Content publishing got a huge boost with the introduction of the blog. Now, just about anyone with a computer can blog. The downside to that is just about anyone with a computer can blog. See the problem?
Once someone finds your website, a blog serves as the best way to communicate with them upon their arrival. Now, here’s where the problem occurs. Not only does it depend on what you do communicate, it also heavily relies on what you DON’T communicate. Failure to do so on both accounts results in a quick exit from what should be your number one way of promoting yourself online.
I bring this up to help. In addition, I am a member of a self-appointed underground group charged with cleaning up the Internet. You may have noticed us in the comments section of your most favorite blogs. Yes, we are those that nit and pick the proper use and structure of your words. We are the Grammar Police.
Why this sudden rant on grammar use? I would say a recent guest article that I came across on a local celebrity’s blog pushed me over the edge (I won't divulge the identity, but I may be scarred for life). To people that know me, they know that I like to read. I enjoy the literary arts and appreciate masters of the written word. As such, I want to respect the medium. I’m also happy to help someone that wants a critique on an article, email or even a Facebook post. I think more people should avail themselves of an editor.
I accept that we live in an age of 140 characters or less. Even so, speed and brevity are not the issue. My issue stems from the so-called professionals that do have time to write (though what they do, I would not call writing). Here’s my reason for calling them out. They’re doing harm to the art form.
As a musician, I want to create a performance of note, compose an enjoyable piece of music, or challenge one of my students to do their best. Bringing your A-Game should be the ultimate goal of everyone, in every field. In marketing, the same thing applies. No matter the form used, the rules or guidelines associated with it should be upheld. These are just a few that I’ve seen abused on a regular basis.
Use a period. Period!
Have you ever read an article where, at the end, you just felt exhausted? It’s probably due to a lack of periods, as well as commas. Punctuation is on the brink of extinction with texting. Run on sentences reign mightily over social media. How many of us have been the receiver of the aforementioned text or post and tried to decipher the intended meaning of the message?
Short, clear sentences make reading a hell of a lot easier to read. Make friends with periods and commas. You’ll find that your readers will enjoy your articles more and find it easier to retain the information.
Conjunction junction, do you know its function?
“Hooking up words and phrases and clauses.” Schoolhouse Rock educated kids about verbs, adjectives and of course, conjunctions in an entertaining way. Obviously, some people missed that Saturday morning lesson. When was it deemed acceptable to start a sentence with and, but or or?
Unless used for particular emphasis, eliminate conjunctions from beginning a sentence. Use them to connect related ideas within a sentence. BONUS: Try to eliminate the conjunction so as a way of starting a sentence, whether in writing or speaking. It makes you seem unsure and weakens whatever statement that you may be trying to make.
Lose it or loose it
Your, you’re, there, their, they’re, to, too, then, than, effect, affect. Do I even need to explain?
You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means
As inconceivable as it may seem, The Princess Bride taught us that some people like to use words just to sound smart. I call this trend Attack of the Thesaurasaurus.
The Internet, with its wide selection of dictionaries, can help you expand your vocabulary. The key to any word substitution is to make it seem natural within the narrative you’ve written.
I believe everyone wants to correctly spell words. Spell check provides help in that area. Unfortunately, it's not consistent in the way it provides help. For example, form and from are two letters away from being twins, yet they are in no way interchangeable. Spell check will help you by doing absolutely nothing.
It’s a great tool, but why not get a second opinion. Allow a colleague to proofread your copy before being published.
One last tip for limiting these errors is to write without distraction. I see this as probably the number one cause of errors in writing. Our computing devices can now do so much more than word processing. The disadvantage of that is more distractions. When you’re in writing mode, turn it all off and focus. You’ll create a better environment in which to write.
It pays to communicate effectively. I don’t consider myself a master of the English language, but I write everyday to improve. I continually read and have others read what I write. Blogging software makes self publishing easy, but strive to be professional with the content that you publish. It can be the first step towards building a lucrative media publishing hub like Hubspot, eMarketer or even news aggregators like Mashable or Huffington Post.
Fellow grammarians, what have you to say?
BONUS: Weird Al recently came out with an entertaining video on Word Crimes. Enjoy!
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