Subtle communication slips that could undermine expert-written content

4 subtle communication slips that ruin your content

Table of Contents

No writing career is devoid of spelling mistakes, typos, or oversights. Yet many expert writers are unaware of communication slips and marketing basics that can be less obvious and more damaging than a missing comma or dangling modifier.

As expert writers, we improve with every new article, research endeavor, marketing task, and client interaction. We become virtuoso communicators and content masters.  Nevertheless, real-world experience shows that even the best writers make all kinds of mistakes.

Many writers are guilty of overlooking the obvious, and some remain unaware of the things marketing professionals consider fundamental to writing effective content.

For this writer, a lengthy career as a research scientist and a passion for entrepreneurship helped to forge writing and editing prowess. However, the mingling of the two requires adopting more than one mindset.

Whereas communicating and publishing peer-reviewed scientific research demands accuracy, authority, and perfection; entrepreneurship requires a minimal viable product and sales. The notion set forward by Reid Hoffman, quoted below, contrasts with the academic mindset considerably. 

If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.

Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn

However, the demand to launch fast should not be at the expense of shallow and poorly written blog content. Any marketing strategy and brand would surely suffer.

This post focuses on the subtle communication slips that could undermine the readability – and visibility – of your expert-written content.

A humble refresher for expert writers

Compiling subtle communication slips for this post is a humble refresher, even for me.  Awareness of these mistakes is also a chance to level up talent and content writing.

As editor in chief for ContentAvenue, I am at the intersection of communicating science and niche expertise to global audiences. Indeed, my position allows me to meet and work with many expert writers and scientists globally. Nevertheless, I still encounter common mistakes and a lack of awareness holding back talented writers and scientists from publishing masterpieces. 

You may be an actively publishing scientist, content marketing manager, freelance writer, or a jack-of-all-trades small business owner. Either way, these insights may serve you well, as even some of the best writers forget to consider them.

Communication slip 1: Amateur use of headers and subheaders

Avid users of WordPress or other marketing tools and plugins know the importance of headers and subheaders. These headers and subheaders are H1, H2, and H3 title tags and serve critical purposes. In this section, we will review the top three purposes.

If you are not responsible for marketing success or sales, being naive about how vital these subheaders or title tags are is forgivable. However, if, as an expert writer, you wish to increase your contribution to an organization’s marketing success, you will need to become familiar with current marketing and search engine strategies. And be aware these strategies can frequently change, so your learning will be continuous.

For example, Google was recently awarded a new patent for ‘Contextual estimation of link information gain.’  This means that novel, rich and expert-written content will be more critical now than ever.  For now, let’s focus on headers and subheaders, as the cost of not doing so means your efforts, knowledge, or services are unlikely to be read or found.

1. Headers explain what the content covers

A header or subheader’s first and primary purpose is to inform and describe. Your headers should communicate at a glance the topic being covered in the blog post or section. Google expects this rule to be followed, and so does your reader.

Additionally, readers will often scan the subheaders to determine which sections they are interested in, what order to read them in, or whether to skip the entire article altogether. 

A service-minded attitude will tell you the audience’s time is more valuable than yours. So make your headers clear and concise. Informative content headers and subheaders prepare and reduce cognitive load for the easily distracted site visitor. Unclear content simply won’t be read.

2. Headers are a place for keywords

The second primary purpose is to help search engines interpret the content on the page and direct high quality, appropriate traffic to it.

The job of search engine bots and algorithms is to decipher what your content is about, so they can match your content to the right users. They primarily use the H1, H2, and H3 title tags as a starting point.

Headers are therefore vital for search engine optimization (SEO) and site rankings and need to incorporate keywords from the article’s content.


Use keywords that relate to the content body and sections in a meaningful manner that can be strategically placed in the headers and subheaders.

Strategic use of keywords throughout your headers and body content will only work, however, if the content quality is high and the blog page bounce rate is low. 

