Working as a freelancer means that I write a lot. Sometimes I have different subjects to cover. Because I write so much, it can be easy, after a time, to fall into poor writing habits. If you want to stay on top of your game and continue impressing clients and potential clients, here are some of the writing mistakes to avoid:
1. Using Jargon and Acronyms
Because I mostly write about finance, I’m immersed in that world. As a result, I sometimes fall into jargon. You might have specific jargon or acronyms that are common in your area of specialty. However, your audience might not have the same knowledge. Keep your audience in mind and explain concepts clearly, without words they aren’t likely to understand.
2. Fluffy Writing to Increase the Word Count
When you have a word quota to fill, this is one of the toughest writing mistakes to avoid. You might want to use filler words or add extra fluff. When possible, keep it direct. Use shorter sentences. Explain concepts quickly and clearly and move on.
3. Vague, Generalized Claims
“Everyone one knows,” “most people feel,” and “no matter where you go” are vague and general. At some point, you probably need to substantiate that claim. Additionally, these are phrases that don’t really convey anything. Same with phrases like, “they say,” and “you’ve heard that.” Find ways to offer concrete information that adds interest, rather than being mealy-mouthed about it. Start with a story or a hard statistic rather than making a vague claim.
4. You Don’t Proofread Your Work
I make mistakes. You probably make mistakes. No one is perfect. However, as a freelancer, one of the biggest writing mistakes you can make is to neglect to proofread. Your clients and editors are probably ok with fixing one or two minor errors or typos. However, if your work is riddled with problems, eventually they will elsewhere for a writer.
Go through your work after you finish and look for mistakes. In fact, it can often make sense to set the work aside for a couple hours. Look at it again after you’ve had a break and can come to it with a slightly fresher perspective and a readiness to improve the work.
5. Not Asking for a Style Guide
Before you get to work as a freelancer, ask the client if they have a style guide preference. When writing for many of my clients, I find that the most common style guide used is Associated Press (AP) stylebook. Some of my clients use the Chicago Manual of Style. I rarely deal with American Psychological Association (APA) or Modern Language Association (MLA) style because I don’t write academically.
Also, ask if your clients have modifications. I have clients that use a modified AP style. They might mostly follow the conventions, but with two or three of their own tweaks. If you ask for a style guide, you will probably be given one.
6. Not Writing for Your Medium
Another of the writing mistakes to avoid is not writing for your medium. Writing for a blog is different than writing a book. You might need to break up the text more with blog writing. It’s also different than writing something you’ll see in print in a magazine or newspaper. Writing a video script is different than writing copy for a slideshow.
Pay attention to the conventions for writing for the medium in question for best results.
When you do your best to avoid these writing mistakes, you will improve your abilities and be more likely to keep your clients and attract new clients.