Good Grammar Affects the Effect of a Business Blog – Part B

good grammar in blogging

 

Holly Sutton lists spelling and grammar errors as #4 among the eleven common mistakes bloggers make in their first year, but as a blog content writing trainer, I find, grammar errors are all too common even among experienced bloggers. With social distancing having left many of us content writers with extra time on our hands, I’m devoting this week’s Say it For You posts to spelling and grammar cleanup hints. In the latest post, I reviewed homonyms, or sound-alikes.

Today, let’s focus on common twosomes that are often used interchangeably – but which shouldn’t be:
  • Who always refers to a person; that refers to a thing. I am a person who cares about grammar, because grammar is a thing that helps clarify meaning.

  • Whose jacket is this (to which person does the jacket belong)?  Who’s on cafeteria duty today (who’s means who is)?

  • Given a choice between an orange and an apple, I would always choose the apple. On the other hand, if I had to choose among all possible fruits, I would choose plums. (Use between when there are two objects or people; use among when there are three or more.

  • Lay is a verb that commonly means “to put or set (something) down.” Lie is a verb that commonly means to be in or to assume a horizontal position. Peter liked to lie in bed. Before going to bed each evening, he would lay his robe at the foot of the bed.

  • Advise (the s is pronunced like a z) is a verb (I advise you to clean up the grammar in your blogs). Advice (a noun) is what I am offering to y0u in this blog post.

  • You bring things here and take them there, Jeff Haden explains in Inc.com.

  • You are being discreet when you are careful and show good judgment, Haden adds. Discrete means separate or distinct (just what you want to be in your blog, but in a good way).
For sure – in blogging for business, grammar affects the effect!
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Good Grammar Affects the Effect of a Business Blog – Part A

Of the 11 common mistakes bloggers make in their first year, blogger Holly Sutton observes, one of those is making too many spelling and grammar errors.
As a blog content writing trainer, I find, grammar errors are all too common even among experienced bloggers. So, reasoning that social distancing requirements have left many content writers with extra time on their hands, I decided to devote this week’s Say it For You posts to spelling and grammar cleanup hints. (Sure, as Sutton points out, there are editing tools out there, but they don’t catch all the details and don’t really explain the principle behind each change.)

Homonyms are words that sound alike, but mean different things.  It’s important to choose the word that says what you meant to say. Otherwise, a goofy mistake can just make you look silly, as Brian Clark of copyblogger.com points out. Confusing homonyms  Clark specifically mentions include:
  • Your (refers to something you own); you’re is a contraction of “you are”.

  • It’s means “it is” – It’s cold outside. Its means belonging to it. Each toy should be put in its proper place.

  • Affect is a verb meaning influence.  The weather affects my mood.  Effect is usually used as a noun meaning “result” – Cloudy weather has a depressive effect on me.

  • Lose and loose are not true homonyms, and they are certainly not synonyms, yet too often I see one being used when the other would be correct.  Your clothes might be too loose, but you certainly wouldn’t want to lose them accidentally.

  • When someone praises us, we appreciate the compliment; a complement is something that matches well with something else, such as an armchair in a color that looks good next to your sofa.

  • The principal in an organization or company is the most important person; a principle is fundamental truth or standard.

Amy Mascott, writing in Parents Magazine, names other common homonyms that can be confused, including two threesomes:
  1. There will be a lot to eat at their house tonight; they’re (they are) buying up all the hot dogs in town.

  2. We went to the park two nights in a row. Did you go, too?

    No doubt about it – in blogging for business, grammar affects the effect!

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Is Your Business Blog Content TNAS?

directions in blogs

 

As part of my work in the tutoring lab at Ivy Tech Community College, it often falls to me to help students revise essay papers. Students may have submitted first drafts, then received their papers back from their instructor with notations and corrections. The student then has the opportunity to “fix” things and re-submit the assignment.

At first, I didn’t understand the meaning of the notation “TNAS” that frequently appeared on these papers. I was soon informed that those initials stand for “That’s Not a Sentence”.

In fact, sentence fragments seem to be a common mistake among blog content writers. Often the problem is clauses. A sentence can have any number of clauses, but needs at least one main or independent clause, with a subject and a verb, as englishgrammar.org explains, and any dependent clauses need to be attached to an independent clause.

In business blog content writing, there’s another common problem related to sentences – run-ons. Run-ons have more than one independent clause. The effect, I tell students and content writers, is comparable to squeezing two bodies into one seat!

But, isn’t it OK to be more relaxed about grammar rules when writing for blogs? Yes….blogs are supposed to be less formal and more conversational than a company’s (or a practice’s) main website. As spotcolormarketing.com puts it, there are times when it is more effective to sound like a relatable human and not your sixth grade English teacher who never seemed to be able to connect with her audience.”

Along with several other grammar rules that Spot Marketing says are OK to break in blogs (such as ending a sentence with a preposition, using slang and contractions, or beginning a sentence with “and” or “but”) it might even be OK to use sentence fragments!

As a corporate blogging trainer, my favorite recommendation (to both business owners and the freelance blog content writers they hire to bring their message to customers) has been this: Prevent blog content writing “wardrobe malfunctions”, including grammar errors, run-on sentences, and spelling errors.

At the same time, the real question writers need to ask themselves about any one blog post is this: Have I done what I set out to do? Is the marketing message clear?

After all, readers who “get the idea” you were trying to convey are unlikely to reject your content on the grounds that it’s TNAS!

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The Royal Order of Blogging


Just one of the binding rules in English that native speakers know but don’t know they know, BBC’s Matthew Anderson pointed out, is that adjectives preceding nouns must go in a specific order:

  1. quantity or number
  2. opinion
  3. size
  4. shape
  5. age
  6. color
  7. origin/nationality
  8. material
  9. purpose

That rule is the reason, for example, that green great dragons can’t exist, but great green ones can. Your friend does not have a new nice house, but a nice new one. Obviously, non-native speakers have a great deal of trouble straightening it all out. In fact, 60% of the world’s languages put adjectives after the noun!  English is actually pretty rigid when it comes to adjectives. Try describing your” lovely little rectangular French silver whittling knife” in any other order, Gassie Werber of Quartz says, and you’ll sound like a maniac.

What’s more, that “Royal Order of Adjectives” is illogical, to say the least, because the further an adjective is from the noun, the less intrinsic it becomes, Katy Morton writes in listenandlearnusa.com. What’s more, it’s unusual for someone in everyday speech and writing to use three or more adjectives to puff up one noun.

As a blog content writer, I find it extremely important that the first two items in the Royal Order are quantity and opinion:

When Hubspot colleagues analyzed all their own blog posts to see which titles had performed the best in terms of search results, the top eight each included a number. “Numbers are a great way to set expectations for a post, telling readers what they’re going to get and how much of it”. The point of using numbered lists, I often teach, is to demonstrate that there are many ways in which your product or service is different. Statistics are attention-grabbing, demonstrating the extent of a problem, and conveying a great deal of information with minimal verbiage

What about opinion, second on the adjective list? Whether it’s business-to-business blog writing or business to consumer blog writing, the blog content itself needs to use opinion. Bloggers must be influencers, I advise clients and blog content writers alike. Whether it’s business-to-business or business to consumer blog writing, the blog content itself needs to use opinion to clarify what differentiates that business, that professional practice, or that organization from its peers.

 

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