16 Deadly Sins That Will Kill Your Writing

Writing is one of the most challenging creative disciplines, and it also happens to be one of the most competitive. So you want to make sure that your work stands out from the crowd! 

The good news is that whether you’re writing a memoir or an essay, a short story or a novel, certain rules apply when it comes to creating great writing. 

And in this post, we point out 16 of those rules. You’ll find out how to avoid cliches and create compelling dialogue that never strays far from how people talk. 

Learn how to put together sentences that keep readers in suspense until they reach the final period, and more importantly learn what not to do so you can avoid these deadly sins while writing your next masterpiece!

The Seven Deadly Sins that Can Kill Your Business – YouTube
1. Recognize the common pitfalls in writing.
2. Avoid poor grammar and unclear structure.
3. Use clear and concise language.
4. Edit and proofread for errors.
5. Develop a coherent and logical structure.
6. Steer clear of excessive jargon.
7. Use proper citations and references.
8. Eliminate unnecessary adjectives.
9. Keep sentences and paragraphs focused.
10. Pay attention to formatting and style.

1: Failing To Show, Not Telling

Show don’t tell is a common writing tip and one of the most basic rules of fiction writing. It’s also a technique, a technique that has been used by writers since they first started to write stories. 

It’s also a writing tip, which means it can help you improve your storytelling as well as make it more interesting for your readers.

Show don’t tell simply means that instead of telling the reader what something looks like or what someone did, you show them instead by describing how things look or how things happen through action rather than description or dialogue. 

This can help engage readers because showing creates imagery in their minds – they can see the thing you’re talking about unfolding before them rather than just having it described to them from afar.

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2: Beginning Your Novel With A Prologue

A prologue is usually a character or setting introduction that does not directly move the plot forward. 

For example, if you introduce a character who is minor and whose role in the story doesn’t significantly impact anything, it should be included in your beginning chapters. 

It’s also unnecessary, to begin with, a prologue if your characters are already introduced later in your story when they become part of the plot (for example, hearing about them in other people’s conversations).

This can be confusing because many writers use prologues as an opportunity to add more backstory or information that isn’t important for readers to know right away. 

If you’re doing this and I’m sure there are plenty of writers reading this piece who do please stop doing it! You needn’t waste time explaining things like how an alien species came into being or why your protagonist wears pajamas instead of jeans on Tuesdays only!!

3: Mass Description Dumps

We all know that dreaded moment when you read a book and come across an enormous paragraph that describes everything the character is wearing, their surroundings, and the weather. 

This sort of thing slows down the story and makes it hard to get into. For example:

“The blue sky was dotted with puffy white clouds; they looked like marshmallows in a bowl of warm milk. As he walked through the park, John saw many people lying on blankets reading books or swinging on swingsets while their children ran around playing tag with each other.”

This is what I call “Mass Description Dumps”. It’s when you tell your reader everything about something at once. 

This can be anything from an outfit someone is wearing, to how many people are sitting in a room or even describing an entire scene where nothing happens but instead just telling us about all of its details like what everyone’s doing or what color the walls are painted!

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4: Lack Of Conflict And Tension

The first of the seven deadly sins is a lack of conflict and tension.

Conflict is the engine that drives a story. Without it, there’s no plot; there’s no motive for your protagonist to go on their journey or achieve their goal. Conflict can come in many forms: 

Internal (the character has doubts about themselves) or external (the character must fight an enemy). In either case, conflict is the difference between what your character wants and what they get.

This creates tension in your writing that keeps readers interested and engaged with your work. Conflict should be present in every scene; if you don’t make it clear what they want out of each situation, then readers won’t understand why they’re there!

5: Using Adverbs In Dialogue Tags

Using adverbs in dialogue tags is the literary equivalent of wearing pants that are too tight. It’s distracting, off-putting, and makes you look like an amateur.

Use active verbs instead of adverbs in dialogue tags; active voice creates a more immediate and emotional response from your reader. Active verbs also give the sentence greater impact it’s no wonder they’re used in so many bestselling books!

When choosing an active verb for your dialogue tag, make sure it’s specific and concrete; don’t use vague or abstract verbs such as “said” or “exclaimed.” Use specific verbs that convey sound (e.g., “growled”) or emotion (e.g., “smiled”). For example:

Jane smiled at her mother when she entered the room.”

