Blogging 101: How to be taken seriously as a blogger
In previous posts in the Blogging 101 series, I’ve discussed how to get past the blank page, the importance of creating great content, and how to promote your blog. Today’s post is about something you don’t often see in the typical “how to be a blogger” post.
If you want to be taken seriously as a blogger, you need to post valuable content that’s relevant to your audience, and you need to post on a regular basis. But there’s one very important thing that, if not done properly, will squash your chances of becoming a successful blogger faster than you can say “I forgot to save my work.”
The one thing you absolutely, positively must do to be taken seriously as a blogger is use proper English grammar.
No one expects you to write like Shakespeare — or Hemingway. (Frankly, I’ve studied Shakespeare, and I’m not at all sure that the language he wrote in was English.) You don’t have to be able to craft clever prose, and truthfully, your ideas don’t even have to be all that original.
But what you must do is write coherently, making as certain as you can that the words you write will convey the meaning you intend, and you must.use.proper.English.grammar.
Why am I harping on this?
I will readily admit that I am far more persnickety about this than most of your readers are likely to be. But since you can’t really know for sure when a persnickety reader may come along, it’s best to write as if all of your readers click off of your page the moment they see that you’ve used an apostrophe to make a plural or used “your” instead of “you’re.”
So, here’s some examples of things you really must ensure you’re doing right or the authority of your blog will suffer, as will your readership. No one is going to subscribe to a blog that’s full of usage errors and which appears to suffer from lack of proofreading.
ConfessionOne more thing before I get started. I understand you’re not perfect. Neither am I. It’s entirely possible that you may find errors in my posts — maybe in this one! Honestly, I invite you to look for them and let me know when you find them, because I recognize it makes me look unprofessional. In addition, despite what my friends like to call me, I am no grammar Nazi. Somehow I managed to earn a Master of Arts degree in English without ever having taken a college-level English grammar course. So, I’m not an authority on dangling participles or misplaced modifiers. You don’t have to be either. But you need to know and implement some basic rules of grammar if you expect to be taken seriously as a blogger.
First, let’s go over some often misused words:
- “You’re” and “your.”
- “You’re” is a contraction for “you are.”
- “Your” is a possessive.
- “They’re,” “there,” and “their.”
- “They’re” is a contraction for “they are.”
- “There” is an adverb.
- “Their” is a possessive.
- “It’s” and “its.”
- “It’s” is a contraction for “it is.”
- “Its” is a possessive.
Get these right and you’re already way ahead of the average blogger.Next, proofread. Ideally, have someone else proofread for you. I rarely have someone around to proofread for me, so my practice is to proofread at least twice before I hit “publish,” and then I reread my post several times over the first few days after it’s published (note my use of “it’s” there).
Here’s a handy tip: When you’re typing along and you see a red line appear under a word, right-click on it. It’s Google’s way of letting you know you’ve misspelled the word. When you right-click, Google will provide you with the correct spelling. Cool, huh?
Take the time to learn the difference between these commonly misused words:
- “accept” and “except”
- “affect” and “effect”
- “fewer” and “less”
“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” – Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride
When in doubt about the meaning of a word — or just to be absolutely certain you’re using a word correctly — look it up. Go to Google and type in “define” and then the word you’re about to use. I do this all the time. Taking 5 seconds to be sure a word means what you think it means can save your credibility.
Finally, don’t be too hard on yourself if you mess up. We all do. Even well-respected and long-established publications with many sets of eyes checking everything that’s published sometimes make mistakes. But if you’re making those mistakes in every post, your career as a blogger will be short-lived. It’s well worth the time to brush up on your 5th grade grammar.