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  • Writer's pictureChristy Murdock

100 business writing blunders: Are you making these costly real estate writing mistakes?

I spent almost two decades as a high school English teacher, working with everyone from struggling students battling learning disabilities to Advanced Placement students with an extremely sophisticated grasp of grammar, syntax, and rhetoric.

Over the years, my style of giving feedback evolved. I figured out that for many students, receiving a paper filled with comments and corrections was overwhelming. They couldn't see what I was trying to say; all they could see was all the red (or purple, my ink color of choice) ink all over their paper, along with the less-than-satisfactory grade at the top.

In the later years of my teaching career, I started giving students a small note that said: "Correcting these three things will immediately and significantly improve your writing." Then I would outline the mistakes they were making over and over with the logic that if they could tackle those big problems, they'd make a lot of progress in a very short time.

While some students pushed back because they wanted to know every single error, most were, I think, relieved to have a few actionable steps to take that would help them make their writing better and get a faster return on their time and energy invested.

Now more than ever, the way you communicate with clients and colleagues matters. As the way you market your value proposition changes, effective communication can make all the difference between sealing the deal and missing out on valuable opportunities. Whether you're drafting emails to clients, creating property descriptions, or crafting compelling marketing materials, every word counts.

Yet, amidst the hustle and bustle of daily operations, it's easy to overlook common business writing mistakes that could be hindering your success. That's why I've compiled this comprehensive guide to help you navigate the pitfalls of real estate communication with confidence.

From grammatical errors that undermine your professionalism to structural flaws that dilute your message, this article highlights 100 common mistakes that real estate professionals often make in their business writing. Whether you're a seasoned agent or just starting out in the industry, mastering these fundamentals can elevate your communication skills and set you apart in a competitive market.

In addition, I'll provide a list of some of my favorite resources for improving your writing (other than letting me do it for you, of course). The good news? You don't have to be perfect and you don't have to figure out everything at once. Just focus on one or two things that you know do a lot and make incremental improvements.

Here's a list of 50 common writing errors:

Spelling Mistakes: Incorrectly spelled words can detract from the professionalism of your writing.

Grammar Mistakes: Errors in subject-verb agreement, tense consistency, or sentence structure can confuse readers.

Punctuation Errors: Misuse or omission of commas, periods, semicolons, etc., can change the meaning of a sentence.

Misplaced Apostrophes: Using apostrophes incorrectly, such as in plural forms or possessive pronouns.

Run-on Sentences: Failing to properly punctuate or break up long sentences.

Sentence Fragments: Incomplete sentences that lack a subject, verb, or complete thought.

Overuse of Passive Voice: Passive voice can make writing dull and less engaging.

Dangling Modifiers: Misplaced phrases that don’t clearly modify the intended word or phrase.

Double Negatives: Using two negative words in the same sentence, which can create confusion.

Confusing Homophones: Words that sound the same but have different meanings and spellings, like "there," "their," and "they're."

Sentence Structure Errors: Incorrectly constructed sentences that are hard to follow or understand.

Incomplete Comparisons: Failing to complete a comparison or use "than" incorrectly.

Redundancy: Using unnecessary words or phrases that repeat information already stated.

Misuse of Hyphens: Incorrect placement or omission of hyphens in compound words.

Lack of Parallelism: Failing to maintain consistency in sentence structure or word usage.

Confusing Prepositions: Misusing prepositions or placing them incorrectly in a sentence.

Incorrect Pronoun Usage: Using pronouns incorrectly or failing to agree with their antecedents.

Wordiness: Using more words than necessary to convey a message, which can make writing verbose.

Incorrect Capitalization: Failing to capitalize proper nouns or capitalizing words unnecessarily.

Misuse of Quotation Marks: Incorrectly using quotation marks for emphasis or without proper attribution.

Confusing Possessives: Misplacing apostrophes in possessive nouns or pronouns.

Abbreviation Errors: Misusing or overusing abbreviations or failing to define them properly.

Missing Comma in Compound Sentences: Forgetting to place a comma before a coordinating conjunction in a compound sentence.

Failing to Use Oxford Comma: Omitting the serial comma before the conjunction in a list of items. (Note: This is a matter of personal preference.)

Improper Use of Ellipses: Using ellipses incorrectly, such as for trailing off in dialogue.

