10+ Content Writing Mistakes to Avoid (Based on SaaS Experts)
If I had a dime for every time I made a mistake while writing, I’d be a millionaire by now.
Throughout my 7.5 years of experience as a content writer, I’ve made several mistakes, some of which have cost me dearly.
However, the key is to learn from these mistakes and continuously improve your content writing skills.
That’s what I’ve done all along, which is the reason why I have had the opportunity to collaborate with top SaaS companies like Semrush, Wordtune, Zapier, and HubSpot; among others.
This isn’t another one of those posts that tells you to avoid making basic content writing mistakes like grammatical or spelling errors. Instead, I wanted to share some less-discussed yet critical content writing mistakes that you should avoid making.
Let’s get started.
1. Writing ‘water is wet’ content
Writing ‘water is wet’ content is one of the biggest content writing mistakes I have seen so many writers make, including myself.
This involves including obvious information that adds no real value to the readers.
It’s like telling them that “the sun rises in the east” or “exercise is good for health.”
Such content doesn’t just waste the readers’ time but also fails to engage them.
Despite being in the industry for several years, I hadn’t realized this mistake until Tommy Walker, the founder at Content Studio and former Editor-in-Chief at companies like Shopify Plus and QuickBooks, pointed it out.
For instance, if you’re writing an article on top project management software, don’t start your introduction with:
“Project management is hard. It has a lot of moving parts, including tight deadlines, complex team dynamics, and constantly changing requirements.”
This may seem like a good start for many people, but it states the obvious.
Here, the audience is likely managers or executives looking for project management software options.
They already know how hard project management is and what moving parts are involved.
Instead, grab their attention with something more compelling and insightful, like highlighting the stakes of not adopting a project management software are.
Or maybe you can share your own experience of implementing a project management software at your company.
2. Not interviewing subject-matter experts
If you’re writing an article on Google Ads mistakes yet have very little experience yourself, you must talk with subject-matter experts (SMEs).
In this case, SMEs are people with first-hand experience running Google Ads.
By not interviewing SMEs, you risk sharing inaccurate, generic, and/or ineffective advice, potentially leading your readers astray.
Other than Tracey, you’ll see a lot of people in the content marketing industry stress how important interviewing SMEs is.
In early 2023, I wrote my first article for Zapier, where I shared six common Google Ads mistakes.
Since I don’t have a lot of Google Ads experience, I interviewed/chatted with dozens of paid ads experts who loved nothing more than to share their knowledge and experiences.
While you don’t necessarily need to interview SMEs for every single content piece you write, do it for topics for which you lack depth in knowledge.
3. Blindly following the brief and outline
Don’t follow briefs and outlines blindly.
Briefs and outlines are only meant to guide you, not restrict your creativity or your exploration of the topic.
Blindly sticking to them without putting thought into it or performing your own analysis can make your content feel robotic, generic, and less valuable.
Over the last 7.5 years, I have worked with dozens of brands, and if there’s one thing I’ve observed, it’s that every company that I’ve worked with has its unique approach in terms of creating briefs and outlines.
Some companies simply provide their writers with topics and their respective H2 and H3 headers. Whereas, some share detailed briefs and outlines.
Irrespective of the type of outline or brief you’re provided with, make sure you thoroughly review it before diving into the writing part. This involves:
- Performing thorough SERP analysis to understand the intent and the stuff you should include in your article. This will also help you understand what Google or other search engines’ preferences are for SERP features.
- Reviewing the outline and brief for accuracy. Often, content strategists or the ones who create briefs or outlines are super-busy, and while they may have conducted their own research, it’s likely they may have included misleading or confusing pointers. Thus, as a writer, it’s your responsibility to cross-verify everything, and if something seems off, ask them for clarification.
- Checking if the provided outline can help you write an article that flows well.
Also, I’d recommend you work with companies that allow creative freedom.
