The Ultimate Grammar Guide for Content, Part II

In Part I of our grammar guide for content and bloggers, we covered plurals, double and single quotation marks, periods, parentheses, and brackets, ellipses, and tenses. Yup, even the pesky S vs ‘S. 

We’re not done yet, though.

Our Grammar Guide: Part II

English language is fascinating – but it’s also complex. And aggravating!

Are you ready to kill some more errors? Let’s start out by examining some common, easily fixable problems before tackling a mighty beast: passive voice.

Beware of Homonyms

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Homonyms are words that sound the same but are not spelled the same. Homonyms also differ in meaning.

You might have bare skin, but were you naked when you saw a bear in the forest?

Bare and bear are homonyms. If you use words like site, cite, and sight, you may find that this happens often, especially if you’re writing copy for an optometrist’s site.

Closely Spelled Words

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Here’s a THOUGHT: caffeine can help get you THROUGH this, THOUGH.

These are easy to miss, whether you’re writing or editing. Words that are spelled or sound similar (but aren’t the same) get writers all the time – especially close to a gnarly deadline.

Through, though, and thought – here’s a great example of a word group that’s easy to confuse. All of them look pretty similar, don’t they?

One Space: The Grammatically Correct Frontier

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Yep. Another Star Trek reference. Ha.

Anyway, always put one space between words and sentences. Not two. Just one.

Some of us (writers of a certain age) learned to put two spaces between sentences, especially in academic writing.

That is not the case for blog writing.

Comma Llama Ding Dong

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Don’t be a comma llama ding dong. Use commas correctly.

Most writers use too many commas too often – or not enough. Most of us remember to use commas with introductory words and when we make lists, but more complex usages are challenging.

For a thorough review, check out this explainer video from Schmoop. It’s called “How to Use a Freakin’ Comma,” and it’s pretty awesome:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=59lH37aZtro

As the Schmoop notes, it’s important to understand whether you, your team or your client prefers the Oxford comma. Generally, it’s best to use it in lists for clarity, and be consistent with its usage.

Complete Your Comparisons

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One thing that creates mistrust in advertising is an empty comparison. When you hear about toilet paper that has “50% more!” on a roll, what does that mean? More than it used to be? More than their competitor? That copy needs clarification, and so do your readers.

If you’re using words like:

  • More than – remember to finish the comparison (more than the competitor’s product)
  • Not only – remember to fulfill the promise you’ve started (not only is this toilet paper thick, but it’s also two-ply)
  • Whether – remember to include both choices (whether this or that)

Avoid Passive Voice (Usually)

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Did you write that blog post, or was it written by you? While both ways of stating it inevitably mean the same thing, they have different implications. That’s because the denotation (well, “meaning”) is the same, but the connotation (aka “implication”) is not.

Active voice: You wrote the blog post.

This active statement ascribes responsibility to you, the writer. You get credit for writing that post (eh, or perhaps some grief, depending on the content). It’s also very clear.

Passive voice: The blog post was written by you.

This statement centers the blog post before you, the subject. The product is more important than the author here. Blog posts don’t want themselves, but it downplays your role in the blog post creation, doesn’t it? Ugh to that.

Remember: most sentence subjects are like you, a blog author deserving of credit.

Make them front and center with active voice. When the subject is at the end and it’s after a verb-ed + by phrase, you’ve got some passive voice action going on. Fortunately, it’s easy to fix: just reword so that the subject is empowered, just like a skilled blog writer.

Occasionally, you’ll need passive voice – and in those instances, it’s okay to keep it. Always avoid confusing the reader, even if that means using a bit of passive language every now and again.

Exclamation Points! How Many Are Too Many?!!!

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In most instances, you should limit your use of exclamation points in your blog posts. They seem a bit young and a bit 101 if you’re hoping to come across as an authority, and they can also look inauthentic. Whoops.

5 Quick Things to Consider Before Writing Your Blog Post

These five things dramatically impact your writing, especially when you blog for a client. (If you’re doing that, by the way, it’s best to ask them their preferences so you can get it right the first time.)

  • Voice: How would you describe the voice of your brand?
  • Tone: What is the level of formality you expect in these posts?
  • Objective: What is the goal of the piece?
  • Perspective: First, second, or third person? Most blog posts are written in second person, acknowledging the reader. (Example: “You should consider doing some preliminary research on SEO.”)
  • Audience: Who do you hope to reach with the post(s)?

As you might have guessed, each of these aspects will affect your grammar.

Where Can You Learn More About Grammar?

Even the best editor or grammarian always checks their own work. Did you know that the singular “they” is now common usage? We did, because we follow the AP Stylebook on Twitter. Aside from staying up to date on usage and style changes, you can find solid advice at these resources:

We also love Grammarly, which picks out obvious errors and plagiarized content. However, Grammarly doesn’t catch everything, so make sure you read your work aloud and check for the issues outlined above. This will help you catch as many mistakes as possible.

Grammar is exhausting, but ultimately, the purpose is to create clarity for your reader. Keep that rule in mind.

If you’re ready to strengthen your online message with precise, thoroughly edited content, reach out. We’re happy to help you craft an ideal message and the ideal SEO plan for your business. Contact us!

 

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