Overuse of Exclamation Marks: Using exclamation marks excessively, which can make writing seem unprofessional or overly emotional.

Misplaced Adjectives and Adverbs: Using descriptive words in the wrong position, which can alter the intended meaning.

Lack of Agreement in Number: Failing to ensure that nouns and verbs agree in number (singular or plural).

Improper Use of Colons and Semicolons: Using colons or semicolons incorrectly or interchangeably.

Confusing Words: Misusing words that sound similar but have different meanings, such as "affect" and "effect."

Incorrect Subject-Verb Agreement: Failing to match the subject and verb in number and person.

Confusing Singular and Plural: Incorrectly using singular or plural forms of words.

Incorrect Indentation: Failing to indent paragraphs properly or inconsistently indenting them.

Misuse of Articles: Using articles (a, an, the) incorrectly or omitting them when needed.

Misuse of Parentheses: Using parentheses incorrectly or excessively, disrupting the flow of the text.

Confusing Conjunctions: Misusing conjunctions or using them incorrectly in sentences.

Improper Use of Italics: Using italics incorrectly for emphasis or for titles of works.

Inconsistent Verb Tense: Switching between past, present, and future tenses without proper context.

Misuse of Reflexive Pronouns: Using reflexive pronouns incorrectly, such as "myself" instead of "me."

Confusing Comparative and Superlative Forms: Incorrectly using comparative (-er) and superlative (-est) forms of adjectives and adverbs.

Misplaced Decimals: Misplacing decimal points in numbers, which can lead to errors in calculations.

Misuse of Dashes: Using dashes incorrectly or inconsistently in sentences.

Confusing Possessive Pronouns: Misusing possessive pronouns like "its" and "it's."

Lack of Consistency in Style: Inconsistencies in formatting, capitalization, or punctuation throughout a document.

Confusing Verb Forms: Misusing irregular verb forms or failing to conjugate verbs correctly.

Misuse of Compound Words: Incorrectly forming compound words or failing to hyphenate them when necessary.

Misuse of Acronyms: Using acronyms without defining them or using them incorrectly.

Overuse of Insider Terms: Using industry-specific language without defining it for laypeople.

Inaccurate Pluralization: Incorrectly forming plural nouns or failing to recognize irregular plural forms.

Ambiguous Pronoun Reference: Failing to make clear which noun a pronoun is referring to (known as the pronoun antecedent), leading to confusion for the reader.

These errors are common across various types of writing and can affect clarity, professionalism, and readability.

Here are 25 frequently confused word pairs:

Affect vs. Effect: "Affect" is a verb meaning to influence, while "effect" is a noun meaning a result.

Their vs. They're vs. There: "Their" is a possessive pronoun, "they're" is a contraction of "they are," and "there" refers to a place or location.

Your vs. You're: "Your" is a possessive pronoun, while "you're" is a contraction of "you are."

Its vs. It's: "Its" is a possessive pronoun, while "it's" is a contraction of "it is" or "it has."

Than vs. Then: "Than" is used for making comparisons, while "then" refers to a point in time.

To vs. Too vs. Two: "To" is a preposition, "too" means also or excessively, and "two" is the number 2.

Accept vs. Except: "Accept" means to receive, while "except" means excluding.

Lose vs. Loose: "Lose" is a verb meaning to misplace or fail to win, while "loose" is an adjective meaning not tight or free from constraint.

Whose vs. Who's: "Whose" is a possessive pronoun, while "who's" is a contraction of "who is" or "who has."

Weather vs. Whether: "Weather" refers to atmospheric conditions, while "whether" introduces a choice between alternatives.

Lead vs. Led: "Lead" is a present-tense verb meaning to guide or direct, while "led" is the past tense and past participle of the verb "lead."

Principle vs. Principal: "Principle" refers to a fundamental truth or guiding rule, while "principal" can refer to a leading person or a sum of money.

Complement vs. Compliment: "Complement" means to complete or make perfect, while "compliment" means to praise or express admiration.

Farther vs. Further: "Farther" refers to physical distance, while "further" typically refers to figurative distance or additional progress.

Stationary vs. Stationery: "Stationary" means not moving, while "stationery" refers to writing materials.

Passed vs. Past: "Passed" is the past tense of "pass," while "past" refers to a time that has gone by or an earlier period.

Allusion vs. Illusion: An "allusion" is an indirect reference, while an "illusion" is a false or misleading perception.

