One of the most common mistakes new investors make is in not familiarizing themselves with stock market jargon, symbols, phrases and acronyms that experienced traders live by. Websites such as Investopedia and Stocks About offer extensive definitions pertaining to the stock market.
Pick up investing books such as The Stock Market Course or Unexpected Returns: Understanding Secular Stock Market which are expressly written for beginning investors. There are thousands of books written by stock market pros who simplify their knowledge into layman terms so that anyone can easily understand and put into use what they've learned.
Since the key to making money in the stock market is in first understanding the concepts it's advisable to seek guidance from a professional. Many financial companies and brokerage firms offer training seminars that teach inexperienced investors the basics of the stock market. These are usually low cost seminars held on the weekends and any knowledge gained should offset the initial cost.
Researching potential companies is crucial to making important decisions about where to put your money. Evaluate their SEC filings such as their 10Q and their yearly report as these will indicate trends in growth and continuing profitability. Also understand what equity securities means because as a potential equity investor, if you buy stock in a company you take part ownership in that company and therefore assume the same degree of corresponding risk.
Many online sites now offer trial investment periods using play money. You are given a set amount of money to invest whether it's in stocks, bonds or a combination of both. Since your fake portfolio mirrors a real stock portfolio, you can practice the basics of stock trading without risking real money. Alternately, invest on paper for a month or so making sure to carefully monitor all aspects of your pseudo portfolio before making a real investment.
Remember that insider trading is illegal no matter how you look at it so don't take tips from people that say they have inside information on a particular company because chances are, if they had stock information they wouldn't be sharing it. Stock markets have come a long way and yesterday's strategy of "buy and hold" has become outdated. Today, in order to realize a solid investment return, understanding the stock market using proper research and analysis is a must.