The 7 Deadly Sins of Writing
Writing is hard. Writing well is even harder.
Even if we leave aside the delicate matters of inspiration and creativity, there are many pitfalls on the path to a great piece of content.
A lot of opportunities to mess up.
Some of them are unforgivable and are basically a ticket to writing hell.
Meet the 7 deadly sins of writing.
1. Pride: Caring about yourself, not your reader
Be it your blog in general, a guest article, or a Facebook post, your place in it is secondary. Think about the readers first.
Make their lives better. Solve their problems. Heal their hearts.
Remember you are writing for them, not for yourself.
(Otherwise, you wouldn’t make your writing public).
Pride in writing comes in different shapes:
- Saying more than needed just because you want to. The time of your reader is invaluable: don’t write more than necessary to make your point.
- Using long and fancy words just to sound clever. Whenever possible, use simple and short alternatives. Don’t be a pain to understand.
- Boasting on irrelevant topics. Sometimes mentioning why you’re qualified to write about a topic is a must, but keep everything else out of the story. Most readers don’t care about your outstanding grades in school.
- Valuing your opinion more than the truth. It’s okay to express your thoughts, but always double-check if what you’re saying is accurate.
2. Envy: Mindless copying and mimicking
Your voice is unique and beautiful: don’t kill it in favor of cheesy shortcuts. They don’t work in the long run anyway.
There is a path you have to walk to master the craft. Step by step. Mistake by mistake. Mindlessly copying other writers won’t get you anywhere.
Some forms of envy in writing are more subtle than others:
- Copypasting without crediting. Borrowing someone’s thoughts to illustrate a point is alright — just don’t put them as your own. Give credit.
- Mindless rewriting. Rewriting instead of copying is still awful. Do not insult your talent: use your own thoughts, ideas, and emotions.
- Using clichés. They are terrible for only one reason: they deprive you of the opportunity to express your own voice.
- Faking your identity. If you’re not an expert yet, don’t act like one. You’ll get there. Be honest on every stage of your growth.
3. Gluttony: Bloated writing and wordiness
Every piece of writing has to have a clear reason, intention, or point, and stay close to it at all times. Don’t stuff it with information that doesn’t fit.
It’s okay to tell a short story to illustrate a point. It’s NOT okay to harass your reader with your whole biography when nobody asked for it.
Make your writing as concise and clear as possible. Stick to your deepest Why: why are you writing what you’re writing?
The most common 4 intents of writing are:
- To inform or teach
- To persuade or convince
- To amuse or entertain
- To share something or tell a story
Of course, they can be mixed a bit, but always remember your primary intent and keep it balanced with the other ones.
4. Lust: Writing clickbait headlines that underdeliver
Crafting eye-catching and interesting headlines is an art. The problem is when your writing doesn’t live up to the reader’s expectations.
Don’t trade the quality of your writing for your lust for views and clicks. Put value first. Everything else will come eventually.
- Always deliver what you promised in the headline. If possible, deliver even more than that. Amaze the reader with value.
- Treat the reader’s click as the beginning, not the end of your relationship. A catchy title should be followed by elegant thoughts, beautiful writing, and a clear takeaway. Don’t leave these aside.
5. Anger: Being intentionally provocative and spreading false information
It’s OK to have an unpopular opinion. It’s OK to have haters. You can’t expect everyone to like your writing.
What’s NOT okay is being provocative on purpose, starting fights all around for the sole purpose of reaping some exposure along the way.
Writing is an art, so let’s keep it beautiful and useful.
An easy way to make sure you’re on the right track is by following Socrates’ Triple Filter. Ask yourself the following questions about your writing:
- Is it true?
- Is it kind?
- Is it useful or necessary?
If you’ve answered with a solid “Yes” to all questions, publish away!
If not, keep working.
6. Greed: Low quality for the sake of numbers
You have to write a lot to improve your writing, but that doesn’t mean you should publish poor content just to build an audience.
Likes, claps, followers, and email subscribers are good stuff, but they are byproducts of good and authentic writing. They’re not your primary goal.
Better publish a brilliant article per week than to splurt out 3 posts per day in a rush for numbers.
- Practice in public — but keep most of your writing to yourself. Publish only those things that make the world a better place.
- Value your writing. Care about your words and be responsible for them: they are your portrait. Make every word count.
7. Sloth: Skipping the editing and formatting
Editing your writing is as important as the actual writing.
No matter how confident you feel about your piece, no matter how vibrant it sounds in your head, re-read and edit it. Then edit it again.
- Look for typos and errors. As a writer, you don’t have the right to be clumsy with your words. Check everything multiple times.
- Delete what can be deleted. Eliminate fluff. Shorten stuff.
- Make your article visually engaging. Invest time in finding suitable images. Make your paragraphs shorter. Give your reader some air.
This doesn’t mean you should edit every article for weeks, but make sure to give your absolute best every time you publish something.
The sins above are terrible, but there’s an 8th deadly sin (I left it for the folks who made it this far down this post).
A sin that may be the worse of them all.
You can learn to write beautiful, inspiring, life-changing things. You can learn to shape the world with your thoughts and touch hearts with your words.
If you don’t let your fear silence you.