Some might say that the internet hasn’t been all that great for the world of writing. Well, that it hasn’t been all that great for the—ahem—craft of writing. (Could you hear how high our noses were when we said that?)
We disagree. Strongly. We live in the golden age of writing. The internet has made it easier than ever to create, share, and enjoy great writing. Yes, there’s a lot of it out there, and not all of it is great, but we know that good writing is still important, especially when you’re creating inbound marketing content. How do we know that? Because search engines are literally being re-engineered to find the best content, instead of the shortest article or the blog post with the highest number of keywords.
*Steps off soap box*
The point is that good writing is still important, even in especially the age of the internet and the abundance of content that comes with it. And if good writing is still important, so is good grammar.
Look, we all want our content—our writing—to be taken seriously. Nothing kills that faster than a grammar mistake that easily could have been avoided. Keep these errors in mind when you’re writing and editing content, and you’ll be able to let your work really shine.
1. The obvious grammar mistakes
Your vs. you’re
“Your” is possessive. Example: Your grammar is flawless.
“You’re” is the contraction of you are. Example: You’re a grammar expert.
Their, they’re, and there
“Their” is possessive. Example: Their blog post was so helpful.
“They’re” is the contraction of they (plural!) are. Example: They’re a bunch of geniuses.
“There” is an adverb that means near that place. It’s the opposite of here. Example: I threw the dictionary over there.
Two, to, and too
“Two” is the number. Example: Two halves make a whole.
“To” is a preposition, meaning it comes before a noun. Example: I am going to the office.
“To” can come before a verb making it an infinitive. Example: I am going to win.
“Too” can be a synonym for also. Example: You can come too!
“Too” can come before an adjective or adverb to indicate excess. Example: There are too many grammar rules.
2. The misheard grammar mistakes
There are certain mistakes that you can get away with when you communicate verbally, but not in writing. And when you publish content on the internet, your grammar is on display for all to see—and to critique.
What you hear and what you see
That being said, the phrase isn’t “for all intensive purposes.” It is, and always will be, “for all intents and purposes.”
You might be hearing or saying things like “suppose to” or “use to,” but the correct phrasing is actually “supposed to” and “used to.”
Example: I was supposed to write that blog post yesterday.
Example: I used to have terrible grammar.
3. The tough grammar mistakes
There are some grammar rules that are confusing and take a little bit of navigation to really figure out. Look no further; we’ve got you covered.
The big one: when to use whom and when to use who. This is the one that—if you get it right—tends to really impress people.
Who vs. whom
“Who” is the subject of the sentence. Example: Who wrote this blog?
“Whom” is the object of a verb or a preposition. Example: Whom do you trust?
Can’t wrap your head around it? Just think about it this way: if you can replace it with “he” or “she,” the correct form is “who.” If you can replace it with “him” or “her,” the correct form is “whom.”
Semicolons vs. colons
Semicolons are the gold standard for punctuation that no one uses correctly. A lot of people use the colon and the semicolon interchangeably. Don’t do this. Be better than this.
Colons clarify or specify things. They can be used to introduce different types of examples: a list, a series, or a quotation. Colons can also connect two sentences, but only when the second sentence summarizes or explains the first.
Example: Raka cares about a lot of important things: grammar, dogs, and Britney Spears’ musical evolution.
Semicolons, on the other hand, are used to separate two independent clauses that are related. It has more impact than a comma, but less than a period.
Example: Grammar is really important; we care about it a lot.
One thing to remember: You always want to appeal to whatever audience you’re writing for. If you don’t think your audience would appreciate or understand the use of semicolons in online writing, nix them!
4. The highly-debated grammar mistakes
Rules are rules, but within grammar there exists a massive gray area because language is constantly evolving. Some rules will eventually be considered obsolete while others are set in stone. The voice and tone of the writing will also have an impact on the rules that are followed. One way to address the specific topics up for debate is to choose a side and consistently stick with it. Consistency is key here.
The Oxford comma
For example, the Oxford Comma. Here at Raka, we believe in the Oxford comma, but in recent years the University of Oxford has suggested dropping it. The Oxford comma is a controversial little thing, but we like the clarity it provides in a sentence.
Our sixth and final grammar mistake addresses the tricky, tricky nature of a preposition at the end of a sentence.
Example: What kind of writing are you interested in?
Example: In what kind of writing are you interested?
Most of us have been taught that a preposition should never close a sentence, but it isn’t as black and white as you might think. After all, how many people do you know who actually speak like example #2? Here again, the decision depends on your audience. Do you write for a more formal crowd, or is pleasantly casual more their style?
Why style guides help
These are just some quick tips to keep in mind, but there are many more. One thing rings true throughout this blog post and our style guide template: Clarity and consistency have to be top priorities. You don’t want to clog up a piece of content with inconsistent grammar or basic mistakes. Don’t distract your client or trivialize the core message. Let the writing shine!