Before becoming a blogger I was a magazine journalist for 20 years.
During that time I wrote for glossy publications all over the world, including Cosmopolitan, Red, Psychologies and The Guardian’s Weekend magazine (if you’re interested, you can see some of my published work HERE).
For me, one of the most satisfying things of the past seven years has been seeing the blogging industry evolve from something no one had heard of, to something traditional media knew about, but looked down on, and finally to a respected and influential form of publishing.
However, there are a handful of mistakes I’m seeing over and over; professional no-no’s (edited: in reply to a comment this is not an incorrect use of an apostrophe – when forming a plural of a word that’s not normally a noun, it’s acceptable to add an apostrophe for clarity and ease of reading) that continue to give the publishing purists – who still think blogging isn’t ‘real’ writing – endless ammunition to throw at us.
Are you guilty of any of these?
TOP 5 WRITING MISTAKES
• Using! Lots! Of! Exclamation! Points! In traditional journalism, exclamation points are very rarely used, and even then only if you’re expressing extreme shock or surprise. They’re frowned on because – as a writer – you should be able to convey emotion with your words, and not have to ‘cheat’ with punctuation.
• Mixing up ‘I’ and ‘Me’. To figure out when to use ‘me’, you simply have to take away the other person or people in the sentence, and see if it still makes sense. For example: ‘She came over to talk to Tom and I.’ You wouldn’t say: ‘She came over to talk to I’, so in this case it should be ‘Tom and me’ or – even better, in my opinion- ‘me and Tom’. Remove the other person and it still makes sense: ‘She came over to talk to me.’.
• Writing ‘could of’ rather than ‘could have’. It’s never ‘could of’ – those two words don’t grammatically belong together – it’s always ‘I could have’ or ‘I could’ve’. Also, if you’re unsure when to use ‘it’s’ and ‘its’ read the sentence in your head, replacing ‘it’s’ with ‘it is’. Does it still make sense? If it does, use the apostrophe; if it doesn’t, don’t.
• Giving too much detail. When it comes to writing, less is more; if you’re posting about a day out, there’s no need to include every single second of your day. Pick out the most interesting points, and concentrate on them. The mark of a true writer is not just knowing what to put in, but also what to leave out.
• Confusing your tenses. You can either write in present, or past tense (one will usually feel a bit more natural to you), but you need to stick to one throughout your post, and ideally your entire blog.
Present would be: ‘As we walk along the boulevard, I can’t help but notice the beautiful, blue sky.’ Past would be: ‘As we walked along the boulevard, I couldn’t help but notice the beautiful, blue sky.’
Either of these is perfectly fine, but don’t mix them up: ‘As we walk along the boulevard, I couldn’t help but notice the beautiful, blue sky.’ In this context ‘walk’ is present tense, while ‘couldn’t’ is past tense, so they shouldn’t go together.
I hope you’ve found these helpful – I’ll be posting more professional writing tutorials, including how to pitch a freelance feature and how to break into travel writing, so make sure you subscribe to my email list (sign-up box in right-hand column) if you’d like to get those straight to your inbox.
• image: ‘Crumpled paper balls with eye glasses and notebook on wood desk, creative writing concept‘ courtesy of Shutterstock