Hi there! Sherman the DKS mascot here with a new question: “How do I become a better writer?”
I am super stoked to answer this question, because as the writer of the “Stump Sherman” blog posts, I love writing! Today I’ll help you address three common mistakes in your writing.
Problem #1: The curse of knowledge.
The curse of knowledge basically means, “The more you know, the less clearly you write.” It is easy to forget that the reader doesn’t know everything you know. If you are fluent in a certain kind of lingo, you may add it to your writing, but remember to translate for the reader.
Here’s an example from a correspondence sent by a government agency: “This is a follow-up to Administration Bulletin 11-001 sent in March 2011 regarding the cleanup of employees’ CalATERS work queues of any draft forms, returned Travel Advance Forms for which a travel expense claim has been completed and any cancelled forms.”
See how difficult that was to understand?
To fix this issue, make sure you have a second pair of eyes go over your writing to point out anything you need to define for the reader. Don’t assume the reader will understand your acronym. Put its meaning in parentheses next to it.
Problem #2: Complex sentences, long paragraphs, and wordiness.
Modern readers can’t afford the time to decipher your writing. You must make sure that it is easy to read at a glance. That means no overly complex sentences, long paragraphs, or wordiness.
Thick paragraphs are like formidable walls to the reader who only wanted to read something for a specific purpose, formidable walls of text built up of sentences that ramble on and on and on, never seeming to come to any point or have any focus, and bring absurdly unrelated things in unexpectedly like a false advertisement for the reader who started reading for a specific purpose, catching them off guard and beating them with a broom when they least expect it–did you know that 60% of all English words have Greek or Latin roots? If you go on with your paragraph for too long, you end up addressing several different subjects at once each of which may be perfectly delightful for you but profoundly boring for the cruelly tricked reader who came into your article or email expecting information on something that they could take in in a minute or two, or even better, just skim the bold headings, but once they realize that your writing looks more like a school essay at first glance, they click out of the article right away which is actually bad for your SEO or delete the email and pay no attention to your ‘call to action’ if you even have one, but if your articles are that long they may not even have a point in the first place, as this sentence does not have a point. Can you believe that this paragraph is only three sentences?
Bet you can’t read that chunk of text without struggling. ^^
The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. is an excellent resource for ensuring that your writing is as readable as possible. Having someone else proofread can also be an effective way to eliminate this problem.
Problem #3: Typos and grammatical errors.
The problem of typos and grammatical errors is even worse than wordy writing. You may have heard the famous example where a comma changed the complete meaning of a sentence.
“Let’s eat, Grandma.”
The sentence above is perfectly innocent. You’re just requesting that you eat, and the comma signifies that you are talking to Grandma.
“Let’s eat Grandma.”
That sentence, on the other hand, is evil and cannibalistic. #CommasSaveLives
Grammar is important to get the correct meaning across in your message. Spelling is as well. “Laughter” can very easily become “slaughter,” you know, or “public” become “pubic.” And even if it is a harmless grammatical error or typo, it can still make your business appear unprofessional and careless.
The free version of Grammarly is very helpful for this purpose.