Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Talkin' Shop Tuesday - Say What?

DY knw h2 wrt a gr8 blog n aQr8 en? f nt ur nt solo! 

Say what?

What it says (in SMS lingo) is - Do you know how to write a great blog in accurate English?  If not, you're not alone!

I'll admit it, I'm a bit of a spelling snob and, to a lesser extent, a grammar snob.  Not that I don't make typos or grammatical errors, but when I read some of the content that's posted on the web, or read articles about how schools simply don't take spelling and grammar into account like they did when I was a young'un, I cringe. Attempting to interpret cryptic text messages or IMs (instant messages) makes me cringe too.

I know, I know... there are many of people out there who think that spelling and grammar should be the least of our concerns, but when it comes to writing things that others will see, and that search engines will index, I think it's worth the time and trouble to get it right. I prefer that my customers, reading audience, and Google PageRank see my efforts to write well - plus I can think of an English teacher or two that would never let me live it down if "Older Brain" (my nickname in school) didn't put the effort into it to get it right!

I will also agree with those who argue that it depends on whom you're writing to. In a casual exchange, relaxing the rules may be acceptable. In a business relationship, or in the case of blogging, if you're trying to establish yourself as a reputable resource of information or opinions, most people would agree that spelling and grammar accuracy does carry weight. Since I never know exactly who will come across something I've written, I prefer to err on the side of caution and mind my p's and q's - literally!

I put together this article for some teammates a while back, and thought I would share it today. It covers more spelling than grammar, but since the two tend to go hand in hand, I hope you'll find it helpful if you're one of those people that gets confused on what word to use when, or how to spell some commonly misspelled words.  Enjoy!

Why Grammar is Important

Do you think punctuation doesn't matter? Read the difference between these two paragraphs - same words, totally different punctuation.

Dear John,

I want a man who knows what love is all about. You are generous, kind, thoughtful. People who are not like you admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me for other men. I yearn for you. I have no feelings whatsoever when we're apart. I can be forever happy--will you let me be yours? Gloria

Dear John:

I want a man who knows what love is. All about you are generous, kind, thoughtful people, who are not like you. Admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me. For other men, I yearn. For you, I have no feelings whatsoever. When we're apart, I can be forever happy. Will you let me be? Yours, Gloria

I am certainly no expert on punctuation, but there are some basic rules that will make anything you write flow more accurately, and read more professionally. I'm just going to cover the punctuation issues I run across most often.

Capital Letters have three main purposes: to let the reader know a sentence is beginning, to show important words in a title, and to indicate proper names and official titles. When you're posting a title for your products, every important word should always be capitalized. Words like (and, to, the) should never be capitalized unless they are the first word in a title.

Apostrophes (') - Apostrophes have three general uses: 1) to show possession (product's description); 2) to take the place of letters in a contraction (it's = it is, that's = that is, etc.); and 3) to show plurals of single letters (dot your i's and cross your t's). This does not apply to numbers or degrees (i.e. PHDs or 1950s)

Quick tips: Don't use an ('s) after a noun that ends in s when showing possession. (Correct- That was the morning class' recital. Incorrect- That was the morning class's recital. or That was the morning classes recital.)

Commas (,) - Read your sentence naturally, and if you pause, put in a comma. It's that simple in most cases! The most common uses of commas are: to separate items in a list (book, bell, candle); to introduce a quotation in a sentence (John said, " I will be spending the morning at the library."); before a connecting word to join two short standalone sentences (I will write a blog post this morning, or I will list a couple of new items.); to separate information that interrupts or introduces a complete sentence ( In the middle of the night, a fire broke out in the apartment complex.); to separate a person's name and title (John Smith, MD).

Quotations Marks (") - These alert you that there is something different about the words between them. They should be used: 1) when quoting someone; 2) when referring to a title of a work, song, or book; 3) to emphasize words. (Some experts may disagree with numbers 2 and 3, saying that they should be italicized or set apart in some other way.)

When you're quoting someone, there are rules to follow in using quotation marks:
  •      commas and periods always go inside the end quotation mark
  •     question marks and exclamation points go inside the end quotation mark, when they are part of the quotation as a whole
  •     dashes, colons, and semi-colons never go inside the end quotation mark
  •     use a single quote (apostrophe) for a quote within a quote
Spelling and Selecting the Right Word is Important Two, To, Too!

This is just a quick "down and dirty" of the most common spelling and grammar mistakes that occur on an all-too-regular basis. It's sort of funny how your mind doesn't necessarily process the errors as you're writing, but on a review, they can be pretty blatant.

alot/a lot - Incorrect - alot  Correct - a lot (I know, I'm guilty of this one, a lot!)

to/too/two - To is a direction. Too means also. Two is a number. No excuses. (Two boys went to the zoo too)

there/their/they're - There is a place. Their means belonging to them. They're is a contraction meaning "they are". No excuses on this one either! (They're going to their uncle's house which is over there.)

accept/except - Accept means to agree or concur with or to receive. Except means excluding. (I will accept the bill for the supplies. I received everything except the pearls.)

advice/advise - Advice is information or opinions you give someone. To advise is to give that information. (I would advise you to follow your own advice.)

altar/alter - An altar is what you find in a place of worship. To alter means to change. (The minister decided to alter the altar.)

affect/effect (when used as verbs) Affect means to influence. Effect means to bring about. (Reading murder mysteries doesn't affect my sleeping, but slasher movies effect changes in my sleep patterns.)

