Grammar isn’t the most enticing topic to everyone. But since “content is king,” your grammar matters. We’re here to provide clear insight on what you should use and when. Check out this grammar guide for content to help elevate your blogs, and ultimately, your business.
Should You Use S or ‘S?
Contractions with “s”
In most instances, the ‘s indicates a verb; an action that the subject will do. Here’s an example:
“My daughter’s going to the store.”
In this sentence, I’m indicating that I have a daughter and she is going to the store. The ‘s indicates “daughter is.”
Plurals with “s” and “es”
“My daughters are going to the store”
“Three businesses will succeed with SEO.”
This one seems pretty simple, but that single quotation mark sneaks in there a lot when it shouldn’t.
The Plural Possessive with “s” and “es”
Plural possessive indicates group ownership of something. If you’re speaking about all the toys your daughters have (and you have more than one daughter), you might say:
“My daughters’ toys are educational in nature.”
But again, if you only have one daughter, you’d say:
“My daughter’s toys are educational in nature.”
It’s also something to keep in mind when you’re writing video scripts. “Daughter’s” and “daughters’” sound the same, so if the speaker hasn’t previously indicated having multiple children, the meaning could get lost in a video. That may or may not be germane to the topic, but in case it is, it’s worth noting. If you’re sticking to blog posts, the correct written word is all you need.
Lastly, don’t forget that some plurals have the “es” ending, like “businesses.” If you want to discuss something one business possesses, it would look like this:
“The business’ new office complex looks stunning.”
Are more than one business involved? Then you’d say:
“The businesses’ new office complex looks stunning.”
Citing Properly With Quotation Marks
Double Quotations – “
You should use double quotations when:
- Directly quoting a source, such as another blog post (also link to the source)
- Adding dialogue
- You’re questioning authority (think about air quotes)
In US English, place your punctuation before the end quotation.
Here are a few examples:
- “Think about what a user is going to type.” –Matt Cutts
- “It was an ideal day to learn about grammar,” the editor exclaimed.
- I’m really tired of these so-called “SEO experts” leading new talent astray.
Single Quotations – ‘
Writers often misuse single quotations. Here are some quick fixes:
- 1960s, not 1960’s
- ‘60s, not 60’s
- “Both daughters walked to the park,” not “Both daughter’s walked to the park”
Provide Clarity With Periods, (Parentheses), and [Brackets]
As we discussed above, the period should go before the closing punctuation if you’re using US English. What happens when you have parentheses?
Parentheses are there to clarify a point in an offset way. Remember their purpose – they’re parenthetical in nature. Here’s a basic example.
- Jim chose three suits (black, blue, and green) from his closet.
No problem, since those parentheses are in the middle of a sentence. What if it was at the end? Then you have to manage the ending punctuation:
- Jim chose three suits from his closet (it was a walk-in).
Alternatively, you may have a standalone parenthetical phrase. Here’s how that looks:
- Jim chose three suits from his walk-in closets. (He arranged everything by color.)
That’s right – when you have the parentheses containing one or more sentences, the punctuation goes within the parentheses.
Okay, here’s the mega-challenge: parentheses within parentheses. Normally, you’ll want to do your best to avoid this situation, especially in conversational blogging. Your first step? Try to reword into one or more sentences.
If all else fails, take your cue from math. It’s not that scary – promise. But it does work the same way.
- Jim had a bunch of clothes he wanted to donate (from his walk-in closet [in which everything was arranged by color]).
A better way to fix it? Remove the passive voice and make that into two sentences. For the purposes of an example, however, this works. It’s not the most readable sentence, but it’s grammatically correct.
And that brings us to our main point: blogs need to be readable. You may find yourself choosing between grammar and readability, and the answer should encourage you to reword for readability.
Ellipses are those three dots connecting two thoughts. They’re considered pretty informal, so use of ellipses depends upon the tone of the blog.
Even if you’re writing informally, don’t overuse these.
