I love written communication. Whether it’s a news article with my morning coffee, a cute 140-character tweet, emails at work, the latest edition of Cosmo or a simple thinking-of-you text message, written communication is everywhere. There’s no escaping it.
But unfortunately, not all writing is pretty. Maybe it’s because of my journalism degree, but I get frustrated when I come across bad writing. I understand not everyone is a New York Times best-selling author, but that’s no excuse for bad writing. Writing needs to be clear, correct and intriguing. Let’s be real, no one is happy to receive a “wat u doin 2nite” text, or read a 900-word babbling article that could easily be said in 100.
So, here are some of my writing pet peeves:
Misleading Headlines and Subject Lines. There’s nothing more annoying than clicking on a headline that reads something like, “Best Colleges in the Country,” only to read that Baylor University is not on the list. OK, that was a joke, kind of. But misleading headlines are a huge pet peeve. We’ve all seen them, clicked on them and usually ended up disappointed. It doesn’t matter if you’re writing for a newspaper, sending an email or simply sharing a link on Facebook, headlines need to be a clear summary of your content. If you want to grab readers’ attention by being cute and witty, that’s great, just make sure it’s still directly related to the story. Writing headlines is an art and takes practice! Check out these annual headline contest winners from the American Copy Editors Society for a look at some of the best headline writers in the business!
Too many little dots… The over use of them hurts my head. As a reader, you don’t want to be interrupted by multiple and meaningless stops. I understand using them once or twice for emphasis after a joke or fun fact. Like the funny Saturday morning text message: “I just woke up on a half-eaten lean pocket…” or “I saw the most attractive person today… in the mirror.” You get the idea. But when those three little dots are used multiple times… throughout texts… or emails… or comments… for no apparent reason… I… loose… my mind… so think wisely before you use them…
Those super-complex, look-how-smart-I-am words. OK, so you know the definition of unscrupulous, good for you. But no one cares. I used to see this all the time in school when we had to peer-review classmates’ essays; you could tell the ones who were just right-clicking the thesaurus option, praying to look smarter. Well it didn’t work then, and it’s not working now. The best message is written in the clearest, simplest form. Again, this is probably my news writing, journalism background talking, but the best writing is easy-to-read and precise (all while being informative and interesting).
My secret exception to writing rules: Personality. I love reading an article, tweet, blog, email or Facebook status that has a real voice. People shouldn’t be afraid to show their self in their writing. Show enthusiasm. Reveal emotions. Sometimes, that perfectly placed exclamation mark, caring tone or wonderfully worded sentence can make all the difference!