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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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    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.

    More by this author

    Catherine Winter

    Catherine is a wordsmith covering lifestyle tips on Lifehack.

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    Last Updated on July 16, 2019

    7 Powerful Habits To Win In Office Politics

    7 Powerful Habits To Win In Office Politics

    Office politics – a taboo word for some people. It’s a pervasive thing at the workplace.

    In its simplest form, workplace politics is simply about the differences between people at work; differences in opinions, conflicts of interests are often manifested as office politics. It all goes down to human communications and relationships.

    There is no need to be afraid of office politics. Top performers are those who have mastered the art of winning in office politics. Below are 7 good habits to help you win at the workplace:

    1. Be Aware You Have a Choice

    The most common reactions to politics at work are either fight or flight. It’s normal human reaction for survival in the wild, back in the prehistoric days when we were still hunter-gatherers.

    Sure, the office is a modern jungle, but it takes more than just instinctive reactions to win in office politics. Instinctive fight reactions will only cause more resistance to whatever you are trying to achieve; while instinctive flight reactions only label you as a pushover that people can easily take for granted. Neither options are appealing for healthy career growth.

    Winning requires you to consciously choose your reactions to the situation. Recognize that no matter how bad the circumstances, you have a choice in choosing how you feel and react. So how do you choose? This bring us to the next point…

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    2. Know What You Are Trying to Achieve

    When conflicts happen, it’s very easy to be sucked into tunnel-vision and focus on immediate differences. That’s a self-defeating approach. Chances are, you’ll only invite more resistance by focusing on differences in people’s positions or opinions.

    The way to mitigate this without looking like you’re fighting to emerge as a winner in this conflict is to focus on the business objectives. In the light of what’s best for the business, discuss the pros and cons of each option. Eventually, everyone wants the business to be successful; if the business don’t win, then nobody in the organization wins.

    It’s much easier for one to eat the humble pie and back off when they realize the chosen approach is best for the business.

    By learning to steer the discussion in this direction, you will learn to disengage from petty differences and position yourself as someone who is interested in getting things done. Your boss will also come to appreciate you as someone who is mature, strategic and can be entrusted with bigger responsibilities.

    3. Focus on Your Circle of Influence

    At work, there are often issues which we have very little control over. It’s not uncommon to find corporate policies, client demands or boss mandates which affects your personal interests.

    Gossiping and complaining are common responses to these events that we cannot control. But think about it, other than that short term emotional outlet, what tangible results do gossiping really accomplish? In most instances, none.

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    Instead of feeling victimized and angry about the situation, focus on the things that you can do to influence the situation — your circle of influence. This is a very empowering technique to overcome the feeling of helplessness. It removes the victimized feeling and also allows others to see you as someone who knows how to operate within given constraints.

    You may not be able to change or decide on the eventual outcome but, you can walk away knowing that you have done the best within the given circumstances.

    Constraints are all around in the workplace; with this approach, your boss will also come to appreciate you as someone who is understanding and positive.

    4. Don’t Take Sides

    In office politics, it is possible to find yourself stuck in between two power figures who are at odds with each other. You find yourself being thrown around while they try to outwit each other and defend their own position; all at the expense of you getting the job done. You can’t get them to agree on a common decision for a project, and neither of them want to take ownership of issues; they’re too afraid they’ll get stabbed in the back for any mishaps.

    In cases like this, focus on the business objectives and don’t take side with either of them – even if you like one better than the other. Place them on a common communication platform and ensure open communications among all parties, so that no one can claim “I didn’t say that”.

    By not taking sides, you’ll help to direct conflict resolution in an objective manner. You’ll also build trust with both parties. That’ll help to keep the engagements constructive and focus on business objectives.

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    5. Don’t Get Personal

    In office politics, you’ll get angry with people. It happens. There will be times when you feel the urge to give that person a piece of your mind and teach him a lesson. Don’t.

    People tend to remember moments when they were humiliated or insulted. Even if you win this argument and get to feel really good about it for now, you’ll pay the price later when you need help from this person. What goes around comes around, especially at the workplace.

    To win in the office, you’ll want to build a network of allies which you can tap into. The last thing you want during a crisis or an opportunity is to have someone screw you up because they harbor ill-intentions towards you – all because you’d enjoyed a brief moment of emotional outburst at their expense.

    Another reason to hold back your temper is your career advancement. Increasingly, organizations are using 360 degree reviews to promote someone. Even if you are a star performer, your boss will have to fight a political uphill battle if other managers or peers see you as someone who is difficult to work with. The last thing you’ll want is to make it difficult for your boss to champion you for a promotion.

    6. Seek to Understand, Before Being Understood

    The reason people feel unjustified is because they felt misunderstood. Instinctively, we are more interested in getting the others to understand us than to understand them first. Top people managers and business leaders have learned to suppress this urge.

    Surprisingly, seeking to understand is a very disarming technique. Once the other party feels that you understand where he/she is coming from, they will feel less defensive and be open to understand you in return. This sets the stage for open communications to arrive at a solution that both parties can accept.

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    Trying to arrive at a solution without first having this understanding is very difficult – there’s little trust and too much second-guessing.

    7. Think Win-Win

    As mentioned upfront, political conflicts happen because of conflicting interests. Perhaps due to our schooling, we are taught that to win, someone else needs to lose. Conversely, we are afraid to let someone else win, because it implies losing for us.

    In business and work, that doesn’t have to be the case.

    Learn to think in terms of “how can we both win out of this situation?” This requires that you first understand the other party’s perspective and what’s in it for him.

    Next, understand what’s in it for you. Strive to seek out a resolution that is acceptable and beneficial to both parties. Doing this will ensure that everyone truly commit to the agreed resolution and will not pay only lip-service to it.

    People simply don’t like to lose. You may get away with win-lose tactics once or twice but very soon, you’ll find yourself without allies in the workplace.

    Thinking win-win is an enduring strategy that builds allies and help you win in the long term.

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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