I’m a bit of a grammar snob. Allow me to explain. I spent six years in the newspaper industry, and my entire college career — both undergraduate and graduate — has centered on having a strong command of the English language. We are living in a world right now where the ability to communicate clearly and efficiently has never been more important.
Whatever language you speak, it’s important to have a strong written command of it. Not everyone has the gift of great writing skills, but learning some common mistakes could make a big difference. Don’t think this is important to blogging? Well, a lot of people would say otherwise. Making silly mistakes can really do a number on your credibility not only as a writer, but also as an expert in your field. I’ve compiled a list of some pretty common mistakes people make in writing that you’ll hopefully find helpful in cleaning up your blogging.
I see this one all the time. “Your” implies ownership. “You’re” is a contraction for the words “you are.” When you go back and edit your content (which I seriously hope you do), any time you come across the words “your” or “you’re,” reread you sentence and plug in “you are” in its place. If the word is “you’re” and the sentence makes sense reading it as “you are,” you’ve got the right usage. If it doesn’t, it needs some changing.
Example: Your social media blog is getting a lot of hits. You’re really taking off!
This one is tricky for a lot of people. The common problem seems to lie between the words “their” and “there.” The word “their,” again, implies ownership. Use it when something belongs to someone or something. The word “there” is a destination. If it gets confusing for you, remember the ownership implied by “their.” Who else would own something? I would. The letter “i” is in the ownership word “their.” That little trick might help you out. The word “they’re” is pretty easy. Much like “you’re,” “they’re” is a contraction for the words “they are.”
Example: Their iPad was delivered to the house over there. They’re not happy about that.
For this one, forget all the rules of ownership and apostrophes. It’s reversed in this case. The word “its” implies ownership while “it’s” is a contraction for the words “it is.” I know that gets really confusing, but again, when you go back and reread your copy, plug in the words “it is” for every case of “it’s.” It’s a good practice to identify wrong uses of words.
Example: It’s really important to be on Twitter. Our company can benefit from its broad reach.
Here we have another tricky one to remember. It’s usually more confusing when only one letter is different for each usage. “Then” implies a point in time. “Than” is used to imply a difference in an object. Think of it this way: “then” rhymes with “when,” and “when” is a point in time. The word “when” also has the letter “e” in it, so if you simply remember which word is used for describing a point in time, you’ll be able to use “than” correctly, too.
Example: My blog’s visit numbers are greater than they were last month. I can’t believe how low they were back then.
5. Comma Splices
What I’m writing right now is a comma splice, please stop doing it. See what I did there? I took two separate ideas and put them together with a comma in between. The comma splice is an error many of us make, but it’s an easy fix. If you read a sentence that you’ve written that could be split into two sentences, chances are you’ve got a comma splice on your hands. You can replace the comma with a period, or you can replace the comma with a semicolon. Just make sure the two separate ideas, or independent clauses, stand on their own.
Example: What I’m writing right now is not a comma splice. Thank you for knowing the difference.
As I mentioned at various points in this post, editing your copy when you’re done writing it is extremely important. Take a few minutes and read through what you’ve written several times. This will give you a chance to not only clean up the spelling and grammar mistakes you might have made, but you’ll also be able to clearly put your thoughts together. Maybe you’ll even think of a better way to articulate your points. Just make sure you’re putting as much effort into your editing as you put into creating all the great ideas we love reading about.