The Grammar Police #blogathon2

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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! blogathon   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! grammar police

Proofreading

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.
  • Readability
    • 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.

Word Usage

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! blogathon mascot

The Challenge

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.

Comments

  1. says

    Thanks for this challenge! I am a grammar policewoman too at times. It is nice to have a refresher like this post, though. I especially like the commonly misused word list. Lose/loose is a HUGE pet peeve of mine, especially when everyone wants to loose weight. Ugh!

    I looked over my most recently scheduled reviews for this challenge!

  2. says

    I always check mine right after I do the post. I do a preview before it goes live to catch any errors! I was a double major in college (Journalism and English) so it’s in my nature!

  3. says

    Thanks for a great mini challenge! I proofread some posts from earlier in the week, and double checked everything I am currently working on.

  4. says

    Thankfully, I’m comfortable with my grammar skills now but I still have a lot of old posts that need fixing. I’ve been slowly working my way through them. When I first started my blog I made the mistake of adding the extra space before an exclamation or question mark. When I think about it now I have no idea why I assumed that was correct when I never added the space for a period.

    The one that drives me crazy is when every second sentence ends with an exclamation mark! When I read those I visualize someone so excited and hyper that they can barely contain themselves. I can almost hear their high pitched squeals as they go on and on. I have an extremely hard time appreciating the work they put into the post and only see the excessive exclamations even though I try to ignore them.

  5. says

    This is an awesome post. You could of been my English professor last semester! :) The one thing that I always forget when blogging is to not put two spaces between my sentences like you normally would when writing. I always have to go back and delete the extra space. Thanks for a great, informative post!

    • dalynnrmc says

      Just a quick reply as we run out the door (again!) – the grammar check function is usually part of a word processing program, not necessarily in the blog post functions. Hope that helps!

  6. says

    I love this post! I try to ensure my posts are grammatically correct, but I often have questions. I have pinned this for quick reference.

  7. says

    I also go a little nutty over grammar and spelling errors. Books and newspapers always have something wrong and I think ebooks are often the worst. That said, I can’t proofread my own stuff worth beans somedays. I do read out loud and catch most things but I think my eye skips over the errors since my brain knows what’s being said. We have a great ad that’s up at bus stops. It has no vowels, yet you don’t notice right away and you can still read it. And I agree about then/than and also see angel/angle used improperly quite a bit.

    I went back to a post I did today and revamped it a little as I found a bunch of errors on it. It does still have some grammar issues, but those are intentional as I do tend to write conversationally. (I know, you’re sending me messages now to change my ways!)

    Here is the link
    http://savvysuburbanmama.blogspot.ca/2013/01/lets-get-healthy-together-small.html

    Thanks for the great mini-challenge!

  8. says

    I grew up with a Grandmother who used the English language to teach a lesson. If you didn’t get it right she would certainly tell you about it. Therefore, I am careful when I write but that does not mean I don’t make mistakes.

    I tend to overlook others grammar errors unless it is just blatant.

    The one that really bugs me is improper used of word spellings (usually done in text speak) or the non-capitalization of beginning sentences or the letter, “I”.

    I do admit though, I am not perfect. After all, my own blog site is called “Just the Stuff Ya Know”.

  9. says

    My biggest pet peeve about blogs is not a grammar issue. I love giveaways and contests as much as the next person. (In fact, I was just informed yesterday that I won a book from a Rafflecopter giveaway.) I understand that they can be a good source of income for the host(s), especially when it is a high-value giveaway many bloggers want in on the action to garner new followers or comments on their blogs.

    But…500 more entries possible today! REALLY? Twenty pages of 20 links a page to increase other peoples social media numbers! REALLY? Please don’t get me wrong. I love supporting bloggers who produce great content. It’s gotten to the point where the vast majority of emails I receive where “giveaway” appears in the subject line get an automatic delete from me.

  10. says

    I am using my #blogathon2 goal/mini-challenge update post(s) for this challenge.

    I. I removed the annoying overuse of color to indicate in-process and completed goals. In-process goals are now shown in italics. Completed goals are shown with strike-through formatting. (Still not sure about that one , but it gives that crossing-items-off-my-list satisfaction.

    2. I used complete sentences. I then edited them to tighten up the wording for better readability.

    3. I corrected a misspelling (oh how embarrassing for this college graduate).

    4. The first update post went live this morning and I will leave that one the way it is. My next update will post tomorrow morning with the changes and improvements I have outlined above.

  11. says

    OK I used the “Drop it” Challenge post for this one. http://www.shopinseatnotonfeet.ca/2013/01/blogging.html?showComment=1359202401650#c477645171050976794
    Nothing personal but I’ve always hated the grammar police. That is however because I really suck at it and everything would be wrong. One of my main problems is mixing up my tenses. FYI I picked up a free program called Ginger it!. It’s active on my desktop and I can highlight any text I write , like this and it will check for grammar errors. Love it!
    Now I’m trying to enter the giveaway and want to comment on your color post and see no way of commenting.

  12. says

    Ok – there was another mini MINI challenge in the FB group today. To stop all social media, and go write a post. Any post. But write. Right now. {See how I got those right?? Lol.} So I went back to re-read that one, since I wrote it really quickly.

    And – *GASP!!* I did find a couple errors. Ooooh – I hate that.

    I too am a bit of a grammar police type. At my old job, we had to email each other a lot during the day. I had a couple of friends who would ONLY come talk to me at my desk. They wouldn’t email me. Because whenever they did, in my response I would first correct their mistakes, and THEN give my response. I can’t help it :)

  13. says

    I’ve tidied up a few mistakes I’ve found on this post:
    http://geekwithstyle.ca/featured/technology/showcasing-fabulous-tech-at-ces-2013/

    I’ll admit to making some of the grammatical errors you’ve mentioned above… on purpose. I’ve been attempting to get more of a conversational voice than that of a tech manual, which is what I find myself doing otherwise, lol.

    One thing that always intrigues me is when I use words like “colour” or “neighbour” in my blog posts – as a Canadian, we use British English, and every time I spell something out in that standard, a little bit of me wonders if an American thinks that I don’t know how to spell! 😉 Especially when I use British/Canadian spelling on potential US-based client applications…

    Thanks for the tips, there were a few that I’ve always questioned, and could never figure out the answer to.

  14. says

    I followed you on twitter :) I am @CassJaney. Also subscribed to your blog, I love this post!
    I have been accused of being the grammar police before. It is almost automatic for me to correct someone’s usage of ‘good’ and ‘well’ – even my three year old, haha. I have always been very proper in my writing but I have slacked off in the last few years so I really need to stay on it! One of my biggest challenges is actually writing in an ACTIVE voice!

  15. says

    I needed this article. Often times when I write a post I am in a hurry and don’t have time to proof read it. That is a big thing I know I need to change. I also am one who over uses exclamation marks. This is something I have been working on changing over the past few months but I still have a lot of work to do. Thanks for all your help. This is a wonderful article.

  16. says

    This is an easy one for me too. I’m a voracious reader which helps a lot with grammar. I think it helps develop an “ear” for well written text.

    A couple of common mistakes that aren’t in your list but that really irritate me are the misuse of few and less and of good and well. Then they are all the US versus UK anomalies. Don’t get me started on those!

    Thanks for taking the time to add this page. It’s a great resource for people who struggle a bit with this.

  17. says

    I love you! I have often been accused of being a member of the Grammar Police! I am often called upon to proofread posts of friends, in Facebook groups to which I belong. I’ve also been asked advice about which word (then/than, a/an) should be used in sentences. I’ve even considered doing it as a business. Thank you for this challenge. It will be an easy one for me.

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