Category Archives: Grammar

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)

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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The Queen of Fluff Writing. Stop Her Reign Today!

By My Web Writers

Image courtesy of My Virgin Queen

Image courtesy of My Virgin Queen

Fluff writing. You know, that technique you became great at during high school and college, when you were forced to write 700 words on a topic you didn’t understand to begin with? Back then, it may have been helpful to pad your writing with adjectives and redundancies, but not anymore. Particularly if you write for the web, readers have short attention spans and are looking for quality, not quantity. Banish the Fluff Writing Queen and promote the following habits of good writing:

  • Kill the adjectives and adverbs. Unless you’re writing literary fiction, no one wants to read that you should do something slowly or carefully. Is your project special and important? Don’t write it: let your readers surmise these things from the writing itself, not your description.
  • Remove unnecessary words. If you really work at it, you can try to remove words that you just don’t need very much. Okay, now read the previous sentence again, this time removing “really,” “at it,” “try to,” “just,” and “very much.” Did the meaning or flow suffer? No, it’s actually easier to read and to comprehend, now: If you work, you can remove words that you don’t need. Ahhhh!
  • Take out the padding. Shoulder pads are out. So is the padding in writing! Once you’ve written a piece, look over it again. Remove unnecessary words and phrases, maybe even whole sentences. Readers don’t want to see the same thing more than once, or you risk them clicking away to another page.
  • Banish clichés. When all is said and done, you should go the whole nine yards to before realizing that, when all is said and done, a posting should probably bite the dust. How many clichés did you spot in that last sentence? Try weeding out all the expressions/clichés/figures of speech in your articles, unless you’re using them for a specific reason or to contribute to an intentional “voice.”
  • Be direct. Banish words and phrases like “perhaps,” “maybe,” and “it could be.” Write with authority and readers will take your postings more seriously.
  • Use active voice. Writing in the passive voice makes your pieces more wordy and difficult to read and understand. So, instead of writing “The stick was fetched by the dog,” make it “The dog fetched the stick.”
  • Keep focused.  Resist the temptation to go off on tangents and related topics. Stick to the topic of your article, and, if necessary, write separate pieces about the topics they bring to mind. Readers prefer focused, clear pieces that answer their immediate questions simply.
  • Get rid of complex sentences. You’re not trying to impress the English teacher anymore. Keep your sentences short and simple; if you have a long one, chop it into two. It will be easier to read.

Other Posts:

How to Write a Big Impact Proposal in a Short Amount of Time

Five Tips to Grow Your Email Audience

Voice: How to Change Your Writing for the Client or Audience

Editing Tips for Better Marketing Phrasing

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Filed under Content, Grammar, Introductions, Revising & Proofreading

From Blah to Fab, Freshen Up Your Web Copy Like These Sizzling Sites

By My Web Writers

The dreaded website.  You’ve been delaying that “website refresh” (for like, months now.)  Why is it so difficult to keep an online presence current? Most likely, it’s because writing website copy as a non-web writer can be very intimidating and time consuming. There are search engine optimization guidelines to garner the best possible results, flair to create, and brand enforcement guidelines. Sometimes, it’s easier to just leave the website alone.

But making (and updating) a great website doesn’t mean adding thousands of words of copy. You just have to choose the right words. Take apple.com, for example. Known for its minimalist style, this website doesn’t inundate you with words; in fact, you’ll be blown away by the size of the main image (usually an ad for its latest and greatest product) on its homepage. It utilizes perhaps the most important trick in website copywriting: succinct headlines and subtitles. If you’re looking for something other than its latest release, the navigation pane at the top is simple and clean. And Apple’s search tool is highly effective in helping you find specific information if you want to drill down further.

Another great, easy-to-read website is Groupon.com. With the flattering green background, easy-to-read details, and simple font, browsing through Groupon is better than a walk through a mall on any given day – and probably less expensive! Once you click on a deal, the copy is succinct, usually a bit entertaining, and easy-to-follow. Groupon speaks one-on-one with the customer, one of the most important tools in a web copywriter’s bag. The vendor site is also a breeze at grouponworks.com. Success stories in video form line the top half of the page, and navigation tools are just below.

