8 Common Mistakes in Technical Writing

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

Good luck!
Deborah Levine

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



Deborah Levine is an award-winning, best-selling author. As Editor of the American Diversity Report, received the 2013 Champion of Diversity Award from diversitybusiness.com and the Excellence Award from the Tennessee Economic Council on Women. Her writing about cultural diversity spans decades with articles published in The American Journal of Community Psychology, Journal of Public Management & Social Policy, The Bermudian Magazine, and The Harvard Divinity School Bulletin. She earned a National Press Association Award, is a Blogger with The Huffington Post, and is featured on C-Span/ BookTV.

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