Five Grammatical Mistakes You Are Making on Your Blog

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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.

1. Your/You’re

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!

2. Their/There/They’re

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.

3. Its/It’s

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.

4. Then/Than

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.

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54 comments

  1. SEO Specialist | The Tech Marketing Solutions

    […] Five Grammatical Mistakes You're Making on Your Blog […]

  2. George

    Great list! Here's another one: using 'of'' instead of 'have' with the words 'would', 'should' or 'could'. I don't know how this became so widespread, but everyone seems to do it these days.

  3. kayross

    Hi Jay – all very good points, thanks. However, I think the title of your article is misleading – do you know for sure that I'm making those five grammatical mistakes on my blog? Have you visited my blog? In fact, I'm not making those five grammatical mistakes on my blog, because like you I'm a grammar snob. And while some of your readers might be making those five grammatical mistakes, I'm sure that not all of them are. I suggest that a better title would have been “Five Grammatical Mistakes You Are Probably Making on Your Blog”, or better still, “Are You Making These Five Grammatical Mistakes on Your Blog?”.

  4. Zack Luby

    Let's eat Grandma! or Let's eat, Grandma!

    The use of commas can confound – and greatly change the meaning of your sentence. I suggest purchasing Strunk and White's “Elements of Style” if you write a blog. It's worth having on hand.

  5. Brad Barker

    Thank you Jay for this post. Grammatical errors really drive me crazy. I cringe every time I read a blog with poor grammar. I suggest to any blogger that they find someone to proof their work before publishing.

  6. Jay Adams

    Kay, thanks for the feedback and the e-mail you sent me. I always appreciate alternative points of view, and as someone who takes grammar seriously, I'm always looking to learn the areas where I'm lacking. Our intention wasn't to insinuate that everyone is making grammatical mistakes on blogs, and I'll try to do a better job of coming up with headlines in the future. Thanks again for writing and reading.

  7. Jay Adams

    Great advice, Brad! Thanks for commenting!

  8. Jay Adams

    Zack, I've always loved the Grandma comparison. It always makes me laugh. Commas save lives, right? Thanks for commenting!

  9. Jay Adams

    George, I agree. I've noticed that mistake a lot. I think that mistake comes from actually speaking those words. For example, the words “would have” generally get pronounced as “would've,” which sounds like “would of.” Thanks for the comment!

  10. Terrance Charles

    LOL, Ok, I am guilty of some of theses, I tend to blog like I talk so sometime my grammar can be a little off, working on it 😉 Thanks for sharing…

  11. Douglas Idugboe

    LOL, you're cracking me up right now with that creative blunder “…some of theses” loved it! Thanks for the comment and being part of our community 😉

  12. bryngerard

    Hmmm, I appreciate that poor grammar can create confusion and be irritating to those whose mind functions in that way. I myself am guilty of these errors and the funny thing is that I can spot them immediately I review the piece I have written.

    I have wondered about this because I want to be an effective communicator and eradicate anything that stands in its way. I realised that as an orator I am relatively eloquent and whenever I write I do so as though I am conversing with somebody verbally. This leads to these errors. I see words as musical sounds. The expression happens in the tone of voice, pronunciation, facial expression, gestures and passion.

    When I think of a word I do not see it as pure symbols (letters etc.), I “feel” the word and then express that feeling. Writing does not work in that way, it is more technical and I believe that is why great writers are few and far between. The ability to tell a story, bulding tension etc. is also a prerequisite to great writing, more than technical ability.

    A journalist once tried to “catch out” Albert Einstein by asking him if knew the answer to a science on that years SAT. He replied “I would never waste my time trying to remember such things when they are in book on my shelf. I tend to see writing in this way.

    Bryn

  13. Karl Lusbec

    Great post!
    One point to mention though. My native language is French although I want to believe to be fluent in english. I don't mean to be boastful but I do not make any of the 5 mistakes you mentioned, but I obviously make others. What is your take on non english natives blogging in english? As native speakers, is it a “turn down” to leave comments and to interact?

  14. nwyliejones

    Wow! Thx for you're helpin I wit my missstakes.
    Their so much of them this days. One day I had a coma splice when I hit my head. Its stupid to make mistkes an errores. U could mess UP yr state multiple-choice testes and hurted yr teachers and principles. Remember, leaf no stuff behind including kids and other stuff. I want i_Pad or KINdles for to help me read and right. Thx a again.

  15. Gary Chiro

    I think I have nearly never used a semi-colon in a sentence. What would be a good example of using the ; ?

  16. Barbara

    Glad someone finally adressed the “comma splice” (didn't know it had a name). I see a lot of it lately and do not understand the logic of it. The other four mistakes are probably often the result of carelessness and lack of careful proofreading on the part of the writer.

  17. Barbara

    Just noticed a typo in my post on grammar! Addressed!

