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Are You Making Dumbass Writing Mistakes? Here’s How to Avoid Them

Are You Making Dumbass Writing Mistakes? Here’s How to Avoid Them

There are some fabulous articles here on Lifehack that can help you improve as a writer, with tips and tricks ranging from ensuring that you write something every single day, to keeping a notebook handy for random inspirational thoughts. These are great suggestions and will undoubtedly assist you in building confidence with regard to your writing, but they won’t be of significant help if you haven’t mastered the essentials.

Basically, you can decorate a house as prettily as you like, but if the foundation is weak and the walls have been made of pool noodles and saltines, you’re in trouble.

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writing mistakes

    1. Read Great Writers

    This was the #1 tip in Leo B.’s article, and I’m going to reiterate it most heartily.

    I grant that there are some fabulous pieces floating about on the web that you can read, but anyone with access to a keyboard can post an article; whether they can differentiate between homonyms is a different story entirely.

    Published books tend to go through a rather vigorous proofreading/editing process, which generally ensures that the work is quite polished by the time it’s sucked into your retinas. Writers and their editors work together to create cohesive works of often staggering genius, and the more you immerse yourself in good writing, the more your own work will end up improving as a result. We often emulate that which we admire (even subconsciously), and it’s not unusual to see parallels between one author’s work and another’s.

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    Kurt Vonnegut took cues from Mark Twain, Amy Tan has admitted that she’s been influenced by Isabel Allende, and J.K. Rowling’s work has echoes of Jane Austen. My own influences are drawn from Bill Bryson, Anais Nin, A.S. Byatt, and Terry Pratchett, but I’m a bit deranged like that.

    2. Be Sure to Revisit the Basics

    Most of us haven’t delved into the basics of writing composition since well before high school, and for some of us, that was a very long time ago.

    Education has changed a great deal over the years, and the average person today would just look at you blankly if you asked them to identify a misplaced modifier or define the subject and predicate in a sentence. The use of proper grammar, punctuation, and spelling isn’t as rigidly enforced as it was in the past, and many people manage to reach high levels of education and employment without ever sorting out “your” VS “you’re”. Hell, I’ve seen PhD candidates commit some of the most flagrant acts of apostrophe abuse you can imagine, and these were college professors.

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    In addition to revisiting these building blocks, it’s also a good idea to touch upon tips on how to structure both full articles, and the paragraphs therein. If you feel the inclination to touch up your skills in this regard, consider checking out some of these books to help you along:

    3. Subscribe to Daily Writing Tips

    I can honestly say that the daily tips I’ve received from this website have helped my writing and editing work exponentially. With lighthearted examples and fun quizzes, each email prods at your brain-meat to flesh out areas where you might have difficulty, and helps to sharpen your existing skills.

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    4. Read Your Work Aloud

    This is a great way to ensure that your work flows well, and to check for any awkward sentences and spelling errors. By reading a piece aloud, you can see where pauses are needed so you can tuck in some commas, and you’ll notice if your sentences are halting because they’re too short, or if you’re rambling and need to do some restructuring.

    Here’s a tip: if you find that there are issues with your writing that keep popping up—whether this is discovered through your own editing or because it’s been pointed out to you by another—write that issue on a large sheet of paper and tack it up above your desk. Since it will be in your line of sight, you’ll be reminded every time you glance upwards so you can to avoid it in future.

    5. Keep in Mind That There is Always Room for Improvement

    We’re all on a journey as we plod through life, and as we learn various lessons and sharpen our skills, we’ll undoubtedly improve in our chosen fields.  It’s important to recognize that by leaving room to make mistakes, we’re also leaving room to grow.

    Every single one of us will cock up eventually (often, I would think, especially in my case), but rather than beating ourselves up over errors, we can see these screw-ups as learning opportunities.

