Even with a degree in English (which I always say makes me a professional bullshitter– ha!), I can’t paint myself as a grammar or punctuation expert, but people, please. If you’re going to have a career as a writer or even just blog for fun, please, PLEASE take the time to learn the basic, fundamental rules of English.
I have read so many blog posts where it was obvious the writer didn’t take the time to proof his or her copy that it makes me want to scream. Every single thing you put out there, an email or a blog post, a business card or a query letter, is a writing sample. Everything. Everyone will see your mistakes, and if they’re online, that’s a lot of eyes.
The immediacy of blogs makes it tempting to write a post directly into the page and then publish it. I can understand typos; we all make them. Hence the admonitions to read your manuscripts over and over, and print them out and look at them on the page, to give your eyes the chance to catch something you didn’t see on the computer screen.
Errors happen. No one is perfect, and if you mess up, that’s an opportunity to learn something. I would not squeal if I made a mistake and someone pointed it out to me. (In fact, if I do, please let me know. If it’s a factual one, especially I want to know, so I can correct it. I don’t want to be the bearer of erroneous information.)
In certain venues, it’s easier not to properly punctuate and proof what you write; in my chat room, for example, the chat often moves faster than I can type, especially if I’ve been working particularly hard. I often talk to my online buddies without capitalization and in abbreviations and shortened phrases. My meaning comes across perfectly clear, because everyone else is doing the same. And I’m sure you’re familiar with textspeak, even if you don’t like it and refuse to use it. Personally, I’d rather just talk to someone than text him/her, since I’m on the phone already.
Anyone who reads blogs knows there are a ton of grammar Nazis out there making their little corrections in the comments. To avoid them, write your blog entries in your word processor, so that you can check your spelling and edit a little. No one is too busy to properly present him/herself.
Here is a list of the most annoying things I see online. Feel free to add your own pet peeves in the comments.
Loose for lose
Loose means something is coming apart, like your sentence. Lose means to be unable to find something.
It’s vs. its
It’s is a contraction, short for it is.
It’s not going to snow.
Its is possessive.
He picked up the dead frog by its leg.
The Comma Splice!
Here is what it looks like:
Tom went to the store, the family was out of bread and he wanted a frog sandwich.
NO NO NO NO. Use a semicolon or a period and make it two sentences. It IS two sentences.
Their, there and they’re
Their is possessive.
Mom took their coats to the hall closet.
There indicates placement.
Put the coats there next to the body in the closet.
And they’re is another contraction, for they are:
They’re not going to need their coats any more.
Affect vs. effect
Affect is a verb. You can affect the TV by hitting it with a hammer. Or, you can affect a British accent while you hit the TV, to make yourself seem like an expert.
Effect is a noun. The hammer has an effect on the TV. Your fake accent gives the effect that you are a phony, pretentious douchebag.
You’re and your
When you see an apostrophe, look very hard at what follows it. “re” looks kind of like part of “are,” doesn’t it?
“You’re not going in there,” Bob said to Karen, right before the killer smashed his head in with an axe.
Your is possessive.
Your axe is over there, Charlie.
Too, two and to
Two is a number. Must I point this out?
Karen ran two blocks before she flagged down a police car.
Too and to could easily be messed up due to sloppy typing; that’s understandable, but if you take time to proof, chances are you’ll catch that one.
Too = means also, and an excess of something.
Sanjay had some chicken too.
The chicken was too spicy and now Sanjay has heartburn.
To = usually indicates going toward something, i.e. to the movies, to the second level.
And finally, the one that bugs me the most, the misplaced apostrophe!
The apostrophe stands in for omitted letters, as in a contraction.
“I’m [I am] not getting in your car,” Karen told the cop, seeing the zombie crouched in the back seat.
It also indicates possession, both for plural and singular nouns.
“That zombie’s bite is deadly!” shouted the cop.
Plural – make the noun plural before you add the apostrophe. If the plural noun ends in s, add the apostrophe after it.
Zombies’ hands are usually covered in rotting flesh and gore.
If the plural noun does not have an s at the end, don’t add one before the apostrophe. Put it after.
She wiped the zombie children’s faces.
She wiped the zombie childrens’s faces.
For more help, see the following websites and books. They helped me. Now go, and sin no more, little bloggers.
Grammar Slammer – help with grammar and punctuation.
The OWL at Purdue – a great resource for all kinds of writing problems
Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss – an often hilarious approach to proper punctuation, complete with stickers one may use to correct improper signage!
The Chicago Manual of Style -University of Chicago Press Staff (Editor)
I want this one. My little pocket guide is sadly outdated. It’s online but requires a paid subscription. Check your local library. If you have a college near you, see if you can get a pass to use their library. They may have it. If you are an alumnus, you might even still have library privileges.