Hello and welcome! I’ve written this post as part of the Winter Blogathon Bash going on this weekend, and am excited to have you all visiting! My blog is about faith and family, including homeschooling and frugal living. Please sign up for my newsletter on the right so I can send some fantastic freebies coming up with my launch promotion during the month of February, and follow the social media in the upper right corner as well. I hope you enjoy this grammar and proofreading challenge! Blessings! We all want to be taken seriously in our blogging. We’ve created a name and branding for ourselves, and generally our goal is to become recognized in our area of expertise and probably to make a little money here or there. For some bloggers, money isn’t the issue; they just enjoy getting their thoughts out there and having a nameless, faceless sounding board. Whatever your blogging purposes, if you want to attract and keep readers (not to mention businesses, or customers!) it is essential that you make a good impression. Good grammar skills and screen readability will take you a long way there! Now, I want to mention that I hope it’s understood that at very minimum you are already using the spell check on your posts. Most platforms have this turned on automatically and will highlight or underline a word which it doesn’t recognize even while you still are composing. If yours isn’t doing this, figure out how to turn it on, and use it! Spell check is the bare minimum, and we are going to build on the foundation that it provides. There is a lot that the spell check function won’t catch. The most important one is to double and triple check that if you have a sponsor for a post or are reviewing a product or company, that you have spelled their name correctly! Nothing is more embarrassing than messing up the sponsor’s name, and it is the ultimate insult for them. It won’t matter how good your review is if you can’t get the company or product name correct!
So, if you are no English grammar guru, how do you know which things are correct and which are not? Start by typing up your thoughts and reviews as you would normally, save, and then go back and read it. After you read it to make sure it makes sense (reading out loud isn’t a bad idea, because your ear will tell you if something isn’t quite right), go back and check for some of these common errors.
- Ending punctuation
- Question marks are only for questions.
- Exclamation points should only be used sparingly to show strong emotion.
- Periods go at the end of all other sentences.
- There should only be one punctuation mark at the end of each sentence; you don’t need more than one exclamation point. If you use them sparingly, but still feel that something needs more emphasis, use text formatting for emphasis.
- Also, a major infraction I’ve seen too many times, is placing a space between the last word of the sentence and the punctuation mark. Eliminate this space; the punctuation mark should be placed at the immediate end of the last word.
- Apostrophe placement
- Apostrophes are used to show missing letters. Can you use two separate words in this spot? (“You’re” is the same as “you are” and is different from “your”. “Can’t” is the same as “cannot”.) If you can’t say two words, don’t use an apostrophe!
- Apostrophes show ownership. This is the usage that confuses people sometimes, and causes them to use an unnecessary apostrophe from time to time. If you can rearrange it to say “the ____ belongs to the ____,” then you are safe.
- Apostrophes come before the ending “s” of the word. Yes, there are exceptions to this rule. If you’re no grammar guru, play it safe, and don’t stick the punctuation after the entire word. Chances are that even if your word fits the exceptions, not many people will miss it, and even those grammar police out there will likely excuse the obscure mistake.
- If in doubt, leave the apostrophe out!!
- Lazy shortcuts
- Capitalization. Each sentence starts with a capital letter. The word “I” when referring to yourself should always be capitalized. The name of a company or the name of their products should always have every word capitalized. Names of people or places should also start with a capital letter. You know these things. Do them, and don’t add any silly extras.
- Text-speak or emoticons are immature and lazy. Don’t use the abbreviations such as “LOL” or “KWIM” in your articles. If you need the interruption, write a sentence to show the emotion. “That cracks me up!” or “You know what I mean!” are much more appropriate.
- Sentence structure
- Sentence fragments are distracting and cause your article to be choppy and difficult to understand. This is one mistake that you can usually catch if you will read your copy out loud in the step mentioned previously. It will usually sound unbalanced and confusing, and is so easy to fix.
- Subject/verb agreement is a major infraction, and one that if you aren’t getting correct will make an impression on your readers concerning your professionalism. If you can’t catch these errors by reading your text out loud, the best idea is to type your article into a word processing program first. Go into your settings and turn on the grammar check; this will highlight any major problems in a different color than the spelling check function, and often will offer suggestions for a correction. There are too many complicated rules to go into in a paragraph, so if this is something that is difficult for you, employ the extra step here.
- Please, please, make your page readable. If it’s too conversational, it will only annoy your readers! The written word really is different than a person-to-person conversation, and no matter how “personable” you want to be on your blog, please please consider how difficult it is to read a conversation. Tone it down!
- Aim for no more than about an inch to an inch and a half of straight text. Break up your writing into paragraphs, more than you would see in a typical novel, because reading on a lit screen is harder on the eyes. Use lists, paragraphs, indentations, and spaces as much as you can. You almost can’t overdo the white space. Really!
