5 Rules of Grammar Never to Ignore on Your Website

At one of our Friday evening happy hours in Spot Color’s living room, a few Spot friends got to talking about my recent post of 5 Rules of Grammar You Can Ignore on Your Website and it sparked a conversation about some grammatical errors that drive us absolutely mad. With that in mind, I bring you 5 Rules of Grammar Never to Ignore on Your Website. Sometimes you just have to shake your head and say, “No.”

1) The correct use of Your and You’re.

Don’t you just want to slap your forehead when you hear this? It’s a simple mistake to make if you’re writing quickly and multitasking, but nothing tells your readers I did not bother to proofread this text quite like this mix up. Say it with me, you’re skilled in your writing. And remember to think about this when using there, their, and they’re.

2) Make sure the words you are using are, well, actual words.

Adding extra syllables: I’m not sure where this comes from, but I’m sure you’ve all cringed at least once if you’ve ever heard someone say “conversate” or “irregardless.” Bottom line, if you’re unsure about a word you want to use, look it up. Better yet, always edit any text that will appear on your website in a program that uses spell check. Just for fun, here are some other examples of words commonly used that shouldn’t be. Some of these won’t even trip your spell check because they’ve become inundated in common speech, so use your best judgment when it comes to diction:

CORRECT INCORRECT
Undoubtedly Undoubtably
Exploitative Exploitive
First Firstly
Administer Administrate
Comment Commentate
Thaw Unthaw
Estimate Guesstimate

 

3) The correct past tense and past participles.

Ah, I know these sound like the parts of an English textbook to collect drool, but they are actually important, especially when misused. We’ve all heard and (gasp!) read some of these horrors: brung or boughten. I know you’re all too smart to do this, but even the best of us forget the rule about using past tense and past perfect tense sometimes. So remember, I swam across the ocean just as I have swum across the lake. I drank this juice just as I have drunk other juices.

4) Don’t use unnecessary hyperbole.

I don’t want to exaggerate, but it kills me when people say “over exaggerate.” It’s already exaggerated; you don’t need the “over.” This also goes for adding the unnecessary “super” everywhere.

grammar

5) The proper use of affect vs. effect.

I see this more commonly in the past tense, but it’s easy to mix these two up. Just remember, affect is the verb and the effect is the result of that verb.


The most important thing to remember is that spell check is your friend. It’s also helpful if you can have someone else read and edit your writing before it goes up on your website. What are some of your grammar pet peeves? Let us know in the comments section.

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5 Rules of Grammar You Can Ignore on Your Website

Usually when I am writing for websites, or advising others in the same pursuit, I pay very close attention to the rules of grammar in order to avoid sounding like an idiot on the web. This is generally a good rule. However, there are times when it is more effective to sound like a relatable human and not your sixth grade English teacher who never seemed to be able to connect with her audience. Here are 5 rules of grammar that are okay to break when writing for your website:

1.       Ending a sentence with a preposition. We all know it’s grammatically correct to write “There are many colors of pen with which you can sign our petition.” Now, I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a stuffy petition. Your website reader will probably respond better to something like, “There are tons of pen colors you may sign our petition with.”

2.       Using some slang words. Sometimes it’s okay, or even encouraged, to use slang words in order to appeal to your audience, show your social relevance, or avoid sounding like an out-of-touch robot. However, if you wouldn’t be comfortable using the word or phrase in, say, the company of your pastor or a new client, don’t put it on your website. If you’re a skateboard company, DO write “we have sick new boards in inventory!” Refrain from writing, “we just received bitchin new boards.” Oh dear, I’ve just broken my own rule.

3.       Beginning a sentence with ‘And’ or ‘But.’ Typically this is still a no-no in my book, unless you truly are striving for a conversational tone. For example, I won’t start a sentence with ‘and’ if I am writing a PDF of standard procedures. But I will start a sentence with ‘but’ if I am trying to show my reader what I sound like during normal conversation. And I might even do it more than once if I think I’m being witty.

4.       Using incomplete sentences. According to your grammar book, you shouldn’t use fragments ever because they don’t make sense when taken out of context and they do make your writing seem choppy. Sometimes, however, they just fit. For example, you tell your reader “Have you been saving for retirement but aren’t sure if it’s going to be enough? We understand.” Well, taken out of context, “we understand” doesn’t mean anything, but in this case it tells your reader you know what they are going through and want to help, in a lot less words.

5.       Using contractions. It used to be the case that in business writing you would never use contractions because they were not seen as part of formal speech. While some companies may choose to stick to this credo, less formal establishments may want to move away from this style of writing for the web. For example, it is perfectly normal for a law office to want to appear sophisticated, thorough, and of course, a company to be taken seriously. On the other hand, a health food store may want to seem warmer and more casual to its customer base. There is no right or wrong answer here, but do think about what your audience is expecting to hear from you.

I could go on, as most writers I know have very sharp opinions when it comes to grammar, but I promised I would only give you 5 Grammar Rules to Break. As a bonus, I would like to give you one rule of grammar NEVER to break, and that is misspelling. No one thinks it’s kewl to make that mistake. 

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