Four Writing Process Mistakes–And How to Fix Them

I help a lot of people write in my work. There are four writing process mistakes that they consistently make that make writing difficult and even impossible. Here they are with the fixes.

1. Writing Without a Plan

Many people just begin to write and expect to end up where they want to go. The result is often unorganized, with points mixed up, and multiple ideas in each paragraph. It is hard to read and frustrating write.

Writing without a plan is great if you want to discover how you feel or to clear your mind. It is even good preparation for writing, but if you want to create a blog, book, or course, then you need a plan.

There are many ways to pre-plan your writing. In school, we were taught to make an outline. A better method for us non-linear thinkers is mind-mapping. I will discuss mind-mapping separately. Meantime, you can Google it and see examples.

2. Editing While Writing

Another common mistake is editing while writing the first draft. Writing involves the right brain to percolate ideas. It is the job of the left brain to just write them down as they flow.

When you try to fix spelling, punctuation, grammar, or sentence structure while writing, you stop the writing flow. The left brain has as big a job to do as the left, and the two collide.

In the collision between these tasks, your ideas freeze. Your brain literally doesn’t know what to do next.

To prevent this collision, write freely, without regard to any mistakes. Just keep your hand moving. After you finish the draft, you can go back to rearrange words and sentences and fix mistakes

3. Leaving Out Key Ideas and Definitions

It’s easy for us to leave out key ideas and definitions when we write. Our points seem obvious, and so does how we got to them. We think everyone else can understand. 

But they don’t.

To make yourself clear, it’s important to lead the reader to all your reasons for reaching your  conclusions. Give examples. Give definitions. And, most importantly, lead them step-by-step on the journey in your mind.

4. Improper Punctuation

I see a lot of papers with sentences that go on and on. I see long sentences with commas in the strangest places.

What happens when I read papers without punctuation or with misplaced punctuation? I get confused when I read it. So will your readers if you don’t punctuate properly.

My favorite example is from the book titled, Eats, Shoots and Leaves: Why Commas Really Do Make a Difference! by Lynn Truss.

In my classes, I write this on the board: eats, shoots and leaves. Then I ask what is happening in this phrase. They say a man came into a bar, ate a meal, shot his gun, and left.

Then I ask them what it means when I take out the comma. The same words become how a panda nourishes itself. It eats shoots and leaves.

The only difference is the comma.

The cure for this confusion in writing is to learn when and when not to use commas. Consult a style manual, like the Chicago Manual of Style.
Then, fix your sentences once you have your ideas written and organized.

You can easily adjust your habits to ensure your effectiveness and credibility by planning in a way that works for you, editing as a separate step, leading your readers with complete thoughts, and punctuating sentences correctly.  Take the time to learn and practice.

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