There’s no lack of information for us content writers when it comes to hooking readers and wowing fans, but, as Tiffany Lucket, editor of the Writer’s Digest Yearbook points out, it’s important to go back and review fundamental writing tools. That’s why I’m devoting this week’s Say It For You blog posts to some of the language basics covered in that wonderful magazine.
“…the ways in which the elements of a sentence can be put together – separates the casual writer from the true professional, asserts Anne Stilman. “Unconventional or incorrect grammar may be seen as an indication of carelessness or ignorance, with the result that readers may take the content itself less seriously,” she explains. (Thank you, Ms. Stilman! I get a lot of pushback from business owners and professionals when I tell them their website is filled with grammar errors – supposedly nobody “normal” pays attention to such language detail.”)
Stilman focuses on topics that she finds present frequent stumbling blocks for content writers, including:
Agreement between subject and verb:
When sentences contain two or more nouns or pronouns and share the same verb, the verb needs to be plural, even if one element of the pair is singular, and even if the singular noun is the one closest to the verb.
Avoiding misplaced modifiers:
If a sentence is carelessly constructed, the entity to be modified is not clear. As an example, Stilman offers the following sentence: “Just two years after finishing graduate school, Adelaide’s career took off.” Since it was Adelaide and not her career that finished school, this is a confusing sentence. It would have been better to state that “Just two years after Adelaide finished graduate school, her career took off.”
When I’m training newbie blog content writers, I like to remind them of the doctor’s mantra “Above all, do no harm.” In blogging for business, the warning might read, “Above all, create no confusion in readers.” You want online searchers to get the message, not be left scratching their heads.
If online searchers can’t tell what you mean, they will simply click and leave! Ignoring clarity by failing to use proper punctuation and sentence structure in blog posts is done at business owners’ peril.