Simple, clear help for your writing problems

Every web content creator has writing problems. What separates good content from mediocre content is the writer who catches and fixes errors before committing the content to the web. In my last post, I explained a myriad of writing problems you can eliminate simply by reading an article before you post it. This post suggests five strategies you can employ to reduce the number of writing problems that plague your writing in the first place.

1: Use a Real Word Processor

So many on-line services provide text-entry capabilities through which you enter material: blog posts, articles, even comments about others’ posts. Don’t write web content in these web-based text-entry facilities; use a full-featured word processor.

Why? A word processor is chock full of cool features to help you produce top-notch material. Microsoft Word, for example, automatically identifies every word it doesn’t recognize. Usually, these are words you’ve misspelled. If you right-click on a highlighted word, the software suggests replacements. Most times, the list includes the word you meant to type, but spelled correctly.

Here are a few other reasons to write your web content in a word processor:

  • Many on-line posting systems lack the ability to save your work-in-progress; you must commit your work to the web to save it—a real pain if you get interrupted and want to finish a project later.
  • Sometimes you lose your internet connection. If this happens when you’re creating a post through a web-based editor, you may lose the entire entry.
  • On-line editors rarely (if ever) have grammar-checking capabilities. Robust word processors do. Again, Microsoft Word flags grammatical problems with your writing and suggests fixes when you right-click on highlighted phrases.
  • Full-featured word processors may have auto-correction and auto-completion features. These recognize common writing problems and fix them as you type. It’s pretty cool to see transposed characters jump into their correct places, and commonly misspelled words suddenly appear where a typo landed moments earlier.

So, use a real word processor, exploit its error-correcting capabilities and save often to your local hard drive. Copy your article to the web all-at-once only after you’ve written it, edited it, and read it!

2. Don’t trust grammar-checking software.

Often, a grammar-checker highlights things that may be problems… but the software doesn’t really know! Consider: If you use the word lets in a sentence, Microsoft Word’s grammar-checker will tell you that the correct word could be let’s—even when lets is, in fact, correct. So, consider what your grammar-checker tells you, but don’t get hung up on it; often you’re right and it’s only guessing.

3. Fact-check as you write.

Sure, you know your subject matter, but do you really know every fact you’re citing to make your point? Depending on my topic, I average two facts per article that I confirm through on-line research. It takes longer to write the article, but every factual error I publish diminishes my authority; I deserve to lose readers if I continually publish untruths… so I check things even when I’m confident they’re correct.

4. Reread your article after you make changes to it.

The whole point of reading your own article is to find and eliminate your writing problems. The very act of fixing a problem can introduce new problems. So, always read your article again after you make changes to it.

5. Here’s a killer: Reread your article after you publish it on the internet.

I’m not kidding. Usually, when moving an article from my word processor to my publishing platform on the web, I make some changes. I might add words to fill out lines, toss in some HTML for emphasis, or rearrange sections to accommodate illustrations or other elements. Even if I do none of these things, I reread my freshly-published articles. Writing problems I didn’t notice in the original copy sometimes jump out at me when I see an article on line. Go figure!

Here are some other articles to encourage you to read your work before you publish it:

  • Fear the publish button – I obviously want each and everyone of you to be better bloggers by reading this blog and for that I want you to think twice before pressing that evil publish button. Too many bloggers just press the publish button without even reading …

  • Ads That Suck » Even the big guys forget to proofread – Updated whenever it tickles my fancy to do so. I see typos in ads quite often, but they’re usually the little mom-and-pop, I-got-my-nephew-to-do-it sort of ads in the back of one of the many free daily newspapers in the city. But, every once in a while, even a major agency with a major client can make a stupid mistake.

  • Five Proofreading Tips That You Can Use Right Now By Yourself – Five Proofreading Tips That You Can Use Right Now By Yourself. February 23rd, 2007 · 14 Comments. I always chuckle to myself when I see the blog posts and forum posts to freelance writers recommending that they have someone else …

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One Response to “Carelessness: One of the Classic Writing Problems – Part 2”

  1. By Ben Tremblay on Jan 5, 2009 | Reply

    Hey, thanks for the link, I’m glad you liked it! :)

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