Professional writing is critical because it’s often used in communication to express oneself or to put across some idea. Mistakes in professional writing can be embarrassing and costly thus it’s critical to ensure that they are avoided.
Although you can’t expect to be perfect all the time, some very glaring writing mistakes repeatedly done can seriously undermine your credibility, reputation, and personal brand.
According to Jacqueline Whitmore, an etiquette expert and founder of The Protocol School of Palm Beach, most of the mistakes are easy to avoid and are also easy to fix by proofreading every single document for any errors before sending or presenting to another party. Timothy Harper, a writing coach and editor of CUNY Journalism Press, notes, “The whole point of grammar and punctuation is clarity.”
The following are some of the 5 top common mistakes writers make.
- Spelling mistakes
Although some writers make spelling mistakes as a result of writing in a hurry, most of these errors occur when incorrect homophones (words with the same pronunciation) are used. Such mistakes can also happen when a writer uses a smartphone or tablet to type. Below are some other errors that relate to spellings.
Incorrect use of quotes – In American English, quotes always go outside the punctuation.
Use of apostrophes to indicate plural – apostrophes should only be used to indicate possession not the plural form of a word.
Starting sentences with a numeral – Unless you are indicating a year, avoid starting off a sentence with a number. Instead, write it in words.
Wrong use of punctuation – punctuation marks should be placed immediately after the last letter of a word and should be followed by a space.
Putting many exclamation marks at the end of a sentence shows emotional or immature writing. According to Barbara Pachter, the author of Essentials of Business Etiquette, exclamation points should be used sparingly in writing.
Overuse capital letters – overusing capitalization of words for emphasis portrays that the writer is shouting. Sparing use an exclamation point to show emphasize on a word or phrase.
Composing overly complicated, abstract and flowery writing – complex and high-brow literature doesn’t necessarily equate to an excellent article because it causes the reader to lose attention. Ensure you keep sentence construction simple and ground your abstract ideas in clear examples. Use vocabularies that the majority of readers understand.
Incorrect use of indefinite (a, an) and definite articles (the). Below are some valuable tips to note when using definite and indefinite articles.
- Indefinite articles are used when presenting something for the first time in a sentence but when referring to something that has already been mentioned, use a definite article.
- Use indefinite articles when referring to anything that is not explicitly known to both the writer and the reader and a definite article when mentioning something which is already known to both the writer and the reader.
- No article should be used when speaking in general using a plural with a countable noun, or the singular with a uncountable noun.
While it’s critical and a must, some writers forget to capitalize the first person pronoun ‘i’ as well as national adjectives/nouns/names of languages when they appear in the middle of a sentence while others ignore the first word of a new sentence.
- Use of comma
The wrong use or lack of a comma in a sentence is usually one of the biggest writing mistakes professional writers do. The following are sentences that result due to such blunders.
Run-on sentences – results due to lack of a comma before a coordinating conjunction connecting two clauses.
Comma splicing – occurs when a comma is used to connect two clauses that can stand as a sentence on their own.
Comma misuse – occurs when a comma is put inside a compound subject. A compound subject uses a conjunction to connect more than one noun phrase.
No commas around interrupters – interrupters are phrases that break the flow of a sentence to provide additional detail hence a comma should be placed around them.
Using unnecessary words to convey a specific meaning causes the writing and message to be unclear.
- Making vague claims
Vague claims, such as “It’s a well-known fact…” make a sentence to be general and weak. Any case made should be qualified or quantified with specific and supporting data.
- Use of unprofessional language and font.
While communication is the principal objective in writing, it is vital to maintaining professionalism. Use of slang at work lowers your perceived IQ, professionalism and maturity.
Unless requested, always stick to the professional neutral classics and avoid using weird colors and fonts.
While the use of spelling and grammar checkers could help to point out and eliminate some minor errors in writing, English language is unfortunately complicated, and most of those checkers cannot pick up mistyped words, missing words or subtle distinctions between some of the often-confused words. It is therefore worth noting that you should not rely on a spell checker to proofread your writing.
Some of the best ways to spot and remove errors in any writing include to proofread your work several times or to get another person to read and check it for you.
You can always print out a copy and use it to proofread as you underline or correct the spotted errors if you prefer as compared to reading on a computer screen.