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9 Common Writing Mistakes (+ How to Write Better Sentences)

Want to learn how to write better sentences? We share 9 mistakes to avoid and 5 tips to follow closely if you want to become a better writer.

August 11, 2022
9 Common Writing Mistakes (+ How to Write Better Sentences)
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Sentences are the building blocks of written content. So if you know how to write better sentences, you’re well on your way to writing better content. 

A complete sentence is one with a subject, verb, and object. But what makes a good sentence and how can you improve your writing skills without spending time and money on countless training sessions?

We’re sharing our top tips for writing better sentences, as well as 10 common pitfalls to watch out for on your path to stellar writing.

What makes a good sentence?

The best sentences feature these three key elements:

1. Clarity

Ultimately, the goal of writing is communication. So, if your writing fails to communicate without confusion, then your sentences are probably lacking. An average reader can understand a good sentence without needing to re-read it multiple times, and that should be the prime goal of your writing. When readers understand what you’re saying, you can convince them to convert.

2. Flow

Flow makes your writing enjoyable to read. Getting readers to understand is the first step, but now they need to feel carried along by your writing, led into sentence after sentence. You achieve flow by connecting ideas in a reasonable order, pacing your narration appropriately, and revealing new information gradually throughout your article.

3. Vivid

Including vivid details in your writing brings it to life and keeps readers engaged. Every sentence should paint a picture in your readers’ minds, helping them visualize your ideas without too much effort. This part of writing requires real imagination, more than just putting words down.

5 tips to help you write better sentences

Use these tips to improve the quality of your sentence structure:

1. Write simply

Writing simply is harder than it seems — and goes beyond using short sentences. Use these tips to express yourself in an easily readable way:

  • Where possible, choose simple words over complex ones. For example, “use” instead of “utilize” or “help” rather than “assistance.”
  • Avoid overly long sentences; if a word expresses a thought, it’s often unnecessary to use a phrase.
  • Use conversational terms for better clarity. If you wouldn't use a word in regular conversation, don’t write it in an article. Words like “furthermore” and “moreover” tend to fall into this category.

2. Use correct grammar

Poor grammar is distracting for readers and may cause some to question your credibility. However, it can be tough to use proper grammar if you’re not fluent in the English language (or the language in which you’re writing). To prevent mishaps, try the following suggestions:

  • Use a grammar checker to catch errors before you publish content
  • Always proofread your articles even if you use a grammar checker
  • Invest in a good editor to correct mistakes you may have missed

3. Use punctuation well

Punctuation and grammar are like an old couple who complement each other perfectly. Correct grammar can easily be undone when your punctuation game is off. Again, a grammar checker will also check your punctuation, but it pays to learn basic punctuation rules. Depending on your style guide, there may be different times to use a comma, skip a period, or use an em dash.

4. Read your work out loud

Reading your work out loud is crucial for recognizing errors in your flow, poor word choices, and even typos you might have glossed over while reading silently. It’s also a good way to detect filler sections or repetitive sentences that add no value to your content. We recommend reading your work aloud before your first edits and before publishing the final version.

5. Cut the fluff

Fluff refers to unnecessary details, meandering or repetitive sentences that detract from the quality of your work. Once you’ve read your work aloud, you can identify words, phrases, or sentences that you could remove entirely without changing the essence of your text negatively. That’s fluff — and you should cut it, even if you think it’s a really great sentence.

7 common sentence mistakes that might be sabotaging your writing

We’ve shared five tips to help you write better sentences. Now we’re highlighting 7 mistakes you’re probably making in your writing and sharing how to fix them. These tips will help you become a better writer:

1. Passive voice

Experts recommend writing in the active voice to keep meanings clear and maintain straightforward, simple sentences. Still, active voice vs. passive voice can be confusing for new writers. Simply put, your subject should be mentioned as performing (active) the action vs the action being performed (passive) by them. Here is an example:

  • Shana led her debate team to victory (active)
  • The debate team was led to victory by Shana (passive)

Notice which option is easier to understand?

Fix: Write in the active voice for the most part. Sometimes, the passive voice does fit better, but most of your writing should use the active voice.

2. Run-on sentences

These happen when two or more sentences are packed into one without any punctuation. Run-on sentences create the image of a person speaking without pausing for breath and they can give readers the same chaotic impression too. Here’s an example, as well as how you can fix it.

  • Anna had a new baby it’s her second one. (Run-on sentence)
  • Anna had a new baby. It’s her second one. (Fixed)

Fix: Break up the two sentences into individual effective sentences using relevant punctuation. This could be a period, comma, em-dash, or semicolon.

3. Sentence fragments

A sentence fragment is a sentence that is missing one of its key components — subject, verb, or object. Sentence fragments are no crime in informal communication like texting, but for formal correspondence like business writing, they can come off as sloppy or unclear. Here are some examples and their fixes:

Example 1: There are two ways to stop the leak. Change the faucet or turn off the supply.

Correction: There are two ways to stop the leak: Change the faucet or turn off the supply.

Example 2: A great article about learning to write well.