Would you believe a public library’s annual report is one of our favorite sizzling sites? The St. Louis County Library District 2012 Annual Report is a unique presentation. It’s chock full of visuals (videos, pictures, graphs), easy-to-read content with great font choices, simple navigation tools, and links to its website when necessary. It’s a unique way to tell a story, from a library, the home of many stories.

Mailchimp.com subscribes to the belief that less is more. “Send better email,” it says on its homepage. By stating this one fact, there is no question about the sole purpose of MailChimp, which is yet another web writer’s trick. They even have compelling, well written success stories in their MailChimp at Work section.

In general, when freshening your web copy:

  • make sure that titles and subtitles include that page’s keywords,
  • check for grammar, spelling, and usage issues.
  • run questionable copy through Grammarly and Copyscape.
  • make sure sales, product, and seasonal information is up-to-date.
  • check analytics to see which pages visitors usually flow to before and after visiting the page you’re working.
  • update broken, old, or non-converting hyperlinks.
  • try writing to capture a new audience.  Add semantically relevant keywords to the copy.

There are many other factors to consider when writing your web copy, too. Font style and size, colors, images, accurate and concise page titles, use of white space, and killer headlines all count toward the legibility of your website. So tell us, what are your favorite websites? What makes yours easy to read?

~Joanne


Other Posts:

Ten Content Tips for the Zero Moment of Truth Marketing Plan

My Mother Had ALS

Fat Brain Toys and User-Generated Content

Guidelines for Writing E-Tail Category Content

Seven Local Angles to Address in Content

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Filed under Analytics, Audience, Blog Writing Tips, Capturing Audience, Content, E-Tail Category Content, Grammar, Revising & Proofreading, SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

Writers, Don’t Give Up the Day Job Until You Pass Our Spelling Quiz

by My Web Writersspelling quiz

Because most people compose on word processors with squiggly red lines and spell checkers to point out errors, there are few excuses for misspelled words. Most mistakes are chalked up to typos or common homophones that slip through the cracks. Take our spelling quiz to brush up your skills and focus on commonly switched homophones and misspelled words. The first section focuses on words that sound the same but have different meanings. Often writers accidentally use the wrong one. The second section includes words off Dictionary.com’s frequently misspelled word list. Test your spelling knowledge!

Commonly Misused Homophones

Insert the correct word into each blank in the sentence below:

1) The child _______ refused to eat her vegetables. She was ______ going to be in trouble.

a)  Defiantly   b) Definitely

2) The woman relished in the _______ as her shoes were a perfect ______ to her new dress.

a) complement    b) compliment

3) The company was happy to ______ the proposal, _______ they asked for some minor adjustments.

a) accept  b) except

4) The school’s ______  felt her _______  duty was to support the teachers and keep the school running with discipline.

a) principal b) principle

5) The father was concerned with slimming his ______, bu the also didn’t want to _____ food from the table.

a) waist  b) waste

Frequently Misspelled Words

Select the correct spelling below:

6) a state of equality, a scale, a equilibrium:

a) balance b) ballance c) balence

7) Terrible; inspiring awe:

a) awfull b) aweful  c) awful

8) One who robs or steals:

a) burglar  b) burgler

9) Not a professional, a beginner, a hobbyist:

a) amatuer  b) amateur  c) amature

10) A promise or warranty:

a) garantee b) guarantee c) garentee

11) A thousand years:

a) millennium b) millenium c) milennium

12) Something one owns:

a) posession b) possesion  c) possession

13) A place to go out to eat:

a) restarant  b) restaurant  c) restaraunt

14) To suggest or praise:

a) recommend  b) recomend  c) reccommend

15) A machine that cleans your floors; an empty space:

a) vaccuum b) vacuum  c) vacume

Answer key

1.  a, b  2. b, a  3. a, b  4. a, b  5. a, b  6. a  7. c 8. a  9. b  10. b  11. a  12. c 13. b 14. a 15. b

