In Blogging for Business, Grammar is a Big Deal

“You might believe the past tense of the verb lead is lead, but that’s not how things are,” says Marko Ticak in the grammarly blog. (Led is the past tense of lead.) Big deal, you’re thinking… Yes, it is. As a blog content writing trainer, I know the truth of author Joanne Adams’ words: Pay attention to proper spelling and grammar, Adams says, and “people who read your writing will know, without a sliver of doubt, that you are somebody who really knows their $h*t”.

At Say It For You, my favorite recommendation to business owners and the freelance blog content writers they hire to help bring their message to their customers is simply this: Dress your blog in its best. Prevent blog content writing “wardrobe malfunctions” such as grammar errors, run-on sentences, and spelling errors. Perhaps it’s true that most readers won’t notice errors, but business owners or practitioner ought to ask themselves a simple question: “Can I afford to have even one potential customer noticing my lack of care?”

Just to be sure you know your $h*t, Adams offers a list of infinitives and their proper past tense forms (along the lines of “lead/led”):

  • build/built
  • choose/chose
  • lie/lay (another very common mistake)
  • lose/lost
  • spend/spent

Other bothersome twosomes often confused include:

  • advice (the noun – what you give or receive) and advise (the verb)
  • imply (the speaker or writer does this)/ infer (the listener or reader does this)
  • lose (can’t seem to find) and loose (not tight enough)

One expression to erase from your mind and your writing, Adams advises, is “a lot”. It’s OK to use “a lot”, but don’t smoosh the words together.

I’ll admit that, over the years, I’ve been accused of being a “grammar Nazi”, so you can imagine why I identify with the material in Joanne Adams’ book. But, really, all content writers should. Grammar mistakes are very much like the much-publicized TV star wardrobe mishaps – they call attention away from the kind of impression we intend to make on behalf of our businesses or professional practices.

In blogging for business, grammar affects the effect!


Blogger Resources for Grammar Guidance

“Content writers in Indianapolis – take courage!” I wrote back in 2012. “ If your marketing blog posts are filled with valuable, relevant, and engaging material, your use of ‘a lot’ when you should have said ‘many’,” substituting ‘your’ for ‘you’re’, or inserting an apostrophe in the pronoun ‘its’ aren’t going to constitute deal breakers.”

But could they? In corporate blogging training sessions, in which the business owner and professional practitioner attendees largely serve as their own editors, I urge no-error erring on the side of caution. 

Yes, I know the online crowd likes to be informal, and yes, blogs are supposed to be less formal and more personal in tone than traditional websites. But when a sample of corporate blog writing is posted in the name of your business (or in the case of Say It For You writers, in the name of a client’s business), the business brand is being “put out there” for all to see. True, most readers will merely scan your content and won’t pay very close attention to details like those. Some might, though, and you cannot afford to have potential customers noticing your lack of care.

“Every time you make a typo, Richard Lederer writes, “the errorists win.” Lederer’s the author of the audiobook Grammar for Success, and just one of the resources I use for help in the GD (grammar disfuction) department.  Here are some others:

  1. “If you’re running a blog, getting grammar right is really helpful. For one thing, it will protect you from roaming gangs of Grammar Nazis patrolling the internet. But more important, it’ll make you a better writer. Your readers will appreciate it, even if they aren’t conscious of why,” explains the Grammar Cheatsheet for Bloggers (offered by   
  2. “English has borrowed from many other languages and as a result, it is very complex. There are numerous rules concerning English grammar, and many exceptions to those rules,” observes the Grammarist, which includes an especially useful list of easily confused words – do you know the difference between “pending” and “impending”?
  3.  “However, there is one type of verb that doesn’t mix well with adverbs. Linking verbs, such as feel, smell, sound, seem, and appear, typically need adjectives, not adverbs. A very common example of this type of mixup is “I feel badly about what happened,” cautions Grammarly, where you can “find answers to all your writing conundrums with our simple guide to English grammar rules”.

Professional blog content writers of the world, unite! Are you going to stand there and let those errorists win??


Why “Blog” and “Glob” are Antigrams


When most people talk of anagrams, the Book of Random Oddities explains, they mean words that can have their letters rearranged to make other words, such as “bat” and “tab”. In the world of recreational wordplay, though, an anagram is a rearrangement of the letters in a word, phrase, or sentence to make a new word, phrase, or sentence that refers to or defines the original in some way.” The authors offer a few examples:

  • dormitory/ dirty room
  • greyhound/ “Hey, dog – run!”
  •  angered/ enraged
  • the eyes/ they see
  • snooze alarms/ alas, no more z’s

Antigrams unlike anagrams, the authors explain, “beg to differ”.  Antigrams are phrases that can be anagrammed into something that means or implies its opposite. Examples include:

  •  funeral/ real fun
  •  filled/ ill-fed
  • astronomers/ no more stars

As a blog content writer and trainer, I couldn’t help adding one to the list:  blog/ glob.

