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 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 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!


Him/Her Blogging for Business

You Can Get Your Ex Back


“If you want your ex back, but you lash out against them in hurt and anger, they will probably have trouble getting over that,” Gene Morris assures readers in the little book You Can Get Your Ex Back.”

Getting an ex back is not something I need help with just now. But as a business blog content writing trainer, I couldn’t help noticing something very interesting about this little paperback book: In just 56 short pages, the author managed to use the pronouns “they”, “them”, and “their” no fewer than 192 times when referring to ONE ex-spouse!  In addition to the opening line which I quoted above, examples include:

  • “Now, if the relationship ended because the other person cheated and left, you might be tempted to think that they left and you did not do anything wrong.”
  • “Do not slander, insult, or otherwise speak ill of your ex to anybody, because it will get back to them eventually, and that will kill your chances of getting back together with them.”
  • “”Let your ex have their new relationship, because you will still have a chance.”
  • “When it is time to contact your ex, they will notice the improvements.”
  • “Show them that you are serious by getting out of the depressed state and putting a smile back on your face.”
  • “You have been eagerly awaiting your moment where you can contact them and profess your love and your regret to them.”

The grammar question, of course is this: Is there a pronoun to use when referring back to a singular noun? Actually, as explains, “singular “they” enjoys a long history of usage in English. For example, it’s OK to say “Each student should save their questions until the end.”  It’s standard to use the masculine: “Each student should save his questions until the end”; feminists might prefer “Each student should save her questions until the end”. One solution might be to use pronouns of both genders together, like “he or she” or “him/her”, but that quickly becomes awkward. You might, the website authors suggest, reword sentences to always use a plural:  “Students should save their questions until the end.”

In doing online marketing through blogs, the last thing we content writers want is awkwardness – the whole idea is to engage readers, not frustrate them! To me, using “they”, “them”, and “their”, referring to just one ex-spouse in every other line of that little paperback was awkward enough to derail the message that book was obviously designed to convey.

I think the answer in blog content writing is to be direct.  “Your ex will notice the improvements you’ve made.” “Show your ex that you’re serious”. “You’ve been eagerly awaiting the moment when you can convey your love and regret to your ex.”

Above all, in blog content writing, avoid the awkward!


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!



Does Your Blog Have Skeletons in its Verbal Closet?



You’ll find skeletons in verbal closets, Bill Brohough says, and he devotes an entire book to helping us do just that in Unfortunate English: The Gloomy Truth Behind the Words You Use. Brohough alerts readers to the “improprieties, disgusting notions, licentiousness, and other foul thoughts” we speak daily without realizing it.

  • I love “reading around and learning around”, as I call it, and advise all blog content writers to do the same. Ideas are all over the place, all of the time, but we’ve got to see and hear those ideas, learning everywhere and from everyone, making connections between our own experience and knowledge and Other People’s Wisdom.  There are several ways in which I think Brohough’s collection of verbal “skeletons” and his caution to writers about using words can be used to improve blog marketing content for different types of businesses:1.  to define basic terminology or give basic information to readers: The expression “caught red-handed”, Brohough explains, originated in the 1400’s and meant caught with blood on one’s hands. Another speculation, he says, is that the term traces back to 800 B.C., when guilt or innocence was tested by putting the accused’s hand on a red-hot axehead.

A nutrition company or health practitioner might use this piece of trivia to discuss the importance of including various colors of food in the diet, so as to include different phytonutrients advising blog readers to include strawberries as a source of folic acid and cherries which are high in fiber..

2. to explain why this practitioner or business owner chooses to operate in a certain way: A printer or web designer might discuss the way red brings text and images to the foreground, and stimulates buying decisions.  A fashion clothing business or professional makeup salon might offer advice on using red accessories as an accent color for basic black or brown business suits..

As bloggers, we face the challenge of churning out creative writing over extended periods of time, and word “histories”offer fresh ways to approach our subject.

It’s worth searching your blog “closet” for skeletons!





In a Blog, is Someone One or Two?

One Plus One

“Beware of common grammatical mistakes, like subject-verb agreement,” cautions Helen Coster in Forbes. Rule to remember:  The number of the subject determines the number of the verb.

Use a singular verb form after:

  • Nobody
  • Someone
  • Everybody
  • Neither
  • Everyone
  • Each
  • Either

“We can agree that a verb agrees with its subject in person and number,” The Lousy Writer reminds us.  Examples include:

  • “No one except the ticket holders is admitted.”
  • “Every one of us is anxious to build a business.”
  • “The famous museum with its thousands of artifacts was destroyed.” (There is only one museum.)

What’s more, The Lousy Writer explains, the meaning rather than the form of the subject controls the number of the verb.

  • “The movie ’The Godfather’ was directed by Francis Ford Coppola.” (There is only one movie.)
  • “Fifty dollars is too much for those sneakers.”  (There is one sum of fifty dollars.)
  • “The committee is ready to boycott.” (The committee consists of several persons, but we refer to it here as one group.)

Using plurals and singulars can get quite tricky, Learner’s Dictionary authors admit, especially when a sentence has more than one subject per verb. Here are three examples:

  • (two singular) The dog and the cat bother me. (bother is a plural verb)
  • (two plural): The dogs and the cats bother me.
  • (one singular, one plural) The dog and cats bother me.

In blog content writing, of course, the idea is to avoid confusing the reader and get the point across. Avoiding common grammatical mistakes and making subjects agree with verbs is one healthy habit we content writers can cultivate.

Remember: the number of the subject determines the number of the verb!