True Confessions: Bloggers’ Writing Quirks

Having — and honing — a unique writing voice means embracing the quirks that make your words sound uniquely “you.”

Photo by Steve Depolo, (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Part of having a unique writing voice is embracing the verbal tics that you turn to again and again — those words and ways of phrasing that some call “bad habits,” but I prefer to reframe as “writing quirks.”

Think you’re the only one who uses tons of em dashes or starts sentences with “and” or “but”? Check out our editors’ quirks, and then feel better about (and embrace!) your own:

superman curlMichelle Weber

I’m more than a little obsessed with fake footnotes.* (Well, that and semicolons; if you’re read more than two sentences I’ve written, you’ve probably figured the semicolon thing out already.)

Because of an excess of schooling in my formative years, I stuff unrelated historical references into my posts — even if what I’m writing about has nothing to do with 16th century monastic rules, I’ll shoehorn them in***. I can also get a little harsh sarcastic pointed in my personal writing. In both instances, I’ll use footnotes to explain the reference or soften the edge; sometimes I also use them to get even more, um, pointed without interrupting the flow, or just to sneak in an extra joke.

Do I overuse them? Probably, where “probably,” means “definitely.” But I love them and I’m sticking with ’em.*****

*Like this one!**

**See what I did there?

*** Compline! Vespers! Nonce!

ElizabethElizabeth Urello

I tend to write run-on sentences because, first of all, I think they’re funnier and I typically write rants and a run-on sentence mimics the slow build-up and frenetic energy of ranting, and also I watched a lot of Gilmore Girls in my formative years and the long-winded patter of that show is ingrained in me, and also I write the way that I talk, and I tend to talk without breathing, but beyond all of those reasons, run-on sentences are simply more interesting to me, both visually and in a sort of “inner monologue cadence while reading” kind of way, and I like them and I use them and I am not ashamed.

Although short sentences are fine, too. It’s good to vary sentence structure.

benBen Huberman

I stuff as many clauses as possible into every sentence, regardless of necessity, utility, or aesthetics. Parentheses make me happy. (Why is it that they always seem to hold the essence of what I’m trying to say?!) I’ve yet to meet a pair of em dashes — and I meet them often — I didn’t want to immediately adopt. Colons: I buy them by the dozen, and still manage to use them all by their expiration date.

My quirk is part of who I am and how my voice — both spoken and written — sounds. It just means that editing includes an extra step: breaking my own cascades of baroque syntax into clearer, more readable (though perhaps also more pedestrian), mostly de-parenthesized**** sentences.

**** I know footnotes are Michelle’s quirk, but still: just wanted to say I’m not sure “de-parenthesized” is an actual word, plus I had a colon that was about to expire.

robynokrantheadshotRobyn Okrant

I had an English teacher who told the class that we had to know the rules to break the rules. What I heard was, “As long as you know how to wield a semi-colon, you can use punctuation marks like brush strokes. If you can construct a sentence, you can deconstruct a paragraph. Toss the rules out the window.” Over twenty years later… I punctuate in a manner that would make Mrs. Kochien cringe.

This is a public admission of my control-freak nature: I want people to read my words with a specific rhythm. So, I use punctuation, line spacing, and sentence length to create musicality, rules be damned. If I feel as if a long pause should be taken while reading my work, I’ll attempt to orchestrate it with punctuation.

This is how I hear my own voice in my head, so this is how I write. Incomplete sentences, tabs, dots, dashes, line breaks. They help me sculpt my words.

(I also indulge in frequent non-sequitur usage.)

cheri lucasCheri Lucas Rowlands

I’ll admit I share Ben’s love for the em dash. I’ll often find paragraphs where I have too many, which — I’ll admit — can become confusing. But ultimately, it forces me to reread, to pick and choose where these breaks and breaths should go, and to hear my voice, my flow, and my rhythm.

And I’m a sucker for alliteration: I first phrased “breaks and breaths” as “pauses and breaths.” I also can’t help but start my sentences with “and.”

