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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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    Published on September 16, 2020

    12 Practical Interview Skills to Help You Land Your Dream Job

    12 Practical Interview Skills to Help You Land Your Dream Job

    Today, with many companies going remote—at least until there’s a COVID-19 vaccine—technical proficiency is a vital skill for every interviewee to master. You may be asked to interview for a job on Zoom or Microsoft Teams. The way you handle yourself in the online interview (your interview skills) will say much about your ability to work from home efficiently.

    Does your workspace look clean or cluttered? Is the area free from noise? Is your home office well lit?

    Once hired, you may be asked to organize meetings on Zoom and other platforms. Along with mastering the technology, you will have to learn to follow certain protocols.

    Now is the time to get up to speed on your technical skills. Learn which interview skills are needed for the particular job for which you are applying and practice them.

    Online learning sites, such as LinkedIn Learning and Udemy, offer courses for free or a nominal membership fee. If you are a DIY type, make use of training videos offered through your particular digital tools.

    Additionally, demonstrating that you have these 12 interview skills will help you land your dream job.

    1. Organization

    When you work in a brick-and-mortar office, some of the organizing is left to others. Your direct supervisor may host a Monday morning quarterback meeting where each worker reports on the progress on their tasks.

    When you work from home, much of the organizing will be left up to you. To a much greater extent than before, you will need to develop a schedule and stick to it. Some tasks may be faster to complete from your home office where you don’t have other workers competing for your attention.

    Conversely, you may find that some tasks that would have gone quickly in an office seem to take forever from your home computer. Your phone may ring a lot, which can distract you, or you may have kids and a spouse who inadvertently disrupt your schedule.

    To do: Set a schedule and stick to it.

    To discuss during your interview: Be specific. Point to the interview skill you utilized to create a schedule for a complex work project and followed it.

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    2. Flexibility

    You set a schedule for the completion of your tasks, but your prospective boss gets their work done between the hours of 2:00 and 8:00 a.m. Your West Coast partners are three hours behind your East Coast partners, and one of your partners lives in England while another lives in Australia.

    Feedback and collaboration (see point 3) may need to happen asynchronously. Be the flexible candidate—the person who is willing to occasionally disrupt their schedule for the greater good of the team.

    For extra credit: don’t just look up time zones, look up whether they observe Daylight Savings Time.

    To do: Be flexible about meeting times.

    To discuss during your interview: Highlight a time when you worked on a team where members lived in different time zones. Discuss your processes.

    3. Collaboration

    As recently as six months ago, before the pandemic raged around the world, collaboration wasn’t quite as essential as it is today. In a remote office setting, collaboration doesn’t just mean working well with others—but actually sharing documents and editing them online on time.

    Several cloud-based tools, such as Google Drive, Basecamp, and Trello, enable the type of collaborative teamwork that most companies want today.

    To do: Download the correct software and practice using it.

    To discuss during your interview: Discuss how you worked remotely with a group. Share how you overcame certain challenges.

    4. Poise

    Murphy’s Law states, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”

    When things do go awry, keeping your wits about you will demonstrate your consummate professionalism under fire. This will show your future bosses that you will be able to work well under the pressures of remote work.

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    What could go wrong, you ask? You might be muted without realizing it—your Internet connection may not be robust, your headphones may blip out, your cellphone may ring, Zoom could have an outage. The list goes on and on.

    To do: Make sure you have the most up-to-date versions of Skype and Zoom uploaded.

    To discuss during your interview: Consider highlighting a time when a project did not go as planned. Demonstrate the interview skills that allowed you to rise to the challenge.

    5. Communication

    Your ability to handle online communication is one of the top critical skills you will need to thrive in today’s remote workplace. Download Slack if you haven’t already. Get used to toggling to a different form of online communication if one of your tools fails.

    When it comes to the preferred format for your online interview, demonstrate proficiency by offering several different options. Give your phone number, Google Chat Hangouts name, and Skype ID.

    To do: Familiarize yourself with video conference and online chat tools, such as Slack, Fleep, or Workplace by Facebook.

    To discuss during your interview: Be prepared to share the online communication tools you’re using and examples of how you use each one.