    As mentioned, there isn’t a single writer out there who couldn’t improve on some level—including me.  Muphry’s Law  (deliberate misspelling) dictates that I will have inevitably screwed something up in this article, and I certainly have a long way to go before I consider my work to be as flawless as I’d like, but both self-awareness and the ability to analyse one’s own work critically are of vital importance for any writer, every step of the way. Keep in mind that there’s always room for growth, treat that ever-evolving learning process with humour and humility, and keep writing.

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    Catherine Winter

    Catherine is a wordsmith covering lifestyle tips on Lifehack.

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    Last Updated on February 11, 2021

    10 Secrets of Making Every Presentation Fun, Engaging, and Enjoyable

    10 Secrets of Making Every Presentation Fun, Engaging, and Enjoyable

    Not a lot of people are good at public speaking. You could even say that virtually everyone needs to get some practice, and preferably good guidance, before they can learn to stay calm when facing a room full of people. Having all eyes on you is an uncomfortable experience and it takes time to get used to. However, even if you can manage to control your stage fright and stay focused, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your presentation won’t put people to sleep. This is usually the case with long presentations on a very dull subject, with the presenter speaking in a monotone voice and dimming the lights to play a PowerPoint presentation.

    You have to work hard to develop the right skills

    If you want to be remembered and actually get people engaged, you need to make your presentation fun and enjoyable, without coming off as corny or desperate to please. I know, it doesn’t sound that easy at all! A good presentation during a promotional event or given to an important client can be a game changer for your business, so it is easy to get stressed out and fail to perform all that well. Luckily, giving an interesting lecture is something that can be practiced and perfected. There is plenty of advice out there on the topic, but let’s look at the most important aspects of giving a memorable and fun presentation.

    1. Make your presentation short and sweet

    With very long, meandering speeches you tend to lose the audience pretty early on, and from then on out it’s just a test of endurance for the few bravest listeners. Not only will people’s attention start to drop rapidly after sitting and listening to you talk for 30 minutes, but you also risk watering down your core ideas and leaving your audience with little in the way of key phrases and important bits of information to take away from the whole ordeal. Famous speakers throughout history have known the importance of condensing the information by using well thought out sentences and short phrases loaded with meaning.

    JFK’s famous: ”It’s not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” expresses so much in very few words and gets the audience thinking. Ancient Spartans, for example were famous for their quick, dry wit, often demolishing their opponent’s argument with a single word or phrase. You’ll want to channel that ancient spirit and be as concise as possible when preparing your presentation.

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    2. Open up with a good ice breaker

    At the beginning, you are new to the audience. There is no rapport, no trust and the atmosphere is fairly neutral. Even if some of the people there know you personally, the concept of you as an authority on a particular matter giving a speech will be foreign to them. The best way to encourage a warm and friendly atmosphere is to get some kind of emotional response out of the audience right at the beginning. It doesn’t matter what emotion it is, you just need to connect with them on a more personal level. It can be shock, curiosity, laughter, knowing smirks, nervousness – whatever gets them out of that initial feeling of indifference. There are different kinds of effective ice-breakers, but generally speaking, the most successful ones utilize one of these tactics:

    • Joking
    • Tugging on their heart strings
    • Dropping a bombastic statement
    • Telling an interesting and relevant anecdote
    • Using a metaphor or drawing comparisons

    You can make a small, self-deprecating comment, stir the presentation one way and then suddenly surprise the audience, use sarcasm, open up with a short childhood story that taught you a lesson, quote a famous person and elaborate on it from personal experience, use an inspirational anecdote or hit them with a bit of nostalgia. Just remember to keep it short and move on once you’ve gotten a reaction.

    3. Keep things simple and to the point

    Once you’re done warming up the crowd you can ease them into the core concepts and important ideas that you will be presenting. Keep the same presentation style thoughout. If you’ve started off a bit ironic, using dry wit, you can’t just jump into a boring monologue. If you’ve started off with a bang, telling a couple of great little jokes and getting the crowd riled up, you have to keep them happy by throwing in little jokes here and there and being generally positive and energetic during the presentation. You need a certain structure that you won’t deviate too far from at any point. A good game plan consists of several important points that need to be addressed efficiently. This means moving on from one point to another in a logical manner, coming to a sound conclusion and making sure to accentuate the key information.