(I’ve written a few posts on decluttering your prose, and I’ll admit that “can’t help but” is one of those unnecessary phrases I use, along with “I’ll admit.”)

I’m also prone to run-on sentences mixed with shorter, incomplete ones. Like this. And this. My incomplete sentences often begin with “to” — I’ll write and find my flow and then realize I’m rambling, so instead of completing my thought, I’ll insert a period. To create some breathing space. To manipulate the rhythm.

Finally: I’m mindful of my adverb use, but I really, truly, deeply love the word “ultimately” — I honestly rely on it too much. I’ll gladly use adverbs excessively just to show you how much I love it.

mikeMike Dang

One of my personal favorites is the single sentence transition after a long, descriptive paragraph. I’ll show you:

Here is one of the most vivid memories I have: I am nine years old and standing in front of my elementary school, waiting with a group of kids to be picked up by our parents and taken home. The children are talking and laughing and screeching; they are rummaging through their backpacks for snacks to shove into their mouths; they are doing the things that children like to do before they become self-aware of their actions and are embarrassed to be doing them in public. A white Toyota pulls up, and the clamor quiets as they watch a woman step out of the car. She is wearing a sparkling Yves Saint Laurent gown and black heels. The woman walks towards us, and we can hear her heels clacking on the pavement. The children begin to whisper to each other: Who is this woman?

The woman is my mother.

BadgleyHEgravatarAndrea Badgley

Why I Blog Venn Diagram

From “I do it for the comments” by Andrea Badgley

I have a penchant for pie charts. Sometimes a goofy graph adds just the punch a piece needs to illustrate whatever point it is that I’m trying to make.

Plus they make me giggle.

Also, I begin sentences with all the wrong words. So. And. But. Or. I’m a rule-follower in my regular life, but I cannot resist starting sentences with conjunctions. Or writing one word sentences. And fragments.

Finally, I frequently tie my posts in a neat little bow in my final sentence, wrapping everything up, feeling awesome about myself as I drive home a point. I then realize how cheesy the sentence is – I may as well write, “In conclusion,” at the beginning of it – and I delete it before publishing.


*****The other benefit of the superfluous footnote? You can always get the last word! What are your writing quirks?

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  1. 😃”thankfully” I have an editor to my book and posts I can read to help improve my content & grammar. Thankful for this post that reminds me to work on those areas myself. No pun intended, honest gratitude. Cheers!! 🍷🌞


  2. And I thought I was the only one who did this. (Except for the footnote thing, I may have to adopt that.) By “this” I mean all of the examples. One you didn’t mention is the dreaded comma splice, I am the Queen of Comma Splice.

    Liked by 9 people

      1. The last sentence in my original is a comma splice. “One you didn’t mention is the dreaded comma splice, I am the Queen of Comma Splice.” Simply, a comma splice is using a comma incorrectly to replace (usually) a period. If you string two complete sentences together and separate them by a comma, bing bang boom, comma splice.

        I could have written: One you didn’t mention is the dreaded comma splice. I am the Queen of Comma Splice.

        I could have also used a semicolon.

        Sometimes you can fix it by adding an “and” but that wouldn’t read too well in my example.

        For more:

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Wonderful post. I am still only fixing my page up after taking blogging 101, which I didn’t really do the work but kept the emails for a later date. I know one of the lessons said to just write and write often. It is nice to know that some bloggers follow how they talk and add punctuation where they think they need it. Thank you, Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love this post. I’m learning to love my writing quirks. I tend to use commas more than necessary, but necessary to me, to show how I talk. I might also use the odd word that you’d probably find a great deal of (better) alternatives for! Oh, and I do love an apostrophe!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. My favorite thing about blog writing is the tacit permission to be stylistically quirky. For me, blogging is storytelling, and most storytelling is informal in nature, so it makes sense to bend the formal rules. (In real life, I actually use my finger to “asterisk” things when I’m telling a story!)
    I’ve noticed a few “signature” stylistic quirks in my writing . One is the is the tempo of building up to a point with long, convoluted sentences, which I puntuate at the end of the paragraph with a simple sentence or a fragment. To catch my breath.*

    I don’t know where I picked this up, but I lean heavily on compound sentences with two independent clauses joined by a subordinating conjunction.**

    I also use “really” intentionally as part of my schtick (I’m not really a hippie.) It’s hard not to let that into my formal writing.

