Whether it’s a tweet, a paid search ad or content on your blog, your online content is representative of your brand. That means that yes, it is still imperative that you use correct grammar and spelling. With the 24-hour news cycle, and the chance for your mistake to go viral, it is important that you double-check your content. You don’t have to be a grammar stickler regarding punctuation, as this is becoming more fluid with character limits, but spelling is still–well, not fluid. Here are 5 tips you need to commit to memory to avoid your brand being embarrassed online.
5. Confusing your homophones
Common examples: they’re, their, there / two, too, to / whose, who’s
Homophones are words that sound the same (homo = same, phone = sound). This is just a simple thing to fix because all of these words sound the same, but mean something different. Learn what they mean and in what context they’re used.
They’re = they are (They’re finally here!)
Their = plural possession (Their animals are unruly.)
There = location/place (Your hat was lying right there last time I saw it.)
Whose = possession (Whose papers jammed the printer?)
Who’s = who is (Who’s responsible for bringing the doughnuts to the meeting?)
Maybe we’ll graduate to “how to use whom” next time.
Common examples: achieve, accommodate, conscious, effect/affect, a lot
Technically misspelling a word falls under a spelling mistake and not a grammar mistake, but it needs to be addressed. Misspellings in your marketing + online communications simply look sloppy or careless. When in doubt, look it up.
“A lot” is two (not to or too) words. An “alot” is a fictitious creature created by fellow grammarian Hyperbole + a Half.
3. Subject/verb agreement
This can be difficult at times and is not always easy to pick out when incorrect (frankly because so many people do it incorrectly). The main thing to remember here is to figure out whether your subject is singular or plural. This will help you figure out whether your verb needs to be singular or plural. When people aren’t sure whether or not the subject is plural or singular, they make mistakes.
A few common subject/verb agreement mistakes explained:
When a person (or his friend) isn’t sure about a subject, he or she might mess it up.
Since it’s an “or,” you accept that the subject is singular and thus use the singular verb “isn’t” instead of “aren’t.” Note: Do you hate using “he or she”? Then simply make your verb plural so you may use “they” instead.
When a person (and his friend) are ready for the concert, they’ll call.
Since it’s an “and,” you accept that the person and his friend are one plural subject and thus use the plural verb “are.”
2. Semi-colon + comma confusion
Remember that time your teacher told you to put a comma in the sentence where there is a “natural pause”? Well, it seems that many people on social networks are naturally pausing a lot (not alot). I won’t get into every comma rule ever created, but let’s stick with the basics. Use a comma with a conjunction only if the phrase coming after the conjunction (or, but) can stand alone. If you want to take the conjunction out, simply use a semi-colon.
John and his father went to see the Beatles in March 1970, but little did they know that the band would break up just a month later.
John and his father went to see the Beatles in March 1970; little did they know that the band would break up just a month later.
John and his father went to see the Beatles but left early.