Use the Correct Tenses
This one’s pretty easy, but all writers trip on it.
- Right now, I’m writing in present tense.
- Yesterday, I wrote about the past tense.
- Tomorrow, I’ll look to the future.
- Sometimes, I wish I might have written about things that have or have not occurred.
If you’re an intermediate blogger, you probably already have a basic grasp of tense and how it works in English.
The prominent issue: starting in one tense and then switching to another, whether in the same sentence, different sentences, or new paragraphs. Example of what NOT to do:
- I went to the store today to purchase some avocados. When I was in line, this guy asked me if I was a professional model. I laugh and say, “Do I look like a model to you?”
The tense switch is bolded for emphasis.
The most important thing is consistency. Follow your blog’s purpose and the rules you’re given, and stick to them when it comes to tense.
Beware of Homonyms
Homonyms are words that sound the same but are not spelled the same. Homonyms also differ in meaning.
You might have bare skin, but were you naked when you saw a bear in the forest?
Bare and bear are homonyms. If you use words like site, cite, and sight, you may find that this happens often, especially if you’re writing copy for an optometrist’s site.
Closely Spelled Words
These are easy to miss, whether you’re writing or editing. Words that are spelled or sound similar (but aren’t the same) get writers all the time – especially close to an impending deadline.
Through, though, and thought – here’s a great example of a word group that’s easy to confuse. All of them look pretty similar, don’t they?
Commas, Commas, and More Commas
Most writers use too many commas too often – or not enough. Most of us remember to use commas with introductory words and when we make lists. But, more complex usages are challenging.
For a thorough review, check out this explainer video from Schmoop. It’s called “How to Use a Freakin’ Comma,” and it’s pretty informative.
Complete Your Comparisons
One thing that creates mistrust in advertising is an empty comparison.
When you hear about toilet paper that has “50% more!” on a roll, what does that mean? More than it used to be? More than their competitor? That copy needs clarification, and so do your readers.
If you’re using words like:
- More than – remember to finish the comparison (more than the competitor’s product)
- Not only – remember to fulfill the promise you’ve started (not only is this toilet paper thick, but it’s also two-ply)
- Whether – remember to include both choices (whether this or that)
Avoid Passive Voice (Usually)
Did you write that blog post, or was it written by you? While both ways of stating it inevitably mean the same thing, they have different implications. That’s because the denotation (well, “meaning”) is the same, but the connotation (aka “implication”) is not.
Active voice: You wrote the blog post.
This active statement ascribes responsibility to you, the writer. You get credit for writing that post (eh, or perhaps some grief, depending on the content). It’s also very clear.
Passive voice: The blog post was written by you.
This statement centers the blog post before you, the subject. The product is more important than the author here.
Remember: most sentence subjects are like you, a blog author deserving of credit.
Make them front and center with an active voice. When the subject is at the end and it’s after a verb-ed + by phrase, you’ve got some passive voice action going on. Fortunately, it’s easy to fix: just reword so that the subject is empowered, just like a skilled blog writer.
Occasionally, you’ll need a passive voice – and in those instances, it’s okay to keep it. Always avoid confusing the reader, even if that means using a bit of passive language every now and again.
Exclamation Points! How Many Are Too Many?
In most instances, you should limit your use of exclamation points in your blog posts. They seem a bit young and a bit 101 if you’re hoping to come across as an authority. Not to mention they can also look inauthentic.
More About Grammar
Even the best editor or grammarian always checks their own work. If this grammar guide for content wasn’t enough help, you can find solid advice at these resources:
We also love Grammarly, which picks out obvious errors and plagiarized content. However, Grammarly doesn’t catch everything. Make sure you read your work aloud and follow the grammar rules above. This will help you catch as many mistakes as possible.
If you’re ready to strengthen your online message with precise, thoroughly edited content, reach out. We’re happy to help you craft an ideal message and the ideal SEO plan for your business. Contact us!