Blogging is like the Matrix, and grammar is like physics. Within the Matrix, you can break certain rules—if you know how to play the game. But it can be a deadly game if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Okay, well, maybe the metaphor breaks down a little bit here. But the point is, if you don’t know what you’re doing grammatically, there will be consequences—even in the blogging world. In this case, you can end up looking ignorant and your thought leadership goes quickly out the window. That’s the last thing you want when you’re trying to create valuable content that educates your target audience.
10 Common Grammar Mistakes to Avoid When Blogging
Want to come off as a trustworthy pro who knows their stuff? Make sure you’re not falling prey to these grammatical gaffes.
1) Apostrophe abuse
Let’s be very clear here. There are only two reasons to use an apostrophe. Either you’re mashing two words together (like “don’t” or “would’ve”), or you’re using a possessive (“Steve’s apple”).
NEVER use an apostrophe to make a word plural (“Banana’s $1.49”) or for years (“The 1960’s”).
2) Misplaced quotation marks
This happens a lot because nobody seems to talk about it, but it’s not too tough to remember. At the end of a quotation, put quotation marks AFTER a period or comma but BEFORE a colon.
For a question, it’s a little trickier. If the whole question is quoted, put the quotation marks AFTER the question mark. If you’re quoting something only as a part of the question, the question mark goes outside of the quotation marks (for example, Who sang “Yellow Submarine”?).
British rules may differ.
3) Comma catastrophe
Don’t overuse commas. In general, if you can easily understand a sentence without a comma and the meaning doesn’t change, then don’t use it. Here’s a couple of times when you should use commas, and one when you shouldn’t.
Use commas to separate adjectives of equal rank. If you can use adjectives interchangeably and insert “and” between them, they need a comma (“Our feet sank in the cold, wet sand.”).
Use commas on both sides of a parenthetical phrase (“The restaurant, which was just remodeled, was packed.”).
DON’T use commas to separate two statements that work fine on their own. That’s called a comma splice, and it’s rampant in online content. Use a period, semicolon, or em dash instead.
4) Run-on sentences
Avoid run-on sentences to explain a complicated concept, or two closely related concepts, by joining several phrases together with commas (or parentheses), and thus leaving your reader confused and wondering where this was going in the first place (see what I did there?).
Separate two independent thoughts with a period, comma, or semicolon. Break up long sentences. Read your content out loud. If you have to take a breath in the middle of a sentence, it’s too long!!
5) Me, myself and I
Possibly the quickest way to sound uneducated is to use “I” when you should use “me.” The irony is that most people incorrectly use “I” to sound smart.
Need help figuring out if you should say “Mike and I” or “Mike and me”? Easy - just get rid of Mike! If you would say “me” without Mike, then say it with him too (“Mike and me”).
6) Subjects and verbs just can't agree
Verbs should match their nouns. Singular verbs shouldn’t be used with plural nouns. Grammatically speaking, words like “each,” “every,” “everybody,” “nobody” or “anybody” are singular: they refer to just one person or thing. Make sure your verbs are singular too.
Similarly, “Three hundred dollars is a bit expensive for one meal.” Obviously.
“Farther” is used for distance or time. “Further” is purely logical/conceptual. If you take an argument farther, you’re moving it to another location. Don’t ever park your car further down the road!
If you can count the number of items, you have fewer. If you have a non-specified amount, it’s less. So you can have less time, or fewer days. All those 12 Items or Less checkout lanes? You should never see anyone in them, because no one can have “less” items!
9) Different than/from
Words like “better” and “yummier” are used to compare two things, so you should use “than” with them (i.e., Twinkies are better than Donuts). “Different” is, well...different. “Different” is used to show a distinction - you’re setting something apart from something else. So you say X is different from Y.
This isn't a word. Don’t use it. It’s a made-up buzzword for which we can thank the marketing industry. Argh, those impactful marketers!
Grammar Geeks to the Rescue
Need some help keeping it all straight? Here are a few resources for you:
I highly recommend grammarly.com for amazing grammar tools that go way beyond your typical spell checker. Personally, I love the Grammarly browser plugin - it’s saved me from making hundreds of embarrassing mistakes since I started using it.
Also, Strunk and White’s classic The Elements of Style (free download) is still as relevant and helpful as the day it was published.
For something a little more fun, refer to Al Yankovic’s “Word Crimes.” Weird Al won’t ever steer you wrong.
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