affect/effect (when used as nouns) Affect means influence. Effect means a result. (Wet weather does not affect my hair, but dry hair produces a fly-away effect.)

lead/led - Lead is what is in a pencil. Led means to have guided. (The radiologist led the patient past the lead door.)

alright/all right (Guilty again - it's even helping me to review!) "All right" is always correct.

altogether/all together - Altogether means completely or entirely. All together means grouped. (Even though the people were standing all together, the fact that they were all wearing different styles made them altogether incongruous.)

capital/capitol Capital means upper case or primary. Capitol refers to a building. (The capitol building was relocated to the state capital) A hint to remember this is that the o in capital is shaped like the dome of the building, so if you're thinking building, it's capitol.

among/between - Among is used when talking about more than two. Between is used when talking about two. (The teacher wanted to divide the cookies among the whole class, but since two children were allergic to nuts, she divided an apple between the two of them.)

its/it's - "Its" is a possessive pronoun that means belong to it. "It's" is a contraction of "it is." (This is something I see misused all the time!)

desert/dessert - Desert means to leave behind. A dessert is a tasty treat. (The brave boy received a dessert as a reward because he did not desert his injured friend.)

lay/lie - Lay means to put something down. Lie (in this context) means to recline or rest. (I will lie down after I lay the bricks.)

lose/loose - Lose is a verb mean to misplace or no longer have. Loose is an adjective meaning free, or not tight. ( I promised I would not lose their pet mouse while I was pet-sitting, but one night, it got loose and ran away!)

then/than - Then refers to time. Than shows comparison. (The bar was emptier than the church then.)

compliment/complement - Compliment is a noun meaning something nice that is said. Complement is a verb meaning to go well with or complete. (I think you will receive many compliments on that dress, since it complements your skin and hair so well!)

here/hear - Here refers to a location. Hear is what you hopefully do to a noise. The music was so loud, I couldn't hear the man talking here.)

principle/principal Principle means main or primary. A principal is a head of an organization. (The principal's principle job was to maintain order in the school) Quick hint to remember this one - the school principal is your pal.

who/whom - Who is always the subject of a sentence. Whom is the object of a preposition. (Who did you say gave which book to whom?)

which/who/that - If you're talking about people, use who or that. If you're talking about things or animals use which or that.

your/you're - Your means belonging to you. You're is a contraction meaning you are. (You're pushing your luck, Karen.)

right/write/rite - Right means correct. Write means to create letters or word. A rite is a ceremony. (Make sure you write about the right rite.)

sight/site/cite Sight is the ability to see. A site is a place. To cite means to quote or use as a reference. (I was going to cite the travel brochure in my review of the site, but my sight was poor without my glasses.)

farther/further - Use farther when you talking about actual physical distance. Use further when you're talking about distance that can't be measured. (I went further into the dream world the farther along I walked on the path.)

good/well - Good is an adjective that describes a noun. ( A good book ) Well is an adverb that describes how something was done. (She danced the minuet very well.)

stationary/stationery - Stationary means immovable. Stationery is the paper you right on.  (The box of stationery was stationary.)

rain/reign/rein - Rain is that wet stuff that falls from clouds. To reign means to rule over. Reins are what are used to guide horses. (The prince knew that he would reign over the kingdom if he could handle the reins well in the rain.)

past/passed - Past means over or done. Passed means moved by or gone by. (We passed the point in our relationship where we worried about past relationships)

It's receive, not recieve. - Remember, "I before e, except after c, or when sounded as a, like in neighbor and weigh."

Either/or and Neither/nor - Don't combine them. If you're using either, you should be using or. If you're using neither, you should be using nor.

It's "I am," "you are," "they are," "he/she is."

It's "supposed to," not "suppose to."

Commonly misspelled words:

Definite (not definate)
Separate (not seperate)
Desperate (not desparate)
Grateful (not greatful)
Permanent (not permanant)
Weird (not wierd) (this is an exception to the i before e rule)
Friend (not freind)
Success (two c's in the middle, two s's at the end)
Handkerchief (not hankerchief)
Calendar (not calender)
Experience (not experiance)
Lavender (not lavendar)

Don't rely too heavily on your spell checker either, because it doesn't take context into account. Read this passage written by Darren Rowse of ProBlogger fame. It would pass spell checker with a perfect score.

“I have a spelling checker -
It came with my PC
It plane lee marks four my revue
Miss steaks aye can knot sea

Eye ran this poem threw it,
Your sure reel glad two no.
Its vary polished in it’s weigh -
My checker tolled me sew.

A checker is a bless sing.
It freeze yew lodes of thyme.
It helps me awl stiles two reed,
And aides me when aye rime.

To rite with care is quite a feet
Of witch won should be proud.
And wee mussed dew the best wee can,
Sew flaws are knot aloud.

And now bee cause my spelling
Is checked with such grate flare,
Their are know faults with in my cite;
Of non eye am a wear.

Each frays come posed up on my screen
Eye trussed to be a joule.
The checker poured o’er every word
To cheque sum spelling rule.

That’s why aye brake in two averse
By righting wants too pleas.
Sow now ewe sea why aye dew prays
Such soft wear for pea seas!”

Happy Writing!



Splendid Little Stars said...

I'm a grammar and spelling nerd, too!
The spell checker on my computer doesn't even know how to spell my name!

Rose said...

Spelling and grammar are so important to me, too! It drives me crazy when I get e-mails from professionals with awful mistakes. Thanks for all of the tips.

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