I know that all sounds like a lot to do, but trust me when I say that it will drastically improve your writing and readability to double check all of those things! Make a list if you need to, or if you just don’t trust your own judgement then hire an editor for help. Maybe you’ll find someone willing to trade services with you, such as offering them advertising on your site in exchange for their editorial prowess.
In asking around the grammar guru circles, I found quite a few suggestions for common mistakes that really grate on the nerves. Here’s a list of some words to watch and triple check when you use either of them.
- You’re/Your – An apostrophe mistake. “You’re” will always mean “you are” while “your” indicates ownership.
- There/Their/They’re – Sometimes apostrophe mistake. “They’re” will always mean “they are” but the more common misuse is between the other two options. “There” is a location, and you can remember that it rhymes with “where”. “Their” indicates ownership.
- Then/Than – This is one that really bothers me, because the meanings are so drastically different! “Then” is always talking about a time, and you can remember that it rhymes with “when”. It’s used to draw a conclusion: “If you want to play outside, then you should finish your chores.” You can turn that sentence around and even use a check with “when” as well. When can he play outside? When he finishes his chores, then; that’s when! “Than” is used in comparing two things to one another, and is usually preceded by an adjective such as “more than”.
- Its/It’s – Another apostrophe mistake. “It’s” will always mean “it is”. “Its” shows ownership and is usually the correct choice. I more often see an apostrophe when there should not be one.
- Loose/Lose – Two completely different words! “Loose” means the opposite of “tight”. Most often, you’ll mean “lose” which is to not win, or to misplace. Need to lose weight? You want to be thinner, so make your word smaller!
- To/Too/Two – “Two” always indicates the number, but doesn’t usually cause the problem here. “Too” either means “very” or “also” and you can check this one by leaving the word completely out of the sentence. If it still sounds fine, then this is the option you need. If it won’t make sense without the word, then “to” is probably what you need.
- Site/Sight – I see this mistake often on the internet! “Sight” is the sense that your eyes provide. “Site” indicates a place, even a cyber place, known more commonly as a website, or site for short.
- A/An – This is one you will often catch if you say it out loud. The rule is simple: if the next word starts with a vowel, use “an”; if not, use “a”.
- Alright/All Right – In truth, “alright” isn’t even a word. It’s only two extra key strokes; use “all right” in every instance.
- Alot/A Lot – Another instance where the short cut just isn’t correct. Put some space here!
- Maybe/May Be – This one is difficult, and it depends on how it’s being used. The easiest check is to try to substitute the phrase “might be” and see if it still makes sense. If it does, you need two words; if it doesn’t, use the single word option. And don’t forget to use the spell check function!
- Ensure/Insure – It might not be incredibly common, but chances are that if you need one of these words it’s the first one. To “insure” requires a policy and and an agent; to “ensure” is to be certain.
- Definitely/Defiantly – This one comes up often in comments and correspondence. “Defiantly” is a way of doing something that is purposefully against the rules or what is expected. When you promise something, you are “definitely” going to do it. Let’s hope you aren’t going to do it defiantly.
- Affect/Effect – It seems that every time these are used, it’s the wrong usage. Try using the word “result” in place of what you are trying to say; if it fits (or almost fits), use an “e”!
WHEW! That’s a lot to take in, I know! Are you ready for your challenge? Are you sure? I’ll go easy on you, and hey, I’ll even offer my help!
Simply pull up one of your old posts and proofread it. Or, optionally, follow these steps on a new post you’re writing during the blogathon!
- First get it all typed up, if it isn’t yet. Use your word processing program if you think you may need some help with subject/verb agreement.
- Double check for capitalization, punctuation, and spelling. Check your apostrophes. Remove any abbreviations or emoticons.
- Read it out loud and fix anything that just doesn’t sound right.
- Triple check the common misused words list here.
- Reformat for easy reading. Make sure you have similar thoughts grouped together, and try to avoid large portions of text together.
And to help with all of that, I will make myself available for help! Saturday and Sunday during this blogathon, feel free to comment on THIS help page with questions or problems you may run into along the way. In addition to that, I would like to offer my services to THREE winners here on the blog! TWO winners will win my help to proofread and edit any 3 posts or articles of up to 1,000 words each, and ONE winner will have the benefit of my editing help on any article of up to 1,000 words for an entire month! Just comment for each separate entry below:
- Subscribe to my newsletter for double entries!
- Follow my social media. One entry for each follow, and please list them separately; please leave the name of the media where you followed (Twitter, Pinterest, etc) and your own username on each.
- Participate in this challenge! Link me to your “fixed” post. If it’s not up yet, leave me the permalink and tell me when it’s scheduled to go live.
- Leave me a comment here and tell me either your biggest pet peeve when it comes to reading other blogs, or tell me your biggest grammar challenge as a blog writer.
If you have questions about the challenge itself, please go to the challenge questions page to comment.