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Allison MelnikOctober 1, 20153 min read

5 Writing Habits You Need to Break … and Fast

Writing_TipsAs Malcom Gladwell (@Gladwell) states in his book Outliers, 10,000 hours of deliberate practice are needed before you can become an expert in your desired field. Writing every day is the golden rule to becoming a better writer, but that’s not the only guideline you should be following.

I recently read Ann Handley’s (@MarketingProfs) book, Everybody Writes, and boy, did I learn a lot about my current writing techniques. I discovered common habits that many often overlook when producing content, and couldn’t help but share.

As Handley states, “The key to becoming a better writer is to write.” But before you can do that, throw these five habits out the door.   

1. Dreading Your Ugly First Draft

Writers often expect too much of themselves during ideation, which is a huge setup for disappointment. The key is not to be awesome at writing the first draft, but becoming an impeccable editor of your own work. 

Embracing the beauty of your ugly first draft may seem like a horrifying task, but I promise you it’s worth it.

When drafting your content, follow this simple timeline:

  • Jot down your incredible ideas before they slip out of mind.
  • Walk away from your work to let your mind rest.
  • Take another look and then rewrite with a fresh mind.

2. Using Misused or Improper Word Choice

Grammar and proper word choice are crucial, no matter the content type or format. Throughout your draft, ensure word selection conveys your intended connotation and grammar use is appropriate.

Here are some simple, but overlooked tips to keeping your grammar and word usage on track:

  • Use real words and avoid using words pretending to be something they are not (i.e. ginormous, awesomesauce, fantabulous).
  • Understand the difference between active and passive voice.
  • Eliminate weak verbs and focus more on expressive or descriptive verbs.
  • Ditch adverbs (unless they are adjusting the meaning).
  • Learn the difference between similar or seemingly interchangeable words to avoid misuse or confusion.

3. Neglecting the Importance of Telling a Story

Telling a compelling story is an effective way to get your audience to truly connect with your brand. This can only be done, though, if your story is told well and accurately. 

When drafting your content, develop characteristics that make your story its own. Make sure your story fulfills the following characteristics and is:

  • True
  • Human
  • Original
  • Serving the customer
  • Telling a bigger picture story

Another important aspect to keep in mind when crafting your unique story is voice and tone. Assure your story’s style appropriately aligns with your company’s specific personality.

4. Ignoring Platform and Audience Customization

Each platform will have a different audience, which means unique needs and preferences must be met for each.

Related read: How to Avoid the Critical Marketing Mistake Most Companies Make

Understand the ideal length for blog posts, social media shares, and other marketing content. Know the rules for each individual platform, so you can optimize content, timing and distribution appropriately.

5. Not Utilizing Content Tools

There are endless resources out there that you can utilize, so why not take advantage of them? Using the right content tools can help you produce even better, more efficient work. Consider different tools that can help boost your content creation, such as:

When determining which tools to utilize during content production, look for these variables:

  • Research and knowledge management
  • Writing
  • Productivity
  • Editing
  • Style guides
  • Non-text writing
  • Blog generators
  • Google authorship

There are many content tools to choose from, so don’t overwhelm yourself with the wide array of options. Evaluate which problem areas might benefit from automation or advancement and start producing better content.

What are some bad writing habits you need to kick to the curb? Share with us in the comments below.

Rethinking your writing approach? Read Handley’s book for more tips and tricks to “ridiculously good content.” To evaluate your team's writing skills, download the team assessment in our free performance pack


Image Source: Eric


Allison Melnik

Allison Melnik is a consultant at PR 20/20. She is a 2014 graduate of Kent State University with a concentration in organizational communications and public relations. Full bio.