How to Be a Writer: common writing and editing mistakes to avoid in the digital age

How to Be a Writer is a series that is titled exactly as it sounds. In the digital age, writers are facing new issues on top of the old. As publishing continues to shift and change, not only are writers forced to change as well, they’re establishing themselves entirely differently, making breaking into the scene even more challenging. In this series, we offer up tips, tricks, and general commentary on the journey (or slog) that is being a writer.

I am a firm believer that technology makes our lives better. I’d like to publicly thank libraries, engineers, self-checkout machines, and banking apps that let me deposit my checks from home for making my life easier and, arguably, better. That’s what technology aspires to do, even with some rough trade-offs.

As much as I know technology has, in many ways, made life better, it’s also made us a little dumber, nay, lazy (and entitled, but that’s another story). Who needs to remember your friend’s birthday if Facebook will do it for you? Who needs a thesaurus nearby when writing if you can just right click for synonyms? We’re not the humans in WALL-E just yet—and the world is far from a perfect place—but technology makes it better.

Without it, we’d all be afraid of our microwaves and dreaming about space instead of having already gone up there. We wouldn’t be enjoying the instant access to infinite amounts of knowledge on the internet. Though, it would be nice if people paid for all of that good content more often.

Speaking of, let’s talk about what this series is about: writers (and editors). Thanks to the internet and the crazy digital landscape, writers and editors have made trades about what makes their lives better or worse professionally. Better: spell check. Worse: over-reliance on spell check. Better: infinite amount of content and a plethora of good content. Worse: not being (adequately) paid for it.

Fear not, fellow writers, because technology has not been able to replace us yet. Instead, they’ve offered tools. Can a computer check if you spelled a word incorrectly or if a sentence is oddly phrased? Yes. But they aren’t too good with homophones or identifying if an argument is well structured or if an author is trying to be funny or not. They too make mistakes (look at any sci-fi movie where the computer tries to take over the world and fails). How else would you explain the abundance of mistakes riddled throughout the internet?

We as writers cannot make these mistakes due to the pressures of the current competitive industry. Don’t be that writer who is too lazy to learn her craft. Don’t rely on technology to make your writing perfect. Here’s a list of common writing and editing mistakes to avoid to make your craft even better.

I’m a pessimist by nature but for the purpose of this blog I’ll play angel’s advocate: technology has made our jobs as writers better. Sure, job security is out the window and you have to be flawless to work in this industry, but we have access to information more than any generation that ever came before us! The world is at our fingertips, literally!

Image credit: Nic McPhee

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