    6. Good Computer Hygiene

    Setting up a backup system for your computer files is one of today’s crucial requirements for working in the digital age. Storing documents that can be shared by team members is also an efficient way to work together on presentations, articles, and reports—although studies show nearly one-third of employees avoid them because of the time it takes to find documents.

    Be prepared in your interview to indicate your experience utilizing this technology, describing how you organize and store files using cloud-based collaboration tools. How do you keep track of links and tabs? Do you use Dropbox? Google Docs? Confluence? Others?

    To do: Take inventory of the cloud-based document sharing and storage systems you know and use.

    To discuss during your interview: Describe the document sharing tools and backup systems you utilize—both for personal protection and professional file sharing.

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    7. Proper Meeting Etiquette

    Today, presenting yourself virtually has its pros and cons. While you only have to show a professional persona from the waist up (make sure to straighten up your office space behind you), you must boost your energy to show that you’re engaged in the discussion.

    Make your voice as upbeat as possible. Have your talking points at the ready and be careful not to ramble on, as long virtual meetings easily become tiresome. Use the mute and chat features to avoid interruptions.

    To do: Once you know the meeting platform, make sure you have it mastered before your interview.

    To discuss during your interview: Offer to share your screen to show an example of a work project— while at the same time demonstrating your prowess with video conferencing tools.

    8. Respecting Feedback

    In the age of working remotely, there may not be as many systems in place to obtain feedback (such as yearly performance reviews). Workers may need to ask for feedback, while managers may need to give more feedback than usual as the team adjusts to working off-site. Respecting feedback is on top of the interview skills list that you should learn.

    Taking a proactive approach with giving and receiving feedback and incorporating it into your work style is a desirable quality that your employers will note.

    To do: Reflect on the positive feedback you’ve received from past employers to bolster your confidence.

    To discuss during your interview: Share a time when you received feedback that made you grow in the job. If you’re a manager, share a time when you gave feedback to an employee who needed to better their job performance.

    9. Project Management

    Staying on task with projects has evolved far past a to-do list, with electronic tools that can track time, manage team workloads, and even do the client billing. While your prospective employer may have its preferred project management program, your experience with any of the various options—whether it’s Basecamp, Teamwork, Smartsheet, or another—will be applicable.

    To do: Know which project management software is likely to be used by the industry in which you’re interviewing, and familiarize yourself with its features.

    To discuss during your interview: Highlight a project management feature that is particularly useful in helping you excel in your work, and explain how you utilize it.

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    10. Staying up to Speed

    Employers expect their remote workers to be technically proficient so that technology runs smoothly and doesn’t create work disruptions. Bosses count on remote workers to know enough about their systems to manage them without relying on the help of overworked IT staff.

    To do: Make sure you have a fast internet connection and have a back-up plan, such as a second computer or other tethered devices.

    To discuss during your interview: Note that you are diligent about keeping your computer and software up to date.

    11. Attention to Cybersecurity Issues

    “Virus” is a loaded term these days. Spreading a computer virus in your company, however, will not only bring productivity to a halt, but it will also make you a pariah. While working from public places using free Wi-Fi (with uneven security provisions) has waned, in pre-pandemic times, coffee shops accounted for 62 percent of Wi-Fi security breaches.

    To do: Keep antivirus software updated and don’t download software without verifying its authenticity.

    To discuss during your interview: Emphasize your awareness of cybersecurity risks and your care in taking necessary safety measures.

    12. Teamwork

    Work relationships now mostly happen in virtual settings, yet employers value team-oriented workers.

    Being a part of a team gives you a sense of connection and shared purpose. A well-honed team understands how mutual reliance makes the sum of its parts greater than when individuals act on their own, improving the end product.

    To do: Take stock of your attributes as a team player and where you can cultivate skills that will enable you to work more collaboratively.

    To discuss during your interview: Inquire about the company’s culture and how it encourages a sense of community despite working remotely.

    Final Thoughts

    Preparing for remote positions available in today’s job market will mean honing your interview skills to highlight your technical abilities as well as your adaptability. By adhering to these To-Do’s and perfecting your online interview skills and charisma, you will rise above the competition and win over any prospective employer.

    More Tips to Improve Your Interview Skills

    Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

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