Whether you’re interviewing a new employee or you’re trying to spot some of the better writers on your team, being able to identify weak writing skills is a key skill you should work to refine. Think about it: You don’t want an important writing assignment to land in the hands of a poor writer, because then you’ll spend hours fixing his or her sub-par work.
So how can you spot a writer that needs help? It’s typically not too difficult. Here are some of the more common errors that indicate when someone needs remedial writing training.
1. Not Varying Syntax
No one likes to read the same sentence structure over and over again–it makes the material uninteresting very quickly. Unvaried syntax is a red flag that indicates writing skills in need of some work, so be sure to consistently switch up the way you frame your sentences throughout your writing. Prepositions are your friends.
2. Misusing Words
Poor writers often struggle with using the right adjective, and make the unfortunate mistake of using a word that sounds right–but means something completely different than what they’re trying to say. That might look like using ‘diligent’ in place of ‘delicate’ or ‘discreet’ in lieu of ‘discrete.’
Turn in any report with long-winded sentences that turn into run-ons, and you’ll be letting your entire team know that your writing skills are not as strong as they should be at a professional level. Rather than debating where to put commas and semicolons in those lengthy sentences, use short, clear statements that get the job done.
4. Adverb Overload
Author Stephen King is quoted as saying, “The road to hell is paved with adverbs.” Why? Because adverbs explain action rather than show it. Those words ending in -ly should be used sparingly–not as a regular part of writing. Try to swap out adverbs for more authoritative language.
5. Not Being Open to Edits
I always recommend any piece of business writing be reviewed by at least two different sets of eyes before getting released. This helps ensure it is edited and improved to its most polished and refined state. However, poor writers struggle to accept constructive comments and edits from others–and that makes their writing suffer. One of the simplest ways to improve your writing is to accept help from others.
6. Limited Vocabulary
Those with strong writing skills know to swap out overused words for different ones, which makes reading more interesting and enjoyable. To spot a weak writer, see if they stick to the same group of words and phrases rather than employing a robust vocabulary (or simply using a thesaurus.)