Last but not least, make sure you’re asking for clarification or communicating the changes to the outline you’d like to make ahead of time. Otherwise, that’ll result in countless revisions and misunderstandings.
4. Disregarding Time-to-Value (TTV)
Disregarding time-to-value in your writing is a serious mistake so many writers make. Time-to-value refers to how quickly a reader or user can gain value from your content.
For example, if you’re writing a guide on setting up an email marketing campaign, many of your readers are looking to set up an email marketing campaign as soon as possible.
If your introduction is too long or you’re covering topics (even for SEO purposes) like what is an email marketing campaign or the benefits of setting up an email marketing campaign, then the time-to-value here is very high. They have to spend a lot of time reading all of that before they get their hands on actionable insights. This can be frustrating for readers. While adding a table of content section does help, it’s not the ultimate solution for the time-to-value issue.
Ben Pines, the Director of Content at Wordtune and AI21 Labs, hates content that takes a lot of time before it provides value:
Give readers what they want immediately. For that, you need to understand who your target audience is and where they currently stand.
If they’re reading an article on setting up an email marketing campaign, show them how to do that as soon as possible.
The key here is to understand what the readers want and put it in front of them quickly.
5. Not focusing on the narrative flow
A very important yet overlooked aspect of content writing is maintaining a consistent narrative flow.
Every sentence and paragraph you write should build logically and seamlessly on the previous content.
Think of your content as a story - it needs a clear and coherent beginning, middle, and end, regardless of the topic.
Sometimes, we get so caught up in adding all the key points in an article that we neglect how those points connect to each other.
The result is a piece that feels disjointed or confusing, making it hard for the reader to follow or maintain interest.
As Donna states, using “And then" as a guide can help ensure a clear flow in your writing. Other than this, a few other tips for maintaining a clear flow in your writing are:
- Use transition words like and, again, then.
- Address one idea at a time.
- Use simple language.
- Get rid of passive voice.
- Focus on clarity over cleverness.
6. Not backing content with relevant examples
Simply stating facts, ideas, or concepts without illustrating them with relevant examples makes your content vague and hard to understand.
On top of this, it may come across as generic, offering nothing new or valuable to readers.
For example, if you’re writing an article on email marketing strategies and including one of the strategies as “personalizing your email,” make sure you’re supporting it with a solid example.
You can go on and on about what email personalization is or its benefits, but you also need to show a screenshot of a personalized email for your readers to truly grasp what it looks like.
Whether you’re telling readers what something means or how to do something, always show, don’t just tell. And showing means adding clear, tangible examples that readers can easily visualize or relate to.
Precious Oboidhe, an experienced freelance SaaS writer, digs up relevant examples for every single content piece he writes.
At Wordtune, we’re big fans of this approach. For instance, in our blog post about changing passive voice to active voice using AI, we clearly highlighted how our AI platform does this with a before-and-after screenshot.
This brings us to our next tip.
7. Not using the active voice
Which sentence is clear, easy to read, and well-framed?
John wrote the report
The report was written by John
I asked 125 content writers and marketers in my network, and most of them preferred the first sentence, "John wrote the report."
That’s because the first sentence has been written in an active voice. Active voice is generally more direct and engaging, while passive voice can be clunky and less straightforward.
I’ve seen many writers use passive voice in their writing, which can be a big turn-off for the readers.
While I’m not suggesting that you should always use active voice in your writing, try to use it most of the time to enhance clarity and reader engagement.
On top of this, according to five studies, passive voice will make your readers believe that the message is far away.
Using Wordtune, you can change passive voice to active at the click of a button.
No matter the type of writing, whether it’s a blog post or a research paper, you can use Wordtune to fine-tune your writing for improved readability and impact.
8. Leaving out practical takeaways
Adding relevant examples to your content is important, but don’t forget to provide practical takeaways as well.
This is a pitfall many writers inadvertently fall into. After demonstrating and explaining a concept or process, make sure you’re providing readers with enough information or advice for them to apply it in their own context.
