The Ultimate Grammar Guide for Content, Part I

Grammar isn’t the most enticing topic to everyone. but since “content is king” (thanks, Bill Gates!), your grammar matters. We’re here to de-frustrate the topic for you and provide clear insight on what you should use and when. Believe it or not, grammar can unfortunately cost you clients. We’re not saying it’s fair, but we are saying it’s true.

Should You Use S or ‘S?

Let’s start with the letter “s.” It’s more than just a letter when it comes to grammar: it’s the cause of a great deal of confusion. English is a bit tricky when it comes to plurals and possessives. Add contractions to the mix (because you also need an ‘s there sometimes), and it’s even more confusing.

Let’s examine the different uses and look at some other common grammatical errors we make in this crazy language we love (mostly).

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”

This one’s a bit trickier, and it causes confusion in the previous situations. Plural possessive indicates a 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”

Single and Double Quotations: BFFs

What happens if you’re quoting someone who has quoted someone, or if you have dialogue that works out in a similar way? In that instance, your original quote becomes a single quote. Here’s how it looks:

“I was talking to Jim about life on Mars,” the scientist explained, holding a report in her hand for reference. “Jim said, ‘we could get there in the next ten years with innovation, funding, and research.’”

(By the way, we choose to believe the Jim in our examples is Jim from NBC’s The Office.)

Provide Clarity With Periods, (Parentheses), and [Brackets]

We love Jim too much to not use him. We don’t own him, though. Check out NBC’s The Office here!

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.

Add Ellipses…Sparingly

What are ellipses? It’s like when you have a thought…but then need to finish it. Yep, 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 up 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.

Dominating Grammar

Especially if you’re a native English speaker, you don’t need to know what all of the tenses are called, just know how to use them. Skip the technical explanations of a future imperfect unless you’ve got a burning desire to become more of a word nerd (or an editor) and focus on correct usage.

Are you ready to learn more grammar tips most useful for bloggers? Check out our second installment of the Grammar Guide for Bloggers.

Are you looking for polished, thoroughly edited blog content? We can help! Reach out to us to learn more about our content services.

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