3 habits that ruin your writing

If you’ve been writing long enough, you may be relying on the same crutch words and structure—and it’s making your writing predictable. Here’s how you can break the habit:

Check your vocabulary. Do you use the same works repeatedly, either in the same piece of writing or in several different pieces? Instead of relying on those over-used phrases, think about exactly what you want to say. Then turn to a thesaurus to find alternatives.

Sentence structure. Perhaps you always use short, choppy sentences. Maybe every sentence consists of an “and,” “but,” or “or” contraction, or all your sentences are very long. The key is balance. You want to switch between longer, more complex sentences and short, simple ones to keep the reader’s attention.

Vary your lead. Some writers have a tried-and-true format, for example, every lead consists of an anecdote, statistic or quote. When you always follow the same format, people become bored. Shake it up and add variety to your introductory paragraphs.

— Adapted from “Writing Tips for Kicking Your Personal Clichés,” Erik Sherman, National Center for Business Journalism, http://businessjournalism.org.

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