Category Archives: Revising & Proofreading

Wince and then, Extend a Little Grammar Grace

Who would have thought that scanning the #grammar hashtag on Twitter could be entertaining?  Today, I ease-dropped and whoa, the honesty.  It must be one of those days.

 

From grammar heckling…Grammar bullying

 

to grammar bullying,grammar police

 

Thank you, people, for making grammar a little more interesting on a dreary, Monday afternoon- the day after spring break. I ate popcorn, pet the dog, and kicked back to read your stuff instead of focusing on my own.  For a moment, I forgot that I’m ridiculed at home for hanging on to my Blackberry because I fear giving up buttons and typing accuracy. Just reading Will’s post below reminds me why grammar and spelling seem so important.

 

Why grammar is important.

 

Are you judged when you write social media content?

Yup.  Er, I mean, “Yes, you are judged.”

Is that so bad?

Well, that depends on who you are.  If you’re the President, it’s a plus if your people are nearly perfect communicators.

If you’re a vampire looking to impress a date, you need to be on your best grammar behavior.

 

Grammar to get a date

 

If you’re a celebrity, the beating for a writing faux pas could be so bad that you might find yourself in a post entitled, The Thirteen Celebrities with the Worst Grammar on Twitter.  Grammar gaffs are almost as embarrassing as tripping on your dress at awards shows. But then, if you’re a celeb, you know that any PR is good PR.

 

What if you’re a writer and you- gasp- spell something wrong or miss a punctuation mark?  Your brilliant mind might never be discovered.  You, my friend, might even end up on the Famous Thinkers Who Couldn’t Spell list with Faulkner, Fitzgerald, and Yeats. Oh, the ridicule.  Take time to look at your spelling and grammar checker before hitting send.  Inevitably, most of us judge and are judged by how we write.

delete for grammar police

 

Thankfully, almost everyone is compassionate to youngsters, wounded warriors, and the elderly who struggle to communicate.  We cheer them on- ignoring conventions.

That’s the best in us.

Why don’t we extend this grace to others?

I don’t know.

I do know that we give magnanimous gifts when we encourage rather than discourage.

And, we could all use a little grammar grace now and then.

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Editors, Grammar, Revising & Proofreading

How Much Does Grammar Matter to Google and Bing?

Copyright 2014 My Web Writers

Copyright 2014 My Web Writers

We’re often ask us how much punctuation and grammar matter to search engine results. The short answer is, “Yes, grammar, spelling, and usage do matter.”  It’s like asking a business professional if he or she will be judged on his or her clothing at work.  While some offices are more casual than others, you’ll be judged. Google’s grammar dress code might be slightly less formal than Bing’s, but both search companies value articles that users can read without hindrances.

Google’s Content Quality Guidelines

We wrote a whole content quality series based on Google’s content guidelines after Panda came out in 2011.  Check out the four parts to learn more about Google’s quality content checklist. You’ll want to make sure that you double check spelling and grammar, as well as provide authoritative support and elaboration.

Bing’s Position on Common Errors

Duane Forrester of Bing, wrote a post February 20, 2014 that establishes Bing’s position on content quality.  If you haven’t read it, yet, take a moment to do so.  In a nutshell, Mr. Forrester suggests that if your content is littered with common errors, the reader will be frustrated and the poor quality will affect your search results.  Web pages with grammar or spelling mistakes won’t float to the top of Bing.

My Web Writers is available with several editors if you need help proofreading your copy.

Article Evaluation Template

If you’re just looking for a little guidance, download this article evaluation worksheet and ask someone else in your office to score your articles with it. Use the rubric to solicit general feedback from others or just use it as a general checklist to review before publishing. I used this template for student peer review when I was teaching English 101 years ago.  The template was originally published by D.C. Heath Grammar and Composition, which was sold to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Originally published by DC Heath and Company

Originally published by DC Heath and Company

Remember, even the best writers borrow a second set of eyes before publishing! Revising and proofreading are just standard actions steps.

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Filed under Grammar, Panda, Revising & Proofreading, SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

Nothing Fits “All of Your Needs”

The phrase appears everywhere.  Our service or products will fit “all of your needs.”  Wow!  This is it.  I’ve hit the Holy Grail.  ALL of my needs.  Where do I sign up??  I need a new wardrobe.  I need someone to wash my dog.  I need more time to watch Shark Tank Tuesdays.  I need a vacation.  And on and on…

The reality is, nothing fits “all of your needs.”  Not any one person, company, or product.  A search of Google yields about 121,000,000 results for “all of your needs.”  That large a number says that there are a lot of people and businesses that believe they can do it all.  (Humorous sidetrack:  the number one search result on Google for “all of your needs” returns a link to a Bible passage from Philippians 4:19 that says, “And my God will meet all your needs.” Score one for the big guy.)

Delete trite phrases

Delete trite phrases

One of the lessons that should be taught to content writers during their Marketing 101 course is to avoid using the phrase “all of your needs” in copy.  Forever.  In fact, there should be a law against using such a trite phrase that’s guaranteed to underdeliver.  Besides “all of your needs,” the Harvard Business Review released their own Bizspeak Blacklist of overused word phrases that display an absence of actual thought.  Some offenders:

  • Think outside the box

  • Mission-critical

  • Hit the ground running

  • Push the envelope

  • Value-added

  • Level the playing field

SHIFT Communications took overuse of a trite phrase one step further and sampled 62,768 press releases from 2013.  Their goal was to find the top 50 most overused words marketers penned in press releases.  Do you use (or overuse) any of these:  new, first, most, leading, best, great, largest, better, special, or better?  If so, you are not alone.  They made the 50 most overused words in press releases list for 2013 along with mobile, professional, current, real, and top.

