You need a quality control checklist.

How do you make sure that your work today is better than it was yesterday, a month ago, or even a year ago? How do you ensure you don’t repeat your mistakes? How do you set yourself up for growth?

With a quality control checklist: A simple collection of your own blind spots and improvement opportunities. Here’s how you can build yours.

Collect data

Read your best work from the last six months. Highlight brilliance as well as problems. Make notes as you go along.

Collate feedback from clients for these pieces. From awkward word choices to overall structural issues, bring together all the feedback you got — both good and bad.

(You might cringe a lot at your own work in this phase. That’s a good thing. It means you’ve grown.)

Build your quality control checklist

Look through all the information you’ve collected to identify patterns and areas of improvement. For instance, one of the writers at emdash writes in passive voice a lot. Another resorts to “in terms of” or “from the perspective of” when she’s trying to soften the blow. Yet another would always begin at the beginning.

Here’s a part of my current quality control checklist:

  • I have a thing for alliterations

  • I use too many dangling modifiers

  • I love repetitive sentence structure. (Like this list here, all of which begin with “I <verb>”) Grammarly hates it!

  • I begin a lot of my sentences with the word ‘this’

  • My favourite way to write a lede is with a synecdoche (case in point here)

  • I always give three examples, I perhaps believe three’s a trend

You catch my drift, right?

Anyway, while doing this, also explore larger problems. You might be spending too much time on research (or too little). You might not be using the right industry terms. You might be bending over backwards to incorporate the keywords. For instance, I have starting trouble. But once I start, it hardly takes me any time to finish up work. So, I put specific items on my calendar, not giving myself any time to procrastinate.

Know what your problems are. And make a list. Don’t worry about how long it is. Don’t judge yourself.

Also remember, now every pattern needs to be changed. Some of it might just be your style, tone and voice. Own it.

Use your damn checklist

Don’t commit to memory. Don’t write in a notebook that you no longer use. Don’t make excuses. Every single time, run your articles through the checklist before sending it out for publishing.

Be diligent!

Improve your checklist

You will get over some of your issues and develop new ones. So, every three months, review your checklist. If you don’t yet feel confident, do this with a writing coach or a mentor.

If you feel like you’re only adding new items to the checklist, know that you’re not becoming a worse writer. You’re becoming a better judge of your own writing.

If it all feels too overwhelming, perhaps also maintain a list of things you’re good at — remember the brilliance list from above?