3 Basic Grammar Rules To Use So You Won’t Look Dumb

3 basic grammar rules

Grammar.

People either love it or hate it.

Just the mere sight or mention of the word can send chills up people’s spines.

Or if you’re like me, you secretly enjoy immersing yourself in an old grammar book or style guide.

So just how important is it to follow basic grammar rules when you write web content?

Contrary to some opinions out there, it’s very important.

When you write well you build trust and confidence in your reader and more importantly you establish integrity and authority.

If you don’t, your credibility can be robbed.

Think of poor grammar and lousy punctuation as credibility thieves. After all, you don’t want to look dumb right?

Heck, I’m no grammar nazi but a short course to brush up my business writing skills focused heavily on grammar and punctuation (amongst a few other writing rules).

The aim of this article is to share with you what I learnt.

Here are 3 basic grammar rules to follow when writing web content and blogging.

1. The apostrophe

The problem here is many people get confused when to use the apostrophe.

The main rules on apostrophes are very simple and cover more than 99 percent of cases. They deal with two matters, possession and contraction.

Possession

There’s a two-stage approach to follow. First, find the possessor(s). Second, put an apostrophe immediately after the possessor(s).

For example:

The judges wig was eaten by the generals horse.

The judge possesses the wig and the general the horse so the sentence becomes:

The judge’s wig was eaten by the general’s horse.

Contractions

The apostrophe shows we have omitted one or more letters and shortened two words into one, which is a contraction. Some common examples are:

  • Couldn’t – could not
  • Doesn’t – does not
  • Can’t – cannot
  • Don’t  -do not
  • Won’t – will not
  • Isn’t – is not
  • Haven’t – have not
  • It’s – it is

Remember that pronouns – words in place of nouns such as his, hers, ours, yours, theirs, don’t need apostrophes. They are words in their own right because no letters are missing and the possession is built into the word.

2. Hyphens

I’ve used a couple already in this article. Hyphens make links. The Oxford Guide to Plain English says they link words that form a composite adjective before a noun. For example:

  • Computer-based work
  • Short-term goals
  • Three-year-old child
  • No-go area

The presence or absence of a hyphen can easily change the meaning. Compare these:

The atrium has no smoking areas to The atrium has no-smoking areas.

The pop group reformed to The pop group re-formed.

Don’t underestimate the hyphen. It’s important for clear, accurate writing.

3. Colons

Colons are used to mainly introduce lists, explanations, examples or formal quotations. It’s also used to separate a main heading from a subtitle, as in ‘Giraffes: the full facts’.

Other examples include:

The cake should contain the following ingredients:
1 1/3 cups (200g) plain flour
2 tbs cocoa
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
200g good-quality dark chocolate, chopped
225g unsalted butter, softened, chopped
1 cup (220g) caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 eggs
1/2 cup (125ml) milk

Lord Nelson reputedly said before the Battle of Trafalgar: “England expects that every man will do his duty.”

Now you won’t ever look dumb. I could have picked any 3 grammar rules to write about but these were the most fun. While these basic grammar and punctuation rules can be applied to any genre of writing, they are equally important in writing web content. Misuse at your own risk.

*Source: Editing Made Easy – Bruce Kaplan

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7 Comments

  1. Grammar is so important. When I read anything be it website content, blogs, a letter or a proposal I make a judgement about how capable at communication that individual or company is. Thanks for great, easy to follow tips Shae.

    Reply
  2. You are correct Kylie, grammar is very important. It is fine to write in a more relaxed and conversational tone online but that doesn’t mean one should neglect their grammar and punctuation. It’s still surprising to see other bloggers and online writers neglect such basic concepts.

    Reply
  3. This is a really useful blog post, grammar is something that a lot of people struggle with and having a useful reference point like this is great.

    Reply
  4. You nailed it. I often tend to judge people on the basis of this. Seriously , I get fumed when I see some of my mates use ‘did’ with the second form. You are right , many people tend to ignore these facts while writing. It only does make content more worthy.

    Reply

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