For more help, consult this list of Commonly Missused Words to make sure you’re not just spelling he word correctly, but that you’re using the right word to begin with. You can also continue to test your spelling on your smart device using the A+ Spelling App. My Web Writers also has additional resources for making your copy editing swifter and more accurate. Give your writers our Grammar Test and read our tips for how to Be a Better Editor. ~Kasey

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Filed under Blog Writing Tips, Editors, Grammar, Revising & Proofreading, Technical Writing, Writing Careers

What Every Writer Should Remember from Freshmen English

By My Web Writers

Photo courtesy of SingleMomFinance.com

If your high school textbooks are gathering dust or long recycled, and you can’t remember how exactly you spent those arduous academic days, it may be time to brush up on a few of the basics from high school English, even if just to see which rules have changed.

In high school, teachers break down the components of a piece of writing so that students will have a vocabulary to help them in the writing and revision process. Seasoned writers can also benefit from evaluating their work with these tools. Let’s take a look at some of these components.

Audience

The audience is the group of people you expect or want to read your work. It is usually good to have an age group, education level, and some demographics in mind. This can be as simple as people who like pie or more specific like women with children in their thirties and forties. Regardless, your language and ideas need to be appropriate for the people you expect to read your work.

Consider what background information may be necessary, what important terms may need defining, and what kind of voice will appeal to your audience. When writing for a medical journal, the language and ideas may be more complex, because the writer assumes that readers have a certain level of familiarity with the discipline. Whereas when explaining a complex medical condition in an article on al site geared toward the general public, more familiar language may be used along with metaphors and similes that make the information accessible to those without a medical education.

If you’re worried about accessing a specific grade-level, Microsoft Word has a handy tool that estimates the grade-level and readability of your writing based on word, sentence, and paragraph complexity.  This can be enabled when you click on File, Options, Proofing, and check Readability Statistics. These statistics appear after you spell check your document.

 Purpose

What is your piece trying to accomplish? After reading, do you want readers to buy a specific brand of shoe, agree with a political argument, or know how to bake a cake? This should be clear to you the writer and should be stated directly or indirectly in your work. In an academic paper, the purpose is often encountered in the thesis statement. A thesis states what the paper plans to prove or explain. It is usually located at the end of the introduction paragraph.

 Organization

Regardless of the kind of writing you are doing, some method of organization is always necessary. Some common structures include, cause and effect, chronological order, and compare and contrast.  A recipe is usually organized with an ingredient list and then the steps are described in chronological order. A blog post about a political issue may compare and contrast the two sides of an issue by spending the first section explaining one side of the issue, it’s pros and cons, and then in the next section considering the other side.

In essays, each paragraph usually proves or addresses an aspect of the argument. One or more paragraphs may represent a point the author is trying to prove. Once that point has been supported, the writer is ready to begin a new paragraph.

 Evidence and Analysis

Any work that is making a claim requires some kind of evidence and analysis. Evidence includes the facts that support an argument. Analysis is the author’s explanation of why the evidence is important or how it relates to the argument. Evidence helps the writer to establish his or her authority and support ideas. Analysis helps the reader to make the same connections between the argument and the evidence that the writer is making.

 Grammar and Spell Check

Grammar and spelling mistakes can be off-putting for readers and threaten a writer’s credibility, especially where there are so many resources at hand to aid in proofreading.  Remember that different styles of writing often have different rules and call for different styles of documentation. Style guides are available on writing center websites for many colleges and universities. Purdue Online Writing Lab has an especially good guide for APA and MLA styles. Remember that Microsoft Word has spelling and grammar check, but doesn’t catch everything and sometimes makes unnecessary changes. So it is always good to proofread again. And of course, never turn in a piece that you haven’t read more than once.

Happy writing.  Class dismissed.

~Lindsey

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Filed under Audience, Capturing Audience, Content, Expository Writing, Grammar, Introductions, Persuasive Essay, Revising & Proofreading, Technical Writing, Writing Careers, Writing Resources