Top 6 Content Writing Pet PeevesWriting is hard. Plain and simple. Nevertheless, nearly everything we read in a day – Facebook posts, advertisements, social media captions, and even the words on the back of a cereal box – was written by humans. But that also means nearly everything we read is prone to human error. As content writers and editors, it’s our job to predict what readers want to see and preemptively answer their questions. This is certainly easier said than done. But we can make it a lot easier for ourselves if we learn to identify and avoid the mistakes that drag good writing down into the mud. Our top content writing pet peeves illustrate why it’s so vital to constantly challenge ourselves to find more effective ways to say what we mean and nothing else. Let’s take a closer look.
Writing Pet Peeve #1: Stating the ObviousExample: “With so many X to choose from, finding the one that’s right for you can be challenging.” Sentences like these seem innocent enough, but they’re devious little space-stealers that reduce the value you can add to a piece. They’re also not necessarily true. After all, when’s the last time you were genuinely distressed or overwhelmed when trying to pick out a new moisturizer or dog collar?
What to Do Instead: Show, Don’t TellReaders already know that there are a lot of products out there or that there’s a problem to be solved: that’s why they’re reading your article. If the goal behind accentuating these facts is to demonstrate the value of your information, shift your efforts to writing content that speaks for itself.
- Show that it’s hard to find the right product by noting its popularity and growing sales figures.
- Show that your content is valuable by offering unique evidence or an unheard perspective.
- Show your article has the best information by covering all your bases and optimizing content to the best of your ability.
Writing Pet Peeve #2: Defining Things that Don’t Need DefinedExample: “Before we dive in, let’s define what a computer is and how to use one. Computers are electronic devices that can store and retrieve information and perform various specific tasks.” It might seem like covering the basics is a great way to introduce readers to a topic, but what does it add to the conversation? Unless your topic is so niche that anyone reading cannot understand the rest without an explanation, ditch the definitions.
What to Do Instead: Trust Your ReadersAssume that your reader has at least some idea of your topic. Only break down the basics when it’s necessary to do so. If your content aims to answer certain questions, trust that your readers know enough to understand those answers (they are the ones seeking them out, after all). Save keywords that prompt you to make this mistake for later in your content after you’ve done the bulk of your answering and explaining. Think of them as extra toppings: nice to have, but too many make you forget what you’re even eating.
Writing Pet Peeve #3: Keyword StuffingExample: “If you find yourself Googling, ‘keyword,’ ‘keyword,’ or ‘keyword…’” This is a cheap way to include keywords, and it comes across as unnatural and a little too on the nose. Readers are probably exploring your content for one of two reasons: they’ve found it in search results, or they’ve found it from navigating other pages. In either case, they’ve come for answers. A keyword’s job is to help people find content that fits what they’re looking for, not to steal the show.
What to Do Instead: Spread Things OutIt’s not always easy to incorporate the keywords you’re targeting. Sometimes they might not make grammatical sense. Other times they might be so specific that you can’t fathom how to use them organically in a sentence. As a result, you’ll do yourself a huge favor if you plan ahead. Decide where you’ll use those oddballs in your content and create a game plan for working them into your writing. That way, you won’t be tempted to cut corners as you scramble to meet a deadline. Use punctuation and diverse sentence structures to make it work.
Writing Pet Peeve #4: “Because the Internet”Example: “In today’s globalized world…” or “Thanks to the advent of the internet…” Believe it or not, your reader doesn’t need to be reminded that the internet exists in an article they found online. They also don’t need to be told that technology connects people worldwide. What they might need to know is that this connection leads to changes that are relevant to your topic. Vague and obvious phrases like these rob you of a chance to make a convincing argument.
What to Do Instead: Make it SpecificPointing to time’s marching arrow and the growth of human society as reasons your topic has merit is an easy cop-out. If you want to talk about something new or evolving, link to a study or figure – something tangible and specific – that supports your point. For instance, show that people are more connected than ever by leaning on statistics about cell phone usage. Then tie it to your point about the importance of optimizing mobile advertising.
Writing Pet Peeve #5: Playing Hide and Seek for AnswersExample: “Many things can impact how long you should bake a cake. Oven temperature, cake density, and cake moisture can all play a role. Your goal should be to bake the cake until it is fully dry on top yet still springy. Overall, the best length of time to bake a cake is usually around 30-45 minutes.” The principle of “saving the best for last” goes out the window when you only have a few seconds to keep someone reading. If the best is saved for the end, only readers who make it there get to see it. But if they don’t see what they’re looking for, why would they read more than a few words?
What to Do Instead: Rearrange the WordsThere’s no need to slash and burn everything except your piece’s answers. You can communicate the same message clearly by simply putting your answer first and then diving into the details. Answering after explaining is natural; elaboration helps us arrive at an answer and invites our readers to do the same. But content written for the web needs to grab people’s attention quickly. Lure them in with what they’re looking for and make them stay by giving them more than they could’ve imagined.
Writing Pet Peeve #6: Making Incorrect Claims for ClicksExample: “Peanut Butter Cures Acne. The truth is, there is no evidence that peanut butter can cure acne.” Even when they get debunked, including headers that make incorrect scientific claims is a red flag. Our job as writers is to understand our audience. And, to put it frankly, our audience is often looking to read as little of our work as they can. Lots of skimming happens to web content, and this kind of writing makes it particularly easy to miss the answer or draw false conclusions. Leaving even a minor chance that someone could leave a piece with misinformation means we’ve missed the mark. Readers shouldn’t need to look for the fine print to get vital information.
What to Do Instead: Choose Other KeywordsThe best practice here is probably to avoid using irrelevant or misleading keywords entirely. The potential traffic from these keywords pales in comparison to the risk of losing your credibility with readers. If you must use them, do so in your content, not headers, and make it clear immediately that these phrases are rooted in misconception.
Final Thoughts: Why Content Writing MattersThe content people read on the web shapes their decisions and colors how they see themselves and the world. A simple string of typed words can be produced in mere seconds, but its impact can last much longer. As content writers, our responsibility is to put out only what serves our goal and does our readers justice. Mistakes will be made, but what matters most is that we learn from them. For top-quality content writing that goes the extra mile, get in touch with Inkless. We strive to improve with each word we write so that your content shines brighter than the rest. You can trust the Inkless Difference to take your organization, business, or website to the next level.
- We create unique, engaging content that ranks well.
- Our passion for storytelling helps businesses connect with audiences and establish trust.
- We never miss a deadline.
- Our personalized services and affordable pricing plans are designed to meet your needs.