Monday, January 14, 2013

Social Media Monday—Don’t let Bad Grammar Wreck Your Blog Traffic!

The highway to a successful blog needs constant maintenance. We must be on the lookout for debris and potholes—any of which can wreck your blog traffic.

A blog needs to convey a conversational tone, but that tone should never become an excuse for being sloppy. That readability is where bad grammar can slow down your blog’s growth.

Sometimes we tend to think of grammar as an idea dreamed up by vicious English teachers with a penchant for torture. But, in reality, it’s what helps us write in a way that enables others to understand what we’re saying.

The road to composing an effective post can be cleared of dangerous roadblocks with a few extra minutes of editing. Here are some of the debris I suggest you look for:

Common Roadblocks:
The overuse of exclamation points. Okay, I admit it. It’s an easy way to get our point across, and I’m definitely guilty of this. But really, the more often it’s used the less effective it becomes.

Extra or inconsistent spacing between sentences. In this day and time (and for those of you who missed it—the past 15 years) sentences should only have ONE space between them, not two. I know this seems picky, but when you’re glancing at a paragraph the inconsistency is quite noticeable.

The confusion of when to use THAT versus WHO. The word that, is used following a thing (or a group). While the word who, is used when referring to a person.

Trying to say too much at once. I know we’re busy, but slow down and use separate sentences (or even paragraphs) for addressing unrelated items.

Consistent information. This is a big one. When you’re giving a list of information, like upcoming events, give the same information—in the same order—for each event. Otherwise your recipient is left scrambling for times and locations. It’s also easier for us to accidently omit the needed information if it’s listed haphazardly

Disorganized method of delivery. This one is more of a general concern. But it’s important to construct your email in an orderly fashion. Group topics in paragraphs and keep the flow of the information logical.

Incorrect use of hyphens, en dashes and em dashes. Here’s a quick grammar lesson.
  • Hyphens (also incorrectly referred to as dashes) are used in compound words, or words that are linked together as one thing. Example: five-year-old girl.
  • En dashes are slightly longer and are used to separate numbers. Example: from October 7 – 8. You format this by typing the number, space, dash, space, number, space.
  • Em dashes are the longest of the three and are used when you’re expanding or modifying a statement. Example: give the same information—in the same order—for each event. In Microsoft Word, you format this by typing the word, then dash, dash, next word and space. In Pages, you format this by pressing the shift, option, dash keys at the same time.

Incorrect use of ellipsis (…). This punctuation mark is used to denote a break in thought or speech. It is NOT interchangeable with the em dash.

Consistent use of periods at the end of a bulleted list. According the AP Stylebook (the general guide that governs writing for the Internet) a bulleted list should include the use of a period at the end of each bullet point. There are levels of acceptance for this guideline, and most people don’t add a period at the end of a one word bullet point. BUT the important thing here is consistency. If you end even one of the bullet points with a punctuation mark—like a question mark—you must end them ALL with a punctuation mark.

Use of contractions. While this isn’t a requirement, it is something that should be considered, especially if you’re writing in a conversational tone. We speak in contractions, but we do not naturally write in contractions. After you’ve written an email, give it a quick read—out loud—to find the places you would normally use a contraction.

Extraneous that. This one simple word, so loved by high school English teachers, is horribly over used. Whenever possible, leave it out. For example:
Incorrect: The teacup that I love best is an antique.
Correct: The teacup I love best is an antique.

Common comma usage. A book could be written about how to correctly use commas, and most of it would be considered wrong by the next grammarian you consult. But there are still a few hard and fast rules. Here are two:
  1. When you have a compound sentence, connected with a conjunction, you use a comma if the second part of the sentence is a complete sentence.
  2. A serial comma is NOT used with the AP Style Guide. Correct Example: red, white and blue. 

Commonly misspelled words. These are some I see most often.
  • lose vs. loose.
  • chose vs. choose.
  • its vs. it’s.
  • there vs. they’re vs. their.
  • your vs. you’re.

How to Catch These Mistakes
The best way to repair your blogging road and get your traffic pattern moving smoothly only takes a few extra minutes. This one, regular maintenance habit is all you need.

Read your post aloud before you hit publish.

It’s a simple remedy, but I’m always shocked by the number of authors who don’t bother. I visit numerous blogs every day and don’t share them on social media because of mistakes like these. I’m not a grammar snob, I promise! But if a post is difficult to read, or contains so many errors it would (or should) embarrass the author, I pass it by.

Now it’s your time to weigh in. What are some irritating roadblocks you’ve seen that send you looking for another route?

Don’t forget to join the conversation!


  1. Weighing in as an editor, some other irritating abuses are: too many adverbs, run-on sentences, and too much or not enough information.
    Adverbs can typically be deleted by using a stronger verb.
    Run-on sentences need to be broken down into two or three simple sentences, which will get a point across much clearer. Sometimes, adding a conjunction like "and" will fix the issue.
    I often read paragraphs that will have a sentence that doesn't belong in it. It's as if the author threw in a side thought, thinking it might clarify something they were talking about. It doesn't. It stops the reader, who has to figure out what the writer is talking about.

    Just my two cents... ;)

    1. You're so right about the all those. I'm a little more forgiving when I read a blog post, but if it has too many errors—or always has errors—I move on. Thanks for stopping by! Blessings, E

  2. Misspelled words catch my attention. Thanks for the information on dashes. I've been making en dashes when I thought I was making em dashes. They do look almost identical with my bad eyes. lol And speaking of bad eyes...something that makes the difference on whether I leave a comment or not: those little boxes where you have to type in what you see. I usually end up going through two or three different codes and sometimes I just decide not to leave a comment.

    1. Pat, I hate misspelled words, too. And I have to be really careful with my blog posts because I'm awful at spelling! I agonized over this post because I was calling out grammar mistakes and was terrified I'd have some in here.

      If you (or anyone else) sees a mistake in any of my posts please don't hesitate to let me know. I consider it a kindness!

      As far as those captcha things, I hate those as well. Most sites don't need them at all. But when a site reaches a certain readership it's the only way to keep the spammers out. I'm avoiding it as long as possible,

      Thanks for stopping by, Blessings, E

  3. Good information, Edie. I need a notecard on my desk telling the difference between dashes, hyphens and ellipsis. Maybe I'll get those straight one day.

    1. Kim, I'm so glad you've found this helpful. Thanks for stopping by! Blessings, E

  4. Thanks, Edie! This is one of those posts that I need, being such a great grammar guru...LOL!

  5. This is awesome, Edie. Like Pat said, I think I've been interchanging en and em dashes. Oops! Great reminders. I take a very conversational tone on my blog, so long sentences and overuse of ellipses are something I need to keep an eye on.

    1. Melissa, I love your blog and the tone you take. I wouldn't change a thing! As long as the sentences are clear, I thing we're okay with taking some liberties. I don't think I've ever seen even a misspelled word or misplaced comma on your site! Blessings, E

  6. Edie, thanks for the tips! I know that I use the dashes and hyphens in the wrong context. The main reason though is that I don't know how in blogger to make the m- and n- symbols. And as far as misspelled words, I try my best not to have them...but I know I do! Thanks for giving me grace when it comes to that! Love you!

  7. Thanks for the good information. There are so many changes in this new century with "bloggerformation." I've noticed that so many bloggers interchange "I" with "me" such as "He saw Mary and I." Thanks again for sharing your wisdom.

  8. Edie,
    What is the difference between using an em dash and using 2 hyphens to separate things that are connected? That are connected,for example, by a word and its definition?

  9. Ellen, using two hyphens is another way of formatting an em dash. It's the same thing. Thanks for stopping by! Blessings. Edie