Have you ever read a blog post and sincerely thought: “Wow! This post is so fascinating and thought-provoking; never mind its atrocious grammar”?
Me neither (assuming you shook your head). Or oh wow! Really? Care to explain why in 500 words? (assuming you said yes).
Since I started writing for a living, the proper use of grammar has always been one of my best weapons in creating content for clients. My seniors, Grammar Girl, and the holy grail of online content writing, the ever-reliable Copyblogger have instilled in me the value of creating clear, concise, and compelling content when writing for the web.
That’s why after over four years of content writing, it has always baffled me why so many popular blogs today have such awful grammar.
Before I get served with death threats for breakfast, though, let me get a few things out of the way first:
I am no elitist grammar snob. I don’t strictly subscribe to some archaic writing rules even if I write for a living. Heck, I still mix up my prepositions sometimes. But as someone who loves words, I twitch every time a pretty blogger uses an apostrophe to make things plural. I cringe to the depths of my oxford comma-loving soul each time subjects and verbs disagree. BUT I don’t go around publicly humiliating people because of their grammar gaffes. Nor do I automatically judge people as stupid or unintelligent if their blog is peppered with grammatical errors.
I know, however, that blogging is way different from academic writing. Blogging is a lot more informal and flexible; no one’s out there to get their red pens to correct and grade you. But that doesn’t mean you should just ignore the rules of standard usage because readers are there just for the pictures anyway.
Hey, I’m a reader and I’m not there just for your pictures.
Yeah, yeah, whatever. But what’s important is that people can figure out what you mean…eventually, right?
Yeah, sure. I could probably understand if you blog about how the ending of the film is “confused,” or if you say “two cent,” or if you’re narrating how you desperately need to “getting rid of being sleepy head.” I get you. But wouldn’t it be better if you can convey your message to your audience clearly? You know, without inciting furrowed eyebrows (and causing premature wrinkles) or even grandma paying the price?
Okay, fine. I hear you. So why does grammar matter?
Well, here’s why:
The better the grammar, the clearer the message
What’s great about blogging is that you only need a laptop or a computer and a decent internet connection to get your voice heard. Whether you like to share your latest travels, food trips, fashion and lifestyle inspiration, music or film reviews, or personal musings, blogging is a great avenue to get yourself out there. But for your voice and your message to be understood, it’s important that you know how to properly use words and string sentences together.
Remember, even the most groundbreaking idea or the most inspiring message can go nowhere if it is horribly stated.
Grammatical errors slow down readers
Grammatical errors are like speed bumps, they say. They slow down the reader, as they prompt the latter to reread your words until they make sense.
Minor bumps (the occasional typo and accidentally deleted word) are fine – the reader can still understand your message and move on. But mountainous bumps (i.e., inconsistent and incorrect verb tenses, subject-verb disagreements, and the careless use of synonyms via thesaurus.com)?
Jusmiyo marimar fulgoso. The reader might not only take a second or third look at what you’ve written, he or she might abandon your blog altogether.
A word about the careless use of synonyms via thesaurus.com (my personal pet peeve): blogging isn’t a contest about who knows the most synonyms for a specific word. Trying to sound smart by intentionally using overly-complex words doesn’t make you look brilliant or smart. If anything, it makes you look pretentious. As per Copyblogger, “Use only longer words only if your meaning is so specific no other words will do.”
It shows that you respect your readers.
If you’re boasting that you have over 10,000 blog followers and a hundred or so sponsors, then you have a responsibility to produce content that’s worth reading. And it begins with the proper use of grammar. If your writing is incoherent and laden with grammatical errors, it suggests that you don’t care for your readers or your sponsors enough to take the time to get it right.
Sure, you’re not here to win an essay writing contest or get next year’s Nobel Prize for Literature – but at least make your blog post readable.
So what’s the fix?
Just like crooked teeth and broken hearts, incorrect grammar can be fixed. And because I’m such a good friend, I’m offering you some advice.
Reread, proofread, edit.
There are three stages in writing (or could be more depending on who you ask). First is writing your heart out. Talk about your latest adventures, discoveries, or heartaches. Say what you want to say freely without censoring yourself.
Once you’ve let it all go, take a break. Leave your draft for a while and take your mind elsewhere.
Then, when you’re ready, examine your work with fresh eyes. Here’s when you nix unnecessary words and sentences, spot errors, and check your work for consistency. (And yes, I proofread this post a million times so you won’t have to sing Ironic if I made some grammar gaffes here.)
It’s easy to let little grammar mistakes slip by, especially when you’re self-editing. But what if you’re not even aware you’re making them in the first place? I suggest that you let someone else read it first.
Don’t give it to your mom/boyfriend/girlfriend because he/she obviously loves you too much. Turn to someone with sharper eyes and a good grip on the language, whom you can trust to give you an honest opinion about your blog post. Or to put it bluntly, hire me. haha! Or my copywriter/editor/fashion blogger friend Pensive Peanut (she’s a better editor and writer than I am so I think you should probably hire her. Just don’t forget my referral fee, okay? xoxo).
No, seriously. It helps to have another set of eyes look at your writing because he/she might be able to spot some errors you overlooked while you were self-editing.
Use the language you’re most confident using.
Wait – whoever said that bloggers should only use English? If you’re not confident blogging in English, then use Tagalog, Ilonggo, Cebuano – even conyo – if that’s what you’re most comfortable with. I remember in my creative writing class in college, some of my classmates had difficulty expressing themselves in English. So our professor encouraged them to write in our native tongue, Cebuano. And guess what? Most of my classmates who wrote in Cebuano had the best, most creative writing!
But if you want to hone your English writing skills, then read.
I know not all bloggers are writers, but there’s always room for improvement. Make it a point to work on improving your grammar and spelling by reading. Copyblogger has tons of wonderful material for bloggers like this, this, and this. There’s also Grammar Girl and Oxford Dictionaries. And of course, I suggest you try Grammarly. It’s an online proofreading tool that checks your writing for grammar, punctuation, and style – and it’s free! (No, I’m not paid to endorse any of these platforms.)
When in doubt, Google.
When in doubt, I always turn to Lourd de Veyra’s harsh but helpful advice: GMG (Google mo, gago!)
So there. I hope this post has been helpful. And because I don’t want to gain myself some bashers (please go away), let me say this again: grammar isn’t everything, but it matters.
(P.S. If you’re serious about hiring me, fill out this form here and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. haha)