Aisle vs. Isle: An "aisle" is a passageway between rows, while an "isle" is a small island.

Cite vs. Site vs. Sight: "Cite" means to quote or reference, "site" refers to a location, and "sight" refers to vision or a view.

Peek vs. Peak vs. Pique: "Peek" means a quick look, "peak" refers to the highest point, and "pique" means to arouse interest or provoke.

Capital vs. Capitol: "Capital" typically refers to a city serving as a seat of government or wealth, while "capitol" refers to a building where a legislative body meets.

Emigrate vs. Immigrate: "Emigrate" means to leave one's own country, while "immigrate" means to enter another country to live permanently.

Practical vs. Practicable: "Practical" means useful or sensible, while "practicable" means feasible or capable of being done.

Lie vs. Lay: "Lie" is an intransitive verb meaning to recline or be situated, while "lay" is a transitive verb meaning to put something down.

Council vs. Counsel: "Council" refers to a group of people convened for consultation or advice, while "counsel" refers to advice or guidance.

These word pairs are commonly confused due to their similar spellings or pronunciation, but understanding their distinctions can improve clarity in writing and communication.

Here are 25 common mistakes in business writing:

Poor Grammar and Spelling: Mistakes in grammar and spelling can undermine the credibility of your writing.

Lack of Clarity: Failing to communicate your message clearly can lead to misunderstandings.

Overly Formal Language: Using overly formal language can make your writing sound stilted and impersonal.

Jargon Overload: Using excessive industry jargon can confuse readers who are not familiar with the terminology.

Wordiness: Using more words than necessary can make your writing verbose and difficult to follow.

Failure to Proofread: Neglecting to proofread your writing can result in overlooked errors.

Inconsistent Tone: Inconsistencies in tone can make your writing seem disjointed and unprofessional.

Ignoring Audience Needs: Failing to consider the needs and preferences of your audience can lead to ineffective communication.

Missing or Ineffective Call to Action: Neglecting to include a clear call to action can result in missed opportunities for engagement or response.

Ambiguity: Being vague or ambiguous can leave readers unsure of your intended meaning.

Inaccurate Information: Providing incorrect or outdated information can damage your credibility.

Lack of Structure: Failing to organize your writing can make it difficult for readers to follow your train of thought.

Overuse of Passive Voice: Overusing passive voice can make your writing sound dull and indirect.

Ignoring Formatting Guidelines: Neglecting to follow formatting guidelines can make your documents appear unprofessional.

Failure to Address Objections: Ignoring potential objections or concerns can leave readers feeling unsatisfied.

Inappropriate Tone: Using a tone that is too casual or too formal for the situation can alienate your audience.

Misuse of Email: Sending poorly crafted or inappropriate emails can damage professional relationships.

Ignoring Feedback: Failing to consider feedback from colleagues or clients can result in missed opportunities for improvement.

Lack of Conciseness: Being overly verbose can make your writing tedious to read.

Failure to Proofread Emails: Neglecting to proofread emails can result in embarrassing mistakes.

Misuse of Subject Lines: Using vague or misleading subject lines can result in emails being overlooked or ignored.

Ignoring Cultural Differences: Failing to consider cultural differences can lead to misunderstandings and offense.

Overuse of Acronyms: Using too many acronyms can confuse readers who are not familiar with the abbreviations.

Lack of Personalization: Failing to personalize your communications can make them seem generic and insincere.

Ineffective Use of Bullet Points: Using bullet points incorrectly or ineffectively can detract from the clarity of your message.

Avoiding these common mistakes can help you create more effective and professional business writing that effectively communicates your message and achieves your goals.

Best books for improving your writing

Here are some of my favorite resources for digging in and making your writing better:

This is the bible for grammar, syntax, and overall style. It's a little old-fashioned, but once you get used to it, you'll find a lot of humor and incredible tips for making your writing better.

If you're already a fan of the Harvard Business Review, you'll love their guide to improving your writing and making emails, proposals, and other written elements more meaningful.

If you're looking for practical exercises to help you improve your writing, this is a great option. Learn the basics, then apply what you learn to everyday situations at work, in social situations, in creative writing, online, and more.

If you're struggling less with the content of your writing than the way it looks, working on your penmanship can help you build confidence, so you'll finally get around to writing those handwritten notes.

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