One message per post is the mantra I pass on to newbie Indianapolis blog writers.  Each post, I teach in corporate blogging training sessions, should contain a razor-sharp focus on just one story, one idea, one aspect of the business or practice. “Stuffing” too much content in a blog creates a “glob” that strains readers’ attention span.

The focus of a single blog post might be:

  • Busting one myth common among consumers
  • One testimonial from a user of your product or service
  • One special application for your product
  • One common problem your service helps solve
  • One new development in your industry

On the other hand, a single business blog post can convey a sense of forward movement through linking to another page, or even by telling readers to watch for information on another product, service, or “how-to” in a coming blog post.

Don’t turn your blog into a glob!



Words You Never Use in Blogging for Business

Never - word written in colorful chalk

“It’s more important than ever before to be mindful not just of what your company says to customers online, but HOW it is said as well,” asserts Jay Baer, author of Hug Your Haters. “Minor shifts in words choice can mean the difference between a great customer interaction and an unruly, offended mob.” There are three categories of potential trouble, Baer explains:

  1. words that lack humility
  2. words that diminish the customer
  3. words of argument and avoidance

Baer’s words certainly apply to the work we do as business blog content writers, as we try to create great online interactions with customers and prospects.

One word Baer believes lacks humility is “our”. Bair thinks that word implies that the speaker (or writer, in this case) is speaking on behalf of the collective business.  “We” and “our” lack humanity and the personal touch, Baer says, advising customer service people to use “I” and “me”.

When it comes to business blog content writing, I don’t mind the word “our”, because it’s part of first person writing. I’ve always preferred first and second person writing in business blog posts over third person “reporting”, because I believe people tend to buy when they see themselves in the picture and when they can relate emotionally to the person bringing them the message.

I absolutely agree that the customer or prospect must never feel diminished. While mythbusting is one important function business blog posts can serve, writers should never imply that readers are unable to fully grasp the information or that they have been easily misled in the past. “The word “misunderstanding”, Baer says, is often used as a polite way of saying “you didn’t listen or read well enough.”

Addressing misinformation in a company’s blog shines light on the owner’s special expertise, besides offering information that is valuable to readers. Still, a certain level of anger might arise at having one’s beliefs challenged, so it’s important to throw readers a “bone” by offering some intriguing information that nobody could reasonably have been expected to know. The customer, as Baer explains, may have been completely wrong, but “proving” that is no way to win a friend.

Words to never use in blogs are words that boast, diminish, argue, and avoid!



Don’t Let Your Blog Leave the Wrong “Effect”

OOPS! card with colorful background with defocused lights

“For all the changes to the algorithm Google goes through,” a blog content writer recently assured readers, “only a handful are significant and will effect your ranking – if even that.” Uh-oh – didn’t you mean “affect your ranking”?

The verb “effect” means “to cause to come into being” or “to bring about. “When you are tempted to use “effect” as a verb, ask yourself if the phrase ‘bring about’ makes sense in its place,” explains getitwriteonline.

“Effect” was the wrong verb, but several other excerpts from that same multi-contributor advice blog demonstrated the use of the wrong pronoun:

  1. No one is going to trust you to deliver quality products and services if your company can’t even manage their own public image. “Company” is singular; the text should read “can’t even manage its own public image”. 
  2. Once you understand who your customer is, it is easier to define in a few simple sentences what makes your company uniquely qualified to solve their problem. “Customer” is singular. This should read “his/her problem”. 
  3. Any professional worth their salt has an account on LinkedIn, which in essence is an online resume. Any professional is singular; “worth his/her salt” would be correct.  If this is awkward, change the subject to “professionals”. 
  4. Ask a designer why they are so enamored of ampersands and they may get a few words in before muttering they don’t know why. A designer is so enamored.

But, hey, does it really matter, you may ask? Readers probably understood what those bloggers meant to say, and perhaps none even caught the blog writers’ mistaken word choices.

Everyone who knows me at all well is familiar with my near-maniacal preoccupation with proper language usage. Informal and conversational as business blog writing might be, I constantly stress to  business blog content writers – or those providing business blogging services – how important it is to check for “spinach-in-the-teeth” bloopers in their content.

Christina Wang of  agrees with me that it’s important to pay attention to grammar.. “No matter where you work or what you do, everyone needs to know how to write effectively for business these days,” she says.

Don’t let your blog leave the wrong effect!