6: Head-Hopping

Head-hopping is when you switch between the POVs of two or more characters in a scene, and it’s a common problem in amateur fiction. For example:

“I’m sorry, but I can’t go with you,” said John. “I have to go home now.”

Sally was disappointed that he wouldn’t be able to come along on her trip to New York City for the weekend a city she’d been trying to convince him to visit for months. 

She felt bad about making him feel obligated to join her when all he wanted was some much-needed time alone after a stressful week at work.

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7: Having Your Characters Talk at Cross-Purposes

This is a problem that can happen when you’re writing dialogue that a character has with himself or herself (inner monologue), or your characters are talking to one another. 

You want to make sure that the dialogue between your characters is consistent with their personalities, knowledge of what is happening in the situation, mood, and motivation for speaking.

8: Too Many Repetitions Of The Same Word Or Phrase

You might not realize it, but repetition is a common problem for writers. It’s boring to read the same word or phrase over and over again (and you’ll look like an amateur), so avoid this deadly sin by keeping your sentences varied.

A lack of confidence in your writing can be another cause for repetition. If you’re not sure whether something sounds right, try to find another way to say the same thing it will make the piece more interesting for readers and help you feel more confident about what you’re writing.

Repetition can also be used for emphasis if done sparingly, but don’t let it become a habit!

9: Sentences That Start With “There Was…” Or “There Were…”

You might be wondering why this is in the “deadly sins” category. After all, it’s just a simple sentence starter. It’s not like you’re starting every paragraph with “There was” or “There were” or anything weird like that.

But here’s the thing: if you find yourself using these phrases over and over again in your writing or even once or twice in a piece you should be worried. Because it’s likely that either you are an inexperienced writer, or your editor isn’t doing their job properly (or maybe both).

I’m sorry to have to break it to you like that but there are so many reasons why starting sentences with those words can ruin your writing and make readers put down your book entirely:

10. Overemphasizing Exposition

Exposition is the telling of events that have already happened, rather than showing them happening. It’s used to explain the backstory of a character or the backstory of the world of the story. The problem with exposition is that it’s boring. 

It doesn’t involve characters reacting and interacting with each other; instead, it simply relays information to readers in a dry manner sometimes via dialogue between one or more characters who are not involved in what’s going on at all (e.g., “The Emperor was born on a such-and-such day…”). 

The exposition also takes away from your ability to build tension and suspense, because you aren’t showing anything exciting happening right now (at least not yet).

In short: Don’t overexplain! If you use too much exposition, your reader will get bored fast even if they’re reading an action-packed thriller filled with explosions and car chases!

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11. Overuse Of Characters’ Names In Dialog Exchange

The use of names in the dialog is a good way to keep the reader oriented and help them keep track of who is speaking. Names should be used sparingly, however, so that they don’t become annoying or distracting. 

When a character says someone’s name multiple times within one paragraph, it becomes clear that you are trying too hard to make sure your reader knows who is speaking.

The use of names in the dialog should also be consistent throughout your writing. If you have one character calling another by their first name and then suddenly switch to using “Mr./Mrs./Miss/Ms.” 

Or some other formality later on in the piece will break up the flow of reading and confuse the reader as they try to figure out what exactly happened between their last conversation.

And this new one that takes place days later but seems like only minutes apart due to how long each sentence takes them without any spaces between paragraphs being placed there just so people can find something else they need while they’re waiting in line at Starbucks.

Before going back home again where everyone lives except maybe mom because she’s still working at her job right now so we can’t tell which house belongs under whose roof right now since all houses look alike when everything inside them looks exactly.

Like everything else everywhere else except outdoors where everything looks different even though we don’t know why yet but we’ll figure out what those differences mean soon enough–

12. Failing To Create Real Dialog By Keeping It Conversational, Natural And Snappy

one of the most challenging aspects of writing a novel is creating good dialog. It’s not enough to just have characters say words dialog must be snappy, natural, and conversational. It should be immediate. 

It should feel as if you are listening in on someone else’s conversation (which you are). When we listen to people talk, we don’t wait until there is an obvious pause before responding. 

We also don’t say things like “and then…” or “you know what I mean?” because they make us sound like robots or overly-formal types who feel uncomfortable around other people (do computers speak this way?).

