This is not the post of a grammar stickler.
I’m not here to grammar-shame you into never hitting another key or publishing another blog post. In fact, I enjoy writing in a way that flows like conversation – and as we all know, our daily interactions rarely follow proper grammar guidelines.
And while I try to adhere to the rules I so dutifully learned as a UConn journalism student (where weekly quizzes on the AP Stylebook really killed my Thursday happy hours), I know that writing a blog is just a little different than, say, writing for The New York Times.
In content marketing, you have some flexibility. You want your content to have style, voice, character. And sometimes the best characters are the ones that bend the rules.
That being said, there’s a difference between bending grammar rules and smashing them to smithereens. So while you should write in an authentic voice, you should still try to stick to the basic grammar guidelines.
Foolproof your content marketing by checking your work for these six writing no-no’s:
Putting two spaces after periods.
If you take away one thing from this post, let it be this: You do not need to put two spaces after a period. So stop doing it today. The end.
Whenever I see a double space after a period in a blog post, I get the impression that the article is the first thing the author has written since the sixth grade, which is when some English teacher somewhere told us all to include this mystery space.
Well, that English teacher was wrong. Don’t believe me? Check out the informative yet entertaining Slate article “Two Spaces After Period: Why You Should Never, Ever Do It”.
In it, author Farhad Manjoo makes a compelling case against the double space, tracing the trend back to monospaced type on the typewriter, which required the double space because it was hard to see the spaces between sentences. This problem died out in the 1970s, yet the dreaded two-space remained. It’s time to erase it.
Writing inconsistent lists or bullets.
Lists and bulleted segments are great for blog posts – they let readers scan and absorb information quickly, and they provide a much-needed breath in dense content.
However, there’s nothing worse than when these lists seem like they’re a collection of random thoughts and ideas. If you’re going to create a bulleted list:
- Write the items in the same tense
- Begin each item in the same style (for this list, each item begins with a verb)
- Keep items at around the same length (don’t use a fragment in one instance and write a paragraph in another)
Creating a bulleted list shouldn’t be a shortcut. You should pay as much attention to crafting a strong and thoughtful list as you would a strong and thoughtful paragraph.
Confusing there, they’re and their.
Ok guys, this one is really baffling. It’s one of the first grammar rules we’re taught in school, yet it’s the one that consistently confuses the heck out of people.
Sometimes, someone even throws in a thier, and that’s when I about lose my mind.
So here’s the simple breakdown:
- There indicates a place, or the existence of something (I see it over there/There is an amazing blog on that website)
- Their is used to show possession (Their blog posts are amazing)
- They’re is a contraction of the words they and are (They’re going to love this post)
- Thier is not a word
Spelling names and brands (and anything else) wrong.
And that thier leads me into this writing mistake, which is of course more general.
It is extremely important to check your post for spelling errors – and spell-check won’t pick up everything, especially if it’s the name of a person or brand.
If you’re featuring a brand as a case study on your blog, or quoting an industry thought leader, spelling that business or name wrong makes you look careless and hurts your credibility.
Double- and triple-check your spelling before you share your post with the world (and especially before you share it with the brands and big names mentioned within it!).
Not citing your sources.
I’m always searching for “content marketing statistics” and “social media statistics” to help support my blog posts and proposals. And it’s amazing to see how many posts include statistics that have no original source.
It’s as if these statistics have become so ubiquitous that they have lost their meaning. Where did these numbers come from? How was the research acquired?
Even if you’re not doing any original research, make sure you cite the sources of the research you’re sharing so that your readers can trace it back to its origins. This will not only give your article more credibility, but it will also give credit to the person who took the time to delve into the data and create that pretty one-liner for you.
Being heavy-handed with the clichés.
Like I said, I’m not great at following all writing and grammar rules myself – and this one could be my downfall if I let it.
While writing quickly or under deadline, it’s easy to fall into a pattern of using clichés or common catch phrases to describe your subject. Consider the popular:
- Think outside the box …
- But at the end of the day…
- The fact of the matter is…
- When it’s all said and done …
So what’s wrong with relying on catch phrases to describe the simple and mundane? It’s lazy. It’s uninspired. It’s inauthentic. It doesn’t require you, as a writer, to explore how you really feel about a topic and examine how you would describe something naturally.
I frequently find myself falling into this trap. Phrases like “in today’s world”, or “we all know”, or “at this moment in time” roll off the fingers and onto the keyboard so easily that you often don’t realize you’re writing them. So it’s important to police yourself and frequently check your work for inauthentic or meaningless phrases.
When it’s all said and done, Keep your blog posts sounding like you, but keep them professional. And if you need a refresher on grammar rules in general, check out the University of Ottawa’s extensive HyperGrammar database. Or, purchase a print or online copy of the journalist’s bible, the AP Stylebook. You can even take part in the monthly #APStyleChat Twitter Chats.
Which writing and grammar mistakes drive you mad? Share with us in the comments below or on Google+!
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