I am a notoriously slow, anxious writer.
In a desperate attempt to remedy the situation I created a writing challenge. In the challenge I gave myself a strict time limit of 1 hour to write blog posts.
In two days I will complete the challenge. To mark the occasion, I looked back at the articles I wrote. Some were bad. Most were average. A few were, dare I say, good.
The results varied, but I did spot some recurring blunders. Most of which were standard stylistic mistakes High School English Teachers like to rant about.
They’re common, but without a discerning eye, we default to them . In order to shed light on some of my writing errors I made a “wall of shame.”
Shame 1: Overuse Of The Conditional
Have you ever had a lazy friend who always made excuses? Their excuses took this form: I WOULD have done _____, but I didn’t.
Woulds, coulds, and shoulds are preludes to both lazy excuses and lazy writing. Eliminate them from both areas of your life.
While we’re at it, let’s also cast “will” to the shadow realm.
Don’t: I WILL eliminate this meandering word from my vocabulary.
Do: Eliminate it!
Shame 2: Weak Adverbs
I’m a cautious cat. It’s one of my strengths and weaknesses. I eschew certainty. Who can be certain in a world filled with grey areas.
Because of this, I often don’t speak or write with assurance. I hedge my statements with adverbs like “possibly” and “probably”. While noble, this comes off as diffident writing.
Don’t use adverbs that diminish your ideas. You are the god of your page. Reign over your kingdom with firm hands.
Shame 3: I Think…
This pairs well with Shame 2. There are a multitude of opinions in the world, and I don’t want to give the impression mine is the only one. Thus, I use “I think” too often. I need to make it crystal clear that the thoughts on page are my opinions, not immutable laws.
To that I say: the audience knows these are your opinions, dummy. Your readers are keenly aware that it is YOU doing the thinking. Don’t stutter on page. Say what you mean or shut up.
Shame 4: Cut Out Gerund When You Can
To complete the trio of weak writing, I am considering cutting out the gerund.
While “considering” is the considerate thing to do, be a big boy/girl and “cut it out” already.
Shame 5: “It’s As Simple As That” (and other tired colloquialisms)
This one is the most embarrassing of all. I shiver at the thought of divulging this to you, my dear reader. But here it goes.
I used the phrase “As Simple As That” in three blogs this month.
Once is enough to hurl me in writer’s prison and throw away the key. But thrice! That’s a mortal sin.
Don’t use silly colloquialisms like “As Simple As That”. It really is “as simple as that.”
A Parting Note:
While these 5 items seem like deep sources of “shame” to me and other writers, they’re avoidable. Yet they provoke an underserved amount of anxiety, and slow us down.
My advice. Save the worries for the editing process, and write. You can deal with most of these “shames” with a simple “CTRL + F” when you edit. Happy Writing!