Common Writing Problems to Avoid

Even the most compelling writing can fail if you let the small irritations get in the way of that connection with your reader. These include:

1 Poor organization. Sometimes, people can’t follow an author’s line of reasoning or organization. The writer hasn’t created a beginning, middle, and end that anyone can understand. As a writer, you are taking your readers on a journey, so don’t lose them along the way.

2 Passive voice. When an author lacks confidence in what she is saying or in her expertise, there is a tendency to write in the passive voice: “The boat was overturned” versus “I overturned the boat.” The passive voice is a legitimate writing tool, but most authors employ it to avoid their own power. Used this way, it undermines the strength of the material.

3 Limited vocabulary. A book is a two-dimensional medium, so it is up to the writer to deliver the words to paint a picture that becomes three-dimensional in the mind’s eye. This is true even for a nonfiction book. If the words are trite or uninteresting, the book becomes forgettable.

4 Poor sentence structure and grammar, misspellings, incorrect abbreviations, and capitalization. If you make these mistakes, the reader may assume your ideas are in error too.

5 Wordy sentences. You may find that you ramble when you write a first draft. If so, you go back and shorten sentences by taking out the extra words.


For example, “I’ve often thought that we should consider what we want out of life so we won’t make so many mistakes.” Translation: “Consider what you want from life to avoid making mistakes.”

6 Trite phrases. For example: “As I’ve always said…”. We don’t need to know what you’ve always said. Just tell us what you want us to know.

7 Over-emotionalism. Your book will be most effective in making your point if you tell your story clearly and let the readers experience their own emotions. That doesn’t mean you can’t use words to make a story poignant and meaningful; it just means you shouldn’t tell the reader how to feel about the events. Tell only how you feel. A sign of this is when a writer uses exclamation points throughout his or her book. If you use more than one exclamation point per chapter, you’ve probably used too many. Another amateur mistake is using words with all capital letters, the written equivalent of shouting. It is much more effective to talk softly.

8 Quoting or referring to other people’s opinions, including those of experts throughout. Use quotes sparingly, and refer to other people’s books, seminars, opinions, and more, only a few times in the entire book. This is your book, and although your thoughts may be a result of other people’s input, you need to give your reader a reason to read your book instead of a compilation of other people’s thoughts.

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