In addition to being real and conversational, your dialog must pack a punch too! You need strong verbs that convey movement or action. If your character simply says “I love you”, it packs no punch at all compared with something like “I love you so much I could burst!”

13. Weak And Uninteresting Characters

It’s easy to fall into the trap of making your characters too stereotypical or flat, but there are ways to avoid this. Here are some tips:

Make sure the characters are interesting. If a reader gets bored with them, they won’t want to read about them anymore.

Make sure the characters are real and believable. If a reader doesn’t believe in what’s happening, then there’s no point in reading on!

Make sure the characters have a purpose (or at least seem like they do). Readers will know if you’ve just made up people as an excuse to write something; 

It’s crucial that your readers feel like they’re getting something out of what they’re reading and if there isn’t any sort of plot or direction for this group of people other than going through life aimlessly? Then no one will want to follow along with them!

Make sure each character has different traits from one another so that we can tell who belongs where within our narrative world.

Otherwise, we risk having all sorts of confusion when trying (and failing) at distinguishing between two similar-looking individuals who happen to come across each other while traveling through space on some kind of mission.”

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14. Too Much Back Story

When you’re writing, it’s important to keep in mind that the back story of your characters is only part of their history. You need to give them room for growth. If you show all of their past actions at once, they’ll seem flat and boring and like everything has happened before.

If you want your reader to be interested in your character’s development, don’t give away all their secrets right away! 

Instead, try adding in little hints here and there so that the reader gets a sense of who this person was before we met them on page one and what might have happened after page fifty-five when we last saw them (if ever). 

This will help keep them engaged with the story by continually giving us new information about what makes your character tick

15. Lack Of Immediacy Of Events

The reader should feel like he or she is experiencing the events with the characters. The reader should feel as though he or she is there with the characters.

The reader should be able to relate to and identify with your character(s).

The reader should feel what your character feels, see what your character sees, and knows what your character knows.

16. Flat Writing And Prose

Flat writing the kind that is boring, not interesting, and not engaging is one of the most common sins among novice writers. 

Flat writing can be summarized as being “just okay.” It’s not bad enough to fail a class or get a letter from the editor saying you’ve been fired, but it isn’t good enough either.

If you write flatly and end up submitting your work to an agent or publisher who doesn’t recognize this flaw (they’re human too), then they’ll pass on your manuscript because their job is to find books that readers will love. 

Readers won’t love your book if they can tell right away that there’s nothing special about it, not even an interesting storyline or unique characters!


So there you have it, 16 of the most common writing mistakes and how to fix them. There are plenty more and writing books and articles can give you a ton of advice on why they should be avoided. 

We hope this article has given you some ideas on how to improve your writing and make it shine. As we said at the start, the best thing is to keep your eyes open when reading other writers’ work… look for these problems, see if they jump out at you!

Further Reading

Here are some additional resources that delve into the topic of writing pitfalls and how to avoid them:

The 7 Deadly Sins of Writing: Explore common writing mistakes and learn how to steer clear of them in your creative endeavors.

The 7 Deadly Sins of Writing to Turn Away From (with Examples): Discover real-world examples of writing blunders and gain insights into rectifying them for improved writing quality.

The 7 Deadly Sins of Writing: Writers Digest offers a comprehensive guide to recognizing and rectifying the most common pitfalls that can hinder your writing progress.


What are the common deadly sins in writing?

Common deadly sins in writing refer to the frequent mistakes that writers make, such as poor grammar, unclear structure, and lack of coherence. These mistakes can negatively impact the readability and effectiveness of your writing.

How can I avoid committing writing sins?

To avoid committing writing sins, focus on improving your grammar skills, structuring your content logically, and ensuring that your writing flows smoothly. Regular editing and proofreading can also help catch and correct errors.

Can you provide examples of writing sins?

Certainly. Writing sins can include using excessive jargon, overloading sentences with unnecessary adjectives, and neglecting proper citation. Such practices can confuse readers and weaken the impact of your writing.

Why is it important to address writing sins?

Addressing writing sins is crucial because they can hinder effective communication and diminish the credibility of your work. Clear, well-structured writing helps convey your message accurately and persuasively.

Where can I find more guidance on improving my writing skills?

You can find more guidance on improving your writing skills in various online resources, writing forums, and style guides. Additionally, books on writing craft and workshops can offer valuable insights and techniques to enhance your writing abilities.