• Robin Kastengren

Is Your Bad Grammar Creating a Distraction?

Grammar and punctuation mistakes can ruin your content marketing efforts

Grammar and punctuation mistakes can ruin your content marketing efforts. At best, they will go unnoticed. At worst, they will detract from your credibility and serve as a distraction from the point you are trying to make.

Mistakes are Distracting

I know I can be a stickler for proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation, and there are a few circumstances when I have to grit my teeth and let it go. For example, my young daughter is an aspiring fantasy writer. When she brings me her first draft of a story, that is not the time to start circling errors. Instead, that's a time to dig into the story and help boost her confidence in her storytelling ability as she's just a child. There will be plenty of time later for picking over the errors.

There are other times, however, when that super-annoying grammar person is exactly who you want to read your drafts. For example, any time your company is getting ready to post something online. Have you ever clicked into the comments of a Facebook post and found it overrun with people complaining about the spelling or grammar in the headline? Not only is it negative attention for the original post, but its also a huge distraction from whatever point was trying to be made.

In other words, nobody ever notices when the grammar, spelling, and punctuation are perfect. Instead, people get the message that's trying to be conveyed. When it's not perfect, there are still plenty of people who can focus on the message--but plenty who cannot, too.

Gather Your Resources

Grammar Girl is one of my favorite online resources for double-checking the rules and regulations of the English language. Not only is her information accurate, but the examples given are often using language and situations that are common enough that it's easier to apply the rules to your own writing.

Grammarly is another useful resource for checking your writing, and the free version provides some basic feedback to help strengthen your messages. I wouldn't recommend simply accepting all of Grammarly's recommendations, however, as I've found some of them to be more a matter of style than regulation (i.e., the serial comma, also known as the Oxford comma). Grammarly often objects to informal language and colloquialisms, and I happen to be of the opinion that a great deal of the content on the web should be created with everyday language that regular people use and understand--especially on social media.

There are a few inaccuracies that are not optional, stylistic, or considered acceptable informal use. Take the mighty apostrophe, for example. Its job is to make a word possessive (e.g., this coffee is Robin's), or to form a contraction (e.g., I can't stand misplaced apostrophes). An apostrophe is never used to make a word plural (e.g., I can't stand misplaced apostrophe's). All tools like Grammarly should find these and help you fix them.

Get Help When You Need It

It might be a bit over-the-top to enlist a professional editor every time you make a social media update, especially if there's nobody on staff who can fill this role. In those cases, one should at least ask someone else to check it for mistakes (or else you're guaranteed to have someone in the comments do it for you.) For everything else, at the very least, I beg you to run your copy through a program that's a little more thorough than a spell check. And for anything important, hire an editor. Your messaging is too important to let people become distracted by errors.

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