Correction: This is a great article about learning to write well.

Fix: Combine a sentence fragment with a complete sentence or turn it into a full sentence.

4. Subject-verb agreement

Your subject should use the appropriate verb form. This basic principle can trip up even the most experienced writers, especially in long, complex sentences. In our examples, we’ve highlighted the subject and italicized the corresponding verb:

  • Bob and Kathy’s son moves into his college dorm this week.
  • Bob and Kathy move into their new house this week.

In the first sentence, the son is the subject, whereas, the parents are the subject of the second sentence.

Fix: Always identify the subject and make sure the verb agrees with it.

5. Unclear antecedents

An unclear antecedent means that your reader can’t figure out what noun a pronoun is replacing. Here are some examples:

Example 1: Both Leila and Maria are looking for new jobs, at least that’s what she told me.

In the sentence above, it’s not clear who’s “she”?

Correction: Both Leila and Maria are looking for new jobs, at least that’s what Leila told me.

Example 2: This tool helps you correct grammatical errors in your sentences.

For this example, the preceding sentence should mention what tool is being discussed to prevent confusion.

Correction: [Grammar checker tool] is one of my favorites to use. This tool helps you correct grammatical errors in your sentences.

Fix: Good writers always keep readers in the loop by making sure the antecedent is clear.

6. Incomplete comparisons

A comparison should weigh more than one option. So if you’re using comparison terms but only mentioning one option, your sentence is faulty. Here are some examples:

  • I ate the most
  • She loves that bag more
  • Lou’s car is faster

All three examples leave you asking, “than what?” because they’re incomplete.

Fix: Complete the comparison by answering the “than what?” question.

7. Parallel verb form

This is also an agreement error, but this time between verb forms. It typically happens when the subject is performing (or has performed) more than one action. See an example below:

  • Emily likes to bake, swim, and reading books.
  • Correction: Emily likes to bake, swim, and read books.

Fix: Pay attention to the verb forms in your sentence. They should all be in the same form unless you’re referring to actions taking place at different times.

3 best examples of clearly written sentences you can learn from

Would you like to see some great sentences in action? We’ll show you two examples and then share a breakdown for simplifying a complex sentence.

1. Grammarly: What Is Narrative Writing?

“With a linear narrative, a story’s events are told in chronological order. Most books, movies, TV shows, and other pieces of media are linear narratives. With a linear narrative, each scene is followed by the next logical scene. There can be gaps between scenes, such as a book’s third chapter taking place two years after its second chapter’s events.”

This paragraph wins for being vivid and using a variety of short and longer sentences, while not using overly lengthy or complex sentences.

2. Ahrefs: 6 Risky Black Hat SEO Tactics to Avoid

“The antidote to keyword stuffing is comprehensive content.

You can create this in two ways.

First, write in-depth content that covers a topic meticulously. The result? You will naturally include most expressions and long-tail keywords people use to discuss the topic.”

The sentences in these paragraphs are concise and clear. There are no run-on sentences, and the sentence fragment used here is placed to prevent any confusion for the reader.

3. How to Simplify a Complex Sentence

We’ll simplify the sentence below by highlighting the key points and trying to retain them in our edited version while discarding repetitive phrasing.

The Hiking Pals community is a group of outdoor lovers who enjoy spending time outdoors. We meet once a week to hike a trail in the Bend, Oregon area. The goal of our group is to help hiking aficionados find community while enjoying a beloved hobby. Signing up is easy just leave your email address in the box below to receive notifications about our weekly meetups.

Edited version: Hiking Pals is a group of outdoor lovers in Bend Oregon. Our goal is to foster community while enjoying a good hike together. To join our community, sign up below to be notified about our weekly meetups. 

This concise version removes redundant phrases, run-on sentences, and distills the information into fewer, shorter sentences.

How to generate better sentences with Jasper

Jasper is an AI writing assistant that helps you to write better sentences with ease. After slaving over thousands of words, it can be exhausting to keep looking for ways to improve your content. That’s where Jasper’s Content Improver template can help. This template refines average sentences to ensure that they are as concise and impactful as possible.

Don’t believe us? See it in action:

Jarvis Content Improver template for writing better sentences

Notice that although this template can make your sentence longer or shorter, it ultimately improves the clarity of your writing.

With Jasper’s new Boss Mode plan, you can guide the AI to produce higher-quality content.

Write sentences that will move your audience to action

Your sentences should never be mere filler content. With content marketing, it is crucial to make every word count. You can learn how to write better sentences by focusing on the clarity, flow, and vividness of your writing. Avoid common errors like passive sentences and poor punctuation.

But even the best writers need help. The Content Improver template in Jasper is sure to make your writing shine. There are even free resources available to help you get the best out of the tool. What are you waiting for? Sign up with Jasper to start writing better sentences.

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Meet the author

Austin Distel
Marketing @ Jasper

Austin Distel is the Sr. Director of Marketing at Jasper, your AI creative assistant. He's also an Airbnb superhost in Austin, Texas. You can follow Austin's adventures around the internet and the world at distel.com.

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