Remember that a high bounce rate will likely result from non-informative or false headers or sub-headers. So don’t cheat with title tags and subheaders unless you want to disappoint.

3. Headers make the content digestible and searchable

Separating the content into shorter paragraphs and sections makes blog post articles more digestible. The concept is simple and is a matter of spacing out information.

Remember, most people use mobile devices and scan content quickly. Thus, spacing out information is visually more appealing, easier to scan and read, and is a great way to highlight new, original, meaningful information.  

Strategically using subheaders to signpost ideas, topics, or expert advice greatly improves the readability of your content, as well as supports the writing process.

As expert writers, we should always aim to deliver digestible information, and placing the audience’s needs first will help us achieve this.

Communication slip 2: Too many fancy subtitles 

Getting fancy with a subheader title can be an enjoyable escape from monotonous daily writing tasks. But the maxim holds true: keep it simple.


Simple will do as it helps the reader know what they can expect to learn from each section. Rhymes and wordplay will only get you so far, whereas credibility, authority, and helpful content keep the reader engaged.

Furthermore, when messages or subheadings become too cryptic, SEO may suffer alongside the readers’ interest. When we are looking for information fast, tolerance for whimsy is low. Aim to balance informative, lightly tailored SEO titles and subheaders with style and personality.

Communication slip 3: Failing to explain terms

One way to introduce ambiguity into writing is failing to introduce and define terms before using them in the content body. For example, “the team,” “the idea,” and “the challenges” can create ambiguity in blog posts and scientific research if they have not been clearly defined beforehand.  

Most writers succeed in introducing abbreviations or acronyms for familiar or lengthy terms when being used for the first time or in stand-alone text. For example, most writers would remember to write a term like ‘magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)’ in full the first time it appears in their text and then uses the abbreviation – in this case, MRI – after that, without confusing the reader.

However, many writers, even the best, can forget to clearly signpost what they are talking about to reduce text or sentence length, particularly when referring to specific people, concepts, or ideas.

A typical communication slip by expert and scientific writers

Let’s look at an example:

Lack of innovation funds, regulatory demands, and access to clinical data are slowing progress for new digital health technologies to gain market entry. These barriers are growing every year…

In the above example, the writer sets out a list of challenges in the first sentence and then refers to ‘barriers’ in the second. In order to make it clear that the items listed in the first sentence are barriers, the writer must refer to them as such from the start, as exemplified below:

Lack of innovation funds, regulatory demands, and access to clinical data are barriers slowing progress for new digital health technologies to gain market entry. These barriers are growing every year…

It could be argued that in the first version, the reader can easily surmise that ‘barriers’ refers to the items in the list, due to proximity. However, if the term barrier isn’t mentioned until two or three sentences later, the communication slip becomes more apparent and can lead to confusion.

These types of communication slip resemble vague pronoun references but typically follow words like “they,” “this,” and “these.” More often than not, simply using the original term, phrase, or noun, may sound wordy but will be easier to follow.

Communication slip 4: Not using terms consistently 

Writing in scientific arenas reinforced to me the importance of using defined terms consistently. Following on from the insights in Communication slip 3, above, introducing new expressions for recently defined terms can confuse a reader. 


Think twice before adding synonyms to sound more wise, witty, or stylish to replace a term or phrase already established in the content body.

Good writing practice requires new terms and phrases to be explained. So, as I remind myself while writing this blog post, ‘instead of warning about writing errors, I’ll use communication slips every time, unless I want to redefine’.

Learning from our communication slips 

Typos and spelling errors are easy to fix, but clumsy communication is not.

If it helps, consider reframing these less obvious common communication slips as strategies rather than mistakes and adopt a master communicator mindset.

And if you don’t have the time to write your masterpiece, then spend a few minutes browsing and purchasing some of our original, expert-written, slip-up-free content!


1. Contextual estimation of link information gain (2020), Patent US20200349181A1, United States, Inventor Victor Carbune and Pedro Gonnet Anders.

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