  18. Brent Carnduff

    Thanks for the article. (just about used a comma splice) I have always had trouble with its vs it's. It's much clearer now!

  19. Anonymous

    There is an error in your image text. Rather than “I has a grammar” it should read “I can haz grammar” and instead of you, there should be a cat! LOLZ!

  20. Beth

    13 years of Catholic school qualify me as a grammar expert too. My ears spontaneously combust when people, trying to be grammatically correct, say “so and so and I” when it's clearly a “so and so and me” sentence. Sigh.

  21. Dino Dogan

    Five Grammatical Mistakes You Are Making on Your Blog. Awesome post…I've had trouble with 3, 4, and 5.

  22. Davidsjunk2003

    I completely relate to Beth. With 16 years of Catholic schooling, I consider myself a bit of a grammar Nazi. Maybe it was the THOUSANDS of sentences I diagrammed in seventh grade! Thank you for this.

    No one caught the one typographical/editing error in your post, however. I wonder if it is a test you created.

    In #1, you write: “…any time you come across the words “your” or “you’re,” reread you sentence and plug in “you are” in its place.” The “you” right before “sentence” should actually be “your.” OOPS!

    Thanks for giving voice to some of my own gripes.

  23. Brian Heafy

    I need to improve my skillz

  24. Brady Lewis

    Ugh!!! I hate grammatical errors. I see them EVERYWHERE. I definitely lose some respect for a blogger when I see a your/you’re mistake. I may have thought s/he was the greatest blogger around, until I saw that. I’m not saying that I don’t make mistakes (especially the comma splice), but some of these were taught to us in elementray school.

    Thanks for the post. Maybe this will make some people be more careful.

  25. Lmnr0716

    any time you come across the words “your” or “you’re,” reread YOU sentence and plug in “you are” in its place.

    Haha.. did you mean to have “you” or did you not realize it should say “YOUR” lol too funny

  26. Alex Lam

    From one grammar nazi to a grammar snob, thank you. (Urgh, was that a comma splice?). I am really appalled by the poor use of English across the web and it really doesn’t take a lot of effort to correct these major mistakes.

    I doubt much will change soon, but let’s pray it does.

  27. Tina

    These kinds of mistakes bother me as well if they happen a lot. One thing I’ve noticed with my own writing though is that I do make the your/you’re and similar mistakes on occasion, but not because I don’t know the difference. Rather it’s because I type very quickly and some words just leave my fingers before I can catch the mistake. Luckily, I do proofread to correct the errors before I publish. I think there are probably a lot of people who do know the differences in these types of similar words. Many people are probably like me though and just type fast and don’t necessarily catch the errors.

  28. Eran

    Grammar Nazi here! 😉 Great article and needed to be said!

    The apostrophe issue is the one that drives me crazy in particular. The rule is SOOOOOOOOO simple, yet so many people get it wrong. Even writers…

    Mind you, I also agree with what Tina said. Sometimes when you’re typing fast, you just miss these things. Of course, that implies a good proofread is necessary.

  29. Jwworld

    Or you could stop using commas before “or” too. They’re not needed.

  30. Photo from

    I’m non native English, I can blog better because reading this.

  31. Paul Taylor

    OK, I’m making none of those mistakes – but I think the comma splice is probably the most-common, least-remarked one of the lot. Thanks for highlighting it.

  32. Mark Aaron Murnahan

    “Don’t think this is important to blogging?” That sentence feels rather incomplete, don’t you agree?
    Tone often delivers as much as grammar alone. When used poorly, tone can be even more damaging than grammar.

    As an accomplished blogger, author of books, and professional writer for more than two decades, I’ll offer my two cents. I believe you can sense that tone, can you not?

    The tone of a message is very important to a blog. It is often uncomfortable to find yourself being called out for your flow errors and tonal inconsistencies while being condescending. I will not waste my time with the specifics in question. I believe you are smart enough to see what I mean as you review your comments. I also believe you will gain wisdom as you come back and “post-publish proofread” later in your career.

    Do you recognize what I mean with my claim that tone delivers a lot?

  33. Pradhansushil

    Thanks for putting in writing what many of us are hesitant to point out. Any hints for the use of semi-colons and colons?

  34. Lauren M. Hug, J.D., LL.M.

    Phew! I was worried I might be doing something seriously wrong. These are grammar mistakes that I have a pretty good handle on. (Admittedly, I’m not always diligent about avoiding comma splices.) But now, thanks to you, I’m paranoid about my grammar. And — oh no! — I realized I ended a sentence with a preposition! And started one with “and”! And another!  Are there other common blogging grammar mistakes that have caught your attention? I would be interested in an on-going list.

  35. Jay Ward

    I have been a comma splicer for years, and I can quite any time.  My new LinkedIn group will be comma splicers anonymous.

    1. Carl Ingalls

       Yes, “quite”. 

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