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 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!


Blogging About Your Five

Most businesses are good at 95% of what they do, says billionaire restaurateur and hotelier Tilman Fertitta in his newest book Shut Up and Listen. It’s the remaining 5%, he says, that determines whether the business excels or not. That 5% is the difference driver or tipping point, the author explains, offering examples from restaurant settings. 

On the negative side, that 5% difference can be made by a server bringing a drink without a napkin or a four-person table with one mismatched chair. A positive “fiver” could be knowing the names of repeat customers and where they prefer to be seated
Fertitta’s firm message for success: “Aim for a culture that puts the five percent at the forefront of your thoughts, decisions, and acts.” 

Blog titles and content, we emphasize at Say It For You, need to focus on the positive aspects of your business or practice, and primarily on the positive results customers can expect from selecting to work with you. Fellow blogger Michael Fortin agrees.  “Leave out the ‘buts”, he advises, and substitute ‘ands”.


And, while one approach in blogging is to compare what you have to offer with competitors, avoid devaluing other companies’ products and services. Focus on demonstrating what you value and the way you like to deliver services.


Behavioral science introduced a term that can be very useful for blog content creators: framing. Even a slight alteration to the way something is presented can result in a completely different response or decision, the authors of the blog explain.


It’s interesting that when customers have a bad experience, they are four times more likely to dump your brand, as ZCNet reminds us. What’s so ironic is that the bad experience almost always relates to the 5%, not to the usually satisfactory performance that results in customer loyalty to providers whose overall performance is just OK. Psychologists refer to this phenomenon as “negativity bias”, which explains our tendency to make judgments based on negative far more than positive information.


In your business or practice, you’re probably on top of your 95%. The 5% tipping point is what you need to clearly convey in your blog!

Blogging for Business Outside Your Own



“Can authors write characters whose experiences are outside of their own?” That’s the very question posed by Diana M. Pho in her article “Through the Looking Glass” in Writer’s Digest.  Writing across difference is important, she says, since “the best fiction has the ability to transport readers into another’s shoes and make readers consider a new perspective.”

Pho identifies three different approaches to writing about matters which extend beyond one’s own identity:

  1. “Invaders” act without responsibility, focusing on the “exotic” and on stereotypes.
  2. “Tourists” are deeply interested in the subject and try not to impose their own biases.
  3. “Guests” strive for authenticity and strive to gain expertise and attribute knowledge to the proper authorities.

As head of a team of professional content writers, I have been thinking a lot about the outsourcing of business blog content writing. Companies are making great efforts to express their personal brand. Can a writer who is not educated in the client’s particular field produce copy that is an authentic expression of the client’s ideas, personality, and expertise?

In fact, I’m sometimes asked how we “do it”.  It takes two things, I respond:  research and good hearing.  A ghost blogger uses a ‘third ear” to understand what the client wants to say and to pick up on the client’s unique slant on his/her business or profession. Far from functioning as invaders or even tourists, we strive for authenticity.  What keeps us going is the learning.  For us, in order for us to create a valuable ongoing blog for your business, it’s going to take as much reading and research as writing.

On the other hand, while it’s true that the dominant trend in business blogging is outsourcing (the obvious reason being that few business owners or professional practitioners have the time to create and post blogs with enough frequency to attract the attention of search engines), different clients prefer different levels of help vs. DIY.

At one end of the spectrum, the business owner might want certain employees to receive corporate blogging training so that they can then take over the function of business blog writing. At the opposite extreme a company might turn over to a business blogging service the entire effort of crafting the message and maintaining the consistent posting of corporate blog content.

Authors of novels can, indeed, write characters whose experiences are outside of their own identities. Professional blog content writers can come “through the looking glass” to do the same.


Blog Content Writers help Readers Dodge Dangers

  • readers' fear of missing out

Redbook‘s holiday issue has a page blog content writers should see, titled “Dodge Common Dangers”.  There’s a “Trim With Care” section cautioning readers to:

  • keep lit menorahs at least three feet away from flammable items
  • avoid overloading the Christmas tree with strings of incandescent lights
  • avoid running electrical cords under carpets or rugs
  • put glass ornaments low on the tree where they can be bumped
  • let the tree stay in the house more than a month

As a blog content writer, I felt, the magazine’s editors had managed to offer these serious fire-avoidance warnings with a light touch, resulting in very readable copy.

“Great copywriting compels action, so it’s no surprise fear is used in marketing,” writes Amy Harrison of Copyblogger.  Marketing messages, she says, may be based on readers’:

  • fear of missing out
  • fear of losing something
  • fear of future threat

For a message to be successfully persuasive, Harrison explains, the threat needs to be moderate to high, with the reader feeling he’s personally at risk, and that preventative action is simple.

Heavy-handed scare tactics, on the other hand, simply don’t work, as a study done by the National Institute of Health Science Panel back in 2004 clearly demonstrated.

All human behavior, at its root, is driven by the need to avoid pain and gain pleasure, Neil Patel of Kissmetrics points out.  Of the two, we do more to avoid pain.  Show your prospects all the dangers on the road from A to Z, and how your product or service is the weapon they need to defeat those dangers and discomforts, Patel advises.

In other words, as effective blog content writers, we can demonstrate to our readers how to dodge dangers.



Business Bloggers Can be Authors of Defining Moments

bloggers as authors of defining moments

In The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact, authors Chimp and Dan Heath posit that there are certain brief experiences which jolt us, change us, and elevate us. What if a teacher could design a lesson he knew students would remember twenty years later, they ask.  What if a manager knew how to create an experience that would delight customers?

And what if (reading this book made me ponder), we knew how to create content that would delight readers and emblazon our clients’ brands in  prospects’ and customers’ minds and hearts? Isn’t that, I asked myself, really what this business blog marketing thing is all about?

When people assess an experience, the Heath brothers explain, they tend to forget or ignore its length and rate it, in retrospect, based on the best or worst moment (“the peak”) and the ending. Translated into the construction of a marketing blog post, while it’s the keyword phrase that starts the job of getting the blog found, a big part of blog content writing, I’ve found, involves getting what I call the “pow opening line” right.

The opener might consist of an anomaly (a statement that, at first glance, doesn’t appear to fit). Or, the opener might be a bold assertion or “in-your-face” statement. The “pow” opener puts words in readers’ mouths – when talking to others about this topic, readers will tend to use the very words you will have, figuratively, “put in their mouths”. Seth Godin’s “There are actually two recessions” is a perfect example of impactful, thought-changing discussion-piece openers.

The Power of Moments authors talk about ”flipping pits into peaks”, turning customer complaints into positive, memorable experiences.  You want to get things wrong, then have customers bring those mistakes to your attention, so that you can create a memorable “fix”. For us blog content writers, the lesson is this: writing about past business failures is important! True stories about mistakes and struggles are very humanizing, adding to the trust readers place in the people behind the business or professional practice.

Readers, I explain to business owners and practitioner clients, even the ones who have subscribed to your blog, are not going to peruse, much less study, every word in every one of your blog posts, however relevant the information, however artfully worded.  What we’re shooting for as blog writers is to be authors of defining moments for readers rather than merely waiting for those moments to happen!