Want to improve your writing skills and keep on improving? Avoid these 8 mistakes by using my strategies for giving readers what they need and expect. Remember, technical writing is not about self expression. It’s all about clarity for the reader. As a famous writer once said …
“Easy reading is damn hard writing. ” ~ Nathaniel Hawthorne
Mistake #1: Not having a point
• Decide on a Title before writing.
• If you tweak the title after writing the paper, review and edit the paper to make sure your intended point is consistent throughout the paper.
Mistake #2: Not having a linear writing process
• Create an Outline
• Create a Table of Contents that reflects your outline before writing.
Mistake #3: Making paragraphs too long or too short.
• Paragraphs more than 5-7 sentences may lose the reader.
• Paragraphs of only 1-3 sentences should either be expanded or folded into another paragraph to make the paper easier to read.
Mistake #4: Using vague words to define terms.
• Confusing comparisons: Similar to, just like, unlike, almost as much as …
• Unquantifiable measurements: A lot, marginally, hardly, almost all …
Mistake #5: Stating opinions vs. facts.
• Don’t tell the reader what you feel, believe, think, or hope.
• If an application asks about your plans and aspirations, be specific and give short and long term details.
Mistake #6: Mixing verb tenses.
• Use the future tense rarely, the present tense occasionally, the past tense often.
• Separate the different tenses by paragraphs, not by sentences.
Mistake #7: Using colorful language to add emotion.
Non-technical idioms: Colloquial phrases that are fun and catchy are distractions.
Conversational-only adjectives & adverbs: Really, very, important, very important …
Mistake #8: Inserting confusing punctuation.
• Semi-colons should be used rarely if ever.
• Count your commas. If you used more than 4-5 commas in a sentence, break it up into shorter sentences.
© Deborah Levine
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