful for the reminder.
    Jason “J-Ryze” Fonceca recently posted..Arousal, Meditation, And Staring At YourselfMy Profile

  9. At the risk of sounding too wordy, I’m taking the ‘Call to Action’ road and going with you done a great post, Ali! Love your advice, will tweet and share this gem! Cheers!

  10. I was happy to read this. I have been trying to develop my style and tone for my blog over the past couple of weeks, and it feels like a magical process to watch it sort of emerge from a mixture of what feels good to write, what gets the best feedback from readers, and what needs to come out of my head so that I don’t explode. I love reading posts like yours because they ground me back into the form and structure of what is going on outside the little bubble of me. Thanks :)
    Jennifer Stuart recently posted..Blogging As A Mindfulness Practice: Why I Left You A CommentMy Profile

    • Ali Luke says:

      Jennifer, so glad this was helpful and encouraging. It’s great that you’re paying attention to how your style is emerging … I think we always make faster progress when we consciously look at what we’re doing, what results we’re getting, and so on. Best of luck as you continue to grow and develop your blog!
      Ali Luke recently posted..21 Ways to Grow as a WriterMy Profile

  11. Great post Ali!

    I agree with you: these are all very important points.

    I also would add that most bloggers don’t seek to solve their readers problems.

    This is ESSENTIAL to a successful blog. Every time I write a new blog post I always ask myself if the blog post solves a readers problem. If it doesn’t I usually trash the post or save it until I come up with a way that the blog post can solve a reader’s problem.

    Thank you for this important reminders! I’ve never seen them laid out like this before, but you are totally right.
    Ollin Morales recently posted..When You Have Nothing Left To Lose, You Only Have Everything Left To GainMy Profile

    • Ali Luke says:

      Thanks, Ollin. And that’s a really great point — I know that some of my most popular posts have been ones that answered a reader’s question (whether that came in by email, as a comment, etc…) Thanks for adding to the discussion!
      Ali Luke recently posted..21 Ways to Grow as a WriterMy Profile

  12. Carole Lyden says:

    Hi Ali,

    I think that I fall down on my ‘call to action’ , sometimes I remember and sometimes I don’t. I put it down to ‘writer’s lapse’

    cheers

    Carole
    Carole Lyden recently posted..Justice for Lindy as Australia embraces its shadow sideMy Profile

    • Ali Luke says:

      Thanks Carole! And a lot of people miss out calls to action — I still have to consciously remind myself at the end of posts. You might find it helps to have a short checklist to deal with any elements that you find hard to remember.
      Ali Luke recently posted..21 Ways to Grow as a WriterMy Profile

  13. I tend towards wordy especially in the first draft! I’ve challenged myself to cut my posts by around 20% before publishing!
    Reeta Luthra | Paradox of Reality recently posted..Is Your Identity a Game of Numbers?My Profile

  14. Nice tips, Ali.

    I’m a huge fan of the last one in particular. I always like to get rid of most of the junk before I hit publish.
    Jamie Alexander recently posted..How To Make Your Lucid Dreams As Vivid As Real LifeMy Profile

  15. Liz says:

    Hey Ali,

    When it comes to #5, I’m the queen of wordiness. Whenever I write I just get wordy, it’s in my DNA, but I deal with it just like you mentioned. I don’t worry about it at first, I just write. Later I’ll go back and focus on paring it down and getting more to the point.

    I think #3 is equally as important. If you’re someone that just writes and fixes things later, it’s easy to see how your copy can get logically disjointed. I will often try to correct my own copy for things like that but this is where it helps to have someone else look it over.

    Liz :-)
    Liz recently posted..How To Beat The Stress of BloggingMy Profile

  16. Shoots..,scores..crowd goes wild. Bagged all five.

    Thanks for this I’m new to this whole blogging shenanigans and am usually guilty of at least 2 of the 5 per post.

    Thanks to you for the reminder and to the other commenters above who added their tips.

  17. Lukas says:

    That’s a good one. I especially liked the 5th.
    And I slightly disagree with the stream-of-consciousness. There is a time, when you write coherently from a scratch – when writing about topic you have hands-on experience with for some time. In that case you’ve done your thinking through it long before even thinking of writing about this topic. But I understand that’s not what you’ve been talking about.