I personally love how Semrush does this. In every single one of their articles, they add detailed workflows showing how to do something using one of their tools.
For example, in their article about keyword difficulty, they show readers how to check keyword difficulty using their own platform.
In the same article, they show how to apply what they’ve learned about keyword difficulty to their keyword research and content planning process.
Now that’s a practical takeaway right there.
9. Adding statistics just for the sake of adding them
Statistics are powerful.
When incorporated right, they can add credibility and authority to your content.
But I’ve personally seen so many writers add them to their content pieces just for the sake of adding them.
Don’t make this mistake.
For example, if you’re writing an article on top video marketing strategies, no one wants to read a stat that states, “The global video marketing industry is worth $XX.YY billion and is predicted to reach $AA.BB billion by 2030.”
Lesson: don’t add irrelevant statistics to your piece.
On top of this, another mistake I’ve seen so many writers make is - they bombard specific sections with an excessive number of stats.
For instance, if you’re writing an article on the impact of social media on online shopping behavior, avoid framing your introduction as:
"According to a study, 80% of online shoppers use social media regularly. Additionally, 60% of consumers say that social media influences their purchase decisions. Moreover, 90% of online shoppers check social media before making a purchase."
Don’t make this mistake. Instead, back every stat with context and analysis to provide valuable insights to your readers.
Here’s the revised version of the above example:
“A recent study by a well-reputed marketing agency shows that social media has a big impact on online shopping. Nearly 80% of online shoppers use social media daily.
Moreover, the study revealed that 60% of consumers admitted that social media has a direct impact on their purchase decisions. This means that the majority of online shoppers are influenced by what they see on social media when making buying choices.”
As you can see, the revised version provides more context and better analysis to support the statistics.
You should do the same.
Also, make these statistics easy to understand.
Dana Nicole, a writer, and consultant that works with top publications like Hotjar and Semrush, says that hard to understand stats can seriously hurt your piece.
Talking about statistics, there are a lot of mistakes writers make, of which a big one is not linking them to the original source.
10. Not linking statistics to the original source
Not linking statistics to their original source is something so many writers overlook.
If you’re writing an article about influencer marketing and want to add some statistics to the piece, you’re likely going to head over to Google and search for something like “influencer marketing stats”
Upon clicking search, you’ll see several articles from different publications that include statistics related to influencer marketing.
Here’s one from Oberlo about influencer marketing stats:
As you can see, Oberlo has fetched this statistic from SocialPubli’s 2019 report - it doesn’t really belong to Oberlo.
Hence, if you use this statistic in your article, it doesn’t make sense to link it to Oberlo’s article.
Instead, you should link it to SocialPubli’s report.
A big reason why so many publications publish such articles is because writers make the mistake of linking to them instead of the original source.
That’s because writers inadvertently promote secondary sources rather than crediting the original research or report.
On top of this, a majority of articles like these on the internet are misleading (even from top publications).
The same Oberlo article has been titled “10 Influencer Marketing Statistics You Need to Know in 2023,” even though it contains stats from before 2023.
To avoid this, we highly recommend you to look up research papers and reports from well-known publications. For example, if you’re writing an article about influencer marketing in 2023, search for “influencer marketing report 2023” or similar keyword.
Other than the ones mentioned above, here are a few other mistakes that you should avoid.
11. Disregarding the logic of the content - Lily Ugbaja
12. Not keeping the target reader in mind - Juwaria Merchant
13. Overdoing the casual tone - Saffa Faisal
14. Forgetting to provide enough context - Mariya Delano
15. Not having a strong opening sentence and using complex language - Tom Trush
16. Overlooking the tone of voice - Roshni Shaikh
This article was co-written with Wordtune. Wordtune didn’t write the whole piece. Instead, it contributed ideas, suggested rephrasing alternatives, maintained consistency in tone, and of course - made the process much more fun for the writer.