4 Steps To Avoid Trite Marketing Phrases

  1. Describe what makes your item or service unique from others like it.  This is your chance to take a 30-second elevator pitch and translate into a few short sentences.  Some items to cover in your written description may include a guarantee, something that will be fixed, benefits when used, and specialties that will stand out from the crowd.

  1. Wrap your product around words that trip the senses.  Effective copy crafts words that make the reader believe they cannot possibly live without the product or service.  Paint a word picture that appeals to one or more of the five senses.  Create a sensory experience with words that let’s the reader see a vision, remember a smell, or desire to touch.  For inspiration, click on a few of the products from one of the best eCommerce brands today that knows how to appeal to the senses.  The Duluth Trading Company uses humor through the words on their t-shirt product descriptions.  One solves the problem of confronting the unsightly shock of happening upon someone with a much-feared “Plumbers Butt.”

  1. Share a true story or testimonial.  For marketers, nothing is better than word-of-mouth referrals where one customer sells another on a product or service.  BazaarVoice, a leader in gathering product or service reviews, reports that items with positive feedback convert 12.5% better than those without.  Let the praises of your customers sing for others and add their words in a quote format to your marketing copy.

  1. Appeal to the imagination.  The art of poetry is lost.  Bring wordsmithing back with words that evoke images for your products or services.  Words to Use is a website that can help remove writer’s block and find the right words about anything.  Can you describe a rose?

While you won’t be able to entirely eliminate trite phrases from your writing, editing with a mind toward using words with sizzle will bring your marketing prose to the next level.

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Filed under Blog Writing Tips, Content, Descriptive Writing, Narrative Writing, Revising & Proofreading, The Writing Process, Words Which Sell, Writer's Block

Create Prize-Winning Sentences by Micro-editing

Image courtesy of Joanna Penn- http://www.flickr.com/photos/38314728@N08/

Image courtesy of Joanna Penn- http://www.flickr.com/photos/38314728@N08/

When was the last time you read a book you couldn’t put down? Did it heightened every emotion? It probably created offered detailed imagery so that you were transported another place and time. How is a capable author able to captivate followers through even the longest of novels? It’s all in great writing, and even better editing.

How can you incorporate visual writing into your prose? Start with a flashback to your freshman English class- nouns, subject-verb agreement, adjectives, and adverbs. The basic writing tools are right there. But how do you take it to the next level?

Read. Reading opens your eyes to worlds where your body may never actually travel. It exposes you to experiences you might never live. Reading educates. And incorporating that education into your own writing can make you better.

Depending on your writing style and goals— business, blog, business blog, fashion magazine, traditional journalism—find someone you’d like to emulate and read their work. Follow great business writers and leaders on LinkedIn. Catch up on engaging bloggers on The Huffington Post. Read The New York Times cover to cover.

Once you’ve launched your learning and practiced your writing, go back over your work with a fine-toothed comb. Mastery of writing comes down to the nitty-gritty and micro-editing. What is micro-editing?

First, let’s look at the word macro. According to thefreedictionary.com, macro is “of great size; large.” In writing, “macro” refers to the big picture, the overall emotion and story that is being told. Micro, defined by the same source, is “very small or microscopic.” Yes, a fine-toothed comb, indeed.

Review each word in every sentence. What is necessary? Consider whether this word or that word adds to the overall article. Check your modifiers to see if they’re overused. Very and really can really get very annoying. Then, check your verbs. Review subject-verb agreement, especially after you make edits to other parts of your text. Can you use an active verb in place of a passive one? Active verbs are often shorter, to the point, and keep the reader more engaged.

The English language is perhaps one of the most challenging, even for native speakers. It’s filled with homographs and homophones. Need that freshman refresher course again? A homograph is a word that has the same spelling as another word, but a different sound and a different meaning, such as tear (like in crying or what you do to paper), wind (something that blows or something you to do your watch), and bass (a type of guitar or fish). A homophone is a word that has the same sound as another but is spelled differently and has a different meaning, such as your/you’re, to/two/too, and they’re/their/there.

Carefully review punctuation. Should you use a comma or semicolon? Include the Oxford comma or not (this one may be dictated by your client)? Get help from online sources such as The Punctuation Guide if you need a refresher course, or refer to the AP Style Guide or Chicago Manual of Style.

Make an effort to review your work down to the minute details. Read the book Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, as inspiration. Micro-editing (or the lack of) drove author Lynne Truss to write an entire book about the grave condition of our grammatical state.

Continue your practice to become a great writer, because as Ernest Hemingway put it, “We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.” ~Joanne

Read these other posts:

Writing in APA Style

The Basics of Writing in MLA Style

Formal Writing Rules I’ve Had to Unlearn

Learn from Websites with Above-the-Fold Content

 

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Filed under Editors, Grammar, Revising & Proofreading