July 11, 2013
→It’s no coincidence that the first sentence of this post was going to be something very similar to the one used in this PR Newswire query on grammar and writing pet peeves; my own Google search pulled up a bevy of related links. Which, is why we’ve decided to build our own list here, so that we can all become more efficient, succinct, articulate and spelling-conscious when churning out copy, whether it’s 140 characters or 10,000 words. Of course, this means that WE’ll be under even more scrutiny than usual, but that’s only fair. And, it’s also fair for us to dole out some of our grievances as well. However, we want to hear from you, so our short ‘n’ sweet list is intentional. Feel free to comment here or on our Facebook page.
1. Careless mistakes: typos, poor punctuation, grammar, misuse of words.
2. Overuse of jargon: It’s OK to quote a few clever catch phrases or buzzwords, Bushisms and Urban Dictionary lingo, but overuse of corporate speak makes you sound pretentious. Here’s a primer on which to avoid.
3. Failure to think about the reader: What do you want them to take away? Are you writing in a way that helps them understand your subject or are you assuming their baseline knowledge?
4. SAT word show-offs: Demonstrating a wide-ranging vocabulary is important, but excessive use of less familiar words can dissuade your readers from finishing what you wrote.
5. Burying the message: By the time someone gets their eyes on what you’ve written, he or she have likely read several other documents and online content, and have had a couple of meetings and calls… keeping sentences concise and on-point doesn’t make you look one-dimensional; it shows that you care about your readers’ time.
6. Failure to weed out unnecessary sentences/information: If even one word doesn’t move your content along, strike it.
7. Poor text to white space and graphics ratio: When people look at a page covered in text, they get overwhelmed and are more likely to push it away into the “read later” pile. We all know what happens with that pile.
8. Incomplete thoughts, facts or concepts; Don’t leave the reader with questions or create room for misinterpretation. Be specific in descriptions and give examples of why something is (add adjective). If your subject is an “impressive leader,” show why she earned that qualification.
9. Unfamiliarity with writing standards: If you don’t own the Chicago Manual of Style, or AP Stylebook, Merriam-Webster (.com) is the next go-to. However, if you write often, style should be a strong suit.
10. Not knowing how to use ‘n’: Both apostrophes should lean in the same direction, as a comma would.
11. Overzealous use of exclamation points: Unless you’re trying to shout at someone through your writing, there are few times when you need to use them.
12. No clue how to use the word myriad: Even though Grammar Girl excuses the addition “of” after myriad, I still abide by my journalism teacher’s unforgiving position.
If you’re guilty of the above writing missteps, take heart; I’m notoriously compulsive in my use of the emdash and ellipsis, and @kimettinger is renown for her fanatical use of exclamation points.