    *That’s an example.
    **That, too.


    Liked by 5 people

  6. I employ enough of these writing quirks to, I’m sure, make me a bad writer. BUT, I have no intention of changing (unless I write a book, and then I’ll leave the editing to the editor). Cheers to the run-on sentence and to the rule-breakers in us all!

    Karen 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Awesome post. I’ll be honest, I am not aware if I excessively use punctuation too much. I do know my writing tends to be all over the place which I think is a good problem to have. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. What a great post! Liberated is how I’m feeling …. like I can just let my own voice out, without so much editing into that perfect box labeled “Grammar”, where my rhythm is lost and The Rules win. Thank you! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thanks to you all for sharing your intriguing quirks!* I admit to a love for excessive adjective indulgence necessitating long, run on sentences to accommodate them. They tend to stream out of me in groups of three, hinting at a sort of mathematical affinity I’m completely unaware of and before I know it I’m out of control…piling them on top of a noun like mound upon mound of lustrous, unctuous, billowing whipped cream only to realize I’ve overdone it then hastily scooping some back into the bowl, (as it were).** I also use ‘as it were’ a lot. As if I have just written something not quite as it should be, but only as it were. It’s a type of ineffectual trail-off into a vague hope that someone gets the drift. Like now.

    *I think if there is anything I learned from this it is that I need to start using fake footnotes. What a great idea. :o)



  10. I adore metaphors and phrases, they so perfectly illustrate my thoughts and fill my texts with colorful images and popups in my head. Although I am not a native speaker I blog in English what instantly gets me and my phrases into trouble. Sayings in English do not necessarily use the same metaphoric pictures. For example, “beggers cannot be choosers” – the literally translated German saying is: In time of need, the devil eats flies. “A dog does not eat a dog” -versus “A crow does not peck out another crow’s eye.” I know I have to be careful with my pictorial writing style in a second language, but I catch myself them on and on. Writing is like painting with words in my head, so I stick with them.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. I do quite a few of those things–except the footnote, but now I think I might add that in there too. 😉

    Oh, and emoticons. How I LOVE emoticons!


  12. This was so, so fascinating to read and is really opening up my eyes and allowing me to embrace my own voice!

    Well done, all! I loved this post!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. All of your quirky confessions were fun to read. I often delete sentences and paragraphs because they mess up the flow. I never thought to use fake footnotes. Brilliant! Thanks Michelle.


  14. As happy as I am to hear my own voice through my blog, I am relieved that I haven’t started to publish incomplete sentences with a trailing “and ..” or “but ..” yet. I use them a lot when I speak and …


  15. Robyn Okrant – what you said. Because I can’t carry a tune but want my words to sing and my readers to tap their toes. Or at least find a rhythm. Something….. Anything.

    All the rest of you – what all y’all said! So creative. And true. And compelling. With or without footnotes.

    Great admiration for those run-on sentences! Wait, what?

    Liked by 1 person

  16. What a fun and informative post! I’m also so pleased that my bad habits can be labeled as acceptable quirks.
    I totally get what Robyn relays around rhythm. I read my posts out loud just to make sure it sounds like me. My husband gets tired of it, but it seems to work for me.
    Thank you, guys!

    Liked by 2 people

  17. When I’m trying to make a descriptive point, I tend to use very short (as in one and two word) sentences at the end of the descriptive piece of writing before I move on.

    I also love semi-colons and probably overuse ellipsis marks…

    Liked by 2 people

  18. I blog about cycling and I ALWAYS refer to Tour de France contenders having the upper body of a “badly drawn stick figure”. I can’t help myself. I think it’s because I’ll never better it as a description for the cyclists physique and so I’m getting my money’s worth. I’ll take that as a ‘quirk’ (rather than a tedious repetition) 😉

    Liked by 2 people