    4. Use a healthy dose of humor

    Some of the best speeches and presentations in the world, which have been heard and viewed by millions, all feature plenty of humor. No matter the subject, a great speaker will use natural charisma, humor and beautiful language to convey their points and get the crowd excited about what they are saying. A great example of building rapport with the audience through the use of humor is Barrack Obama talking about the government building Iron Man.

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    It is silly and fun, and absolutely not something that you would expect from a man in a position of power speaking in such a serious setting – and it’s exactly why it works. The more serious the situation and the bigger the accent on proper social behavior, the harder your jokes will hit.

    5. Try to tell a story instead of ranting

    Some people can do all of the above things right and still manage to turn their short and fun little presentation into a chaotic mess of information. You don’t want your speech to look like you just threw a bunch of information in a blender in no particular order. To avoid rambling, create a strong structure. Start with the ice breaker, introduce the core concepts and your goals briefly, elaborate on the various points in a bit more detail, draw logical conclusions and leave your audience with a clear takeaway message. You want to flow naturally from one part to the next like you are telling a big story chapter by chapter.

    6. Practice your delivery

    Standing in front of the mirror and practicing a speech or presentation is a technique as old as mirrors – well, come to think of it, as old as human speech, since you can see yourself reflected in any clear and calm body of water – and that means that it is tried and true. The theory is incredibly simple, yet the real problem is actually putting in the effort day in and day out. Work on your posture, your tone of voice, accent, pauses between sentences and facial expressions. The most important thing is to talk slowly and loudly enough to be heard and understood clearly. Many famous speakers, such as Demosthenes and King George VI, overcame speech impediments through hard work.

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    7. Move around and use your hands

    Although you won’t instill confidence in your project if you are very jittery, moving around erratically, not knowing what to do with your hands and making fast movements, standing dead still can be just as bad. You shouldn’t be afraid to use your arms and hands when talking as it makes you seem more passionate and confident. The same goes for moving around and taking up some space. However, try to make slower, calculated and deliberate movements. You want your movements to seem powerful, yet effortless. You can achieve this through practice.

    8. Engage the audience by making them relate

    Sometimes you will lose the audience somewhat in techno-babble, numbers, graphs and abstract ideas. At that point it is important to reel them back in using some good, old-fashioned storytelling. Make comparisons to events from everyday life that most people are more than familiar with. By making things look simple, not only will you help your audience get a better understanding of the subject by enabling them to visualize the information more clearly, you will also draw a connection between you. After all, you are all just regular people with similar experience, you just happen to be performing different roles at the moment.

    9. Use funny images in your slides

    Although slides are not really necessary at all times, if you do need them to make your point and present your information more effectively, it’s best to liven them up. They say that facts aren’t always black and white, and your presentation should reflect this. Add a bit of color, make the information stand out and use an interesting animation to switch from slide to slide. You can use the slides to add some more humor, both in terms of the text and the images. An image that is used to elicit a positive response needs to be funny within the context of what you are discussing. For example, if you are discussing the topic of authority, an image of Eric Cartman from South Park in a police uniform, demanding that you respect his “authoritah,” is a nice way to have a bit of fun and lighten things up.

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    10. End on a more serious note

    When all is said and done you will want the audience to remember the core concepts and keep thinking about what you have said after the presentation is over. This is why you should let things naturally calm down and end with an important idea, quote or even a question. Plant a seed in their mind and make them think. Let us turn to Patrick Henry for a great way to end a speech: “Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death.”

    As you can see, there is quite a bit to learn when it comes to giving a good presentation, one that is both memorable and fun. Be sure to work on your skills tirelessly and follow in the footsteps of great orators.

    Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

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