Full disclosure: this article is going to discuss the grammar of online content. I know this doesn’t quite meet Buzzfeed levels of entertainment, but I firmly believe that everyone who uses the internet desperately needs to brush up on their writing skills. Also, in a sincere effort to make this dry topic a little more appealing, I’ve included some photos of adorable kittens to illustrate my points.
Now, before I get ahead of myself, let me make it clear that I’m not against the use of slang, the trend of Capitalizing certain Words for Emphasis, or other online communication fads. I’m simply focused on English errors that have the potential to confuse or mislead readers. Corporate Twitter accounts, Instagram influencers, and Facebook octogenarians alike should consider revising their posts to fix these common grammatical mistakes:
Misusing an apostrophe might not seem like a big deal, but if your trying to write a blog for you’re audience, a small mistake can seriously undermine you’re professionalism (and yes, writing this sentence caused me physical pain). To remember how to use apostrophes, simply determine if the word is a contraction or showing possession. For instance:
- “It’s” is a contraction of “it is”: It’s fun to scour the internet for cat photos.
- “Its” is used to indicate possession: The kitten wore its blue collar.
- “They’re” is a contraction of “they are”: They’re petting the kittens.
- “Their” indicates possession: Their cat fell asleep on my laptop.
BBC reporter Chris Stokel-Walker wrote an article describing cases where missing commas in contracts caused businesses to lose millions due to misunderstandings. Misplaced commas have been used as evidence in lawsuits, and they can even change the context of legal contracts. In one especially dramatic case, a man was found guilty of treason and faced the death penalty in 1916 due to a misplaced comma in the 1351 Treason Act. Your 5th-grade English teacher was right; commas can save lives.
Commas should be used when you’re listing items, like books, cats, and mittens. Additionally, commas should be used after introductory adverbs, and to offset any additional information in a sentence.
Dethroned By Homophones
Homophones are words that are pronounced the same, despite having different spellings and meanings (isn’t English great?). Some commonly misused and confused words include:
- Affect/Effect: “Affect” is generally used as a verb. For instance, the kitten affected the student’s concentration. “Effect,” on the other hand, tends to be a noun: The distraction had a negative effect on his grade.
- Loose/Lose: “Loose” is an adjective, and “lose” is a verb. A pair of jeans can be too loose, so you might lose them without a belt.
- Principal/Principle. A “principal” is the head of a school, and a “principle” refers to a belief or ideal. (Pro tip: think of your principal as your pal, and you’ll never get these two confused again.)
- Than/Then. “Than” compares, and “then” describes a sequence. I thought my cat was cuter than yours, but then your cat fell asleep in my lap.
Writing great content is the key to reaching new customers and improving SEO, but it can take a lot of time out of your workday. Instead of typing and revising for hours on end, why not have someone else write your blog posts? Whether you need an article about ecommerce trends, your latest product, or kittens and grammar, our writers are always happy to provide high-quality, original content.