Thursday, February 25, 2010

Do Bloggers Need to Worry About Grammar?

Today we welcome guest editor, Sigrid Macdonald, who visits us to talk about good blogging and her latest publication, Be Your Own Editor: A Writer's Guide to Perfect Prose.
If you're a consummate blogger, you may wonder what the point is of polishing your writing skills. The medium is so quick and instantaneous. Updates are frequent and going back to edit a post that you wrote yesterday or last week seems laborious. Is it important? Don't your readers understand how time consuming blogs can be — won't they cut you some slack?

Not necessarily. It depends on the goal of your writing. If you have a personal blog that acts as a diary and is only read by family or friends, don't think twice about what you write and how. Likewise if you are simply chatting with old friends on any social networking site.

However, if you are seeking traffic or if your blog is commercial, then you want your writing to be as good as anything in the newspaper. It's embarrassing to have typos or grammar errors on your blog, and can seriously undermine your readers' confidence in you. You could be brilliant and your posts could be provocative, dense with information, or highly entertaining, but it won't matter if readers are laughing because instead of saying that you wanted to "attach" a JPEG, you said that you wanted to "attack" one.

And if you're selling something, potential buyers will click away in a heartbeat if they see that you don't know the difference between its and it's, or CD's and CDs. On your blog, e-zine, website, e-mail or social networking, you need to watch your language — and I'm not talking about sounding like Eminem or Denis Leary. I'm talking about using proper grammar and spelling.

Is it safe to rely on your spell-check? Not always. It's not 100% accurate like a calculator. It will miss all kinds of homonyms or any word that is spelled properly but misused. And the spell-check in blogger or other blog software is nowhere near as good as that in Microsoft Word. I recommend writing your blog post in Word, spell-checking it there, and then cutting and pasting it into your site. That's a hassle but you're far more likely to have a polished product that way.

I'm a book coach, an author, and an editor; out of the 50 full-length manuscripts that I've edited, I've noticed a common thread.  Most people make the same mistakes.  They write run-on sentences, not knowing when to use semicolons, colons, periods and dashes. (They also don't know the difference between an em dash and an en dash — do you?) They stumble over word usage, becoming confused about when to use loath and loathe, further and farther, or lesser and fewer. Almost everyone misuses apostrophes and puzzles over the plural or the possessive.

My latest book, Be Your Own Editor, addresses all of these issues in an informal style.  It has three pop quizzes so that you can test your knowledge along the way.  It's fun and it's packed with information.  Most importantly, it will prevent you from making the most egregious mistakes that are so easy to do.

Be Your Own Editor is available at as a 6 x 9 paperback for $17.99 or as an e-book for $8.99.  Read more about it at my blog.  Leave me a comment and I'll respond back.  I love to hear from people.  Or send me a friend request on Facebook and read my regular writing tips there.

Here's to writing the right way.

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  1. Hi Sigrid.
    Great blog, and you are so right, I didn't think about it before, but even if it is only a blog post you are still show-casing your writing.


  2. Great post!

    I agree completely - though that doesn't mean I don't make plenty of careless mistokes myself ;)

    Thanks for sharing :)

  3. I write my posts as if I am writing an article, so I always aim to do my best. And Spellcheck is horrible at finding mistakes!

  4. I confess, you got me on the em and en dashes.

    Sometimes my blog seems fine. Later on, I catch a mistake, the go back and fix it. That means taking it out of commission for a few minutes, but it's worth it.

    Morgn Mandel

  5. I've seen publishers' blogs that are so bad, it's any wonder they sell books. Do these people have no common sense? The edit feature exists on a blog for an obvious reason - you're allowed to use it!

    Thanks for joining us, Sigrid.


  6. Sounds like a very helpful book. I consider my blog casual so I allow liberties with things like incomplete sentences, but do try to catch glaring mistakes.

    Straight From Hel

  7. You're right. It's hard to sell ourselves as writers if our blog posts are not well-written. I spend more time self-editing than writing, and still find the need to correct and re-publish from time to time.

  8. You are so right. Putting a professional foot forward, so to speak, is essential. In addition to being careful to proof what we put in a blog, I also think it is important to stay on a professional level in what topics we address. It is important to be friendly and approachable, but I think most readers of a blog such as this, don't want to know really personal things.


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.


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