Break the Rules But Do It On Purpose

Growing up the daughter of an advanced composition teacher words were a big part of our household. Our board games mostly consisted of boggle, scrabble and the like. My father, although an engineer, also cared about the use of words and grammar. I vividly remember him at the kitchen table, dictionary and thesaurus next to him, while he wrote a report or speech. Whenever he got stumped he'd yell to my mother to ensure he was using a word in the correct context. He once scolded me at length for answering the phone "This is she." rather than "This is she speaking." While I hated the correction I am grateful now that he cared that I knew how to speak properly.

Creating content calendars, writing blog posts and communicating on social media is just a part of my everyday life so it's pretty safe to say I feel most at home when surrounded by words.  That's right I'm a word nerd. I care about it so much that this is one place in my life I become a bit judgmental. I'll admit I have a hard time dating a man who can't spell and poor grammar in a blog post instantly turns me off to a business. There's a particularly well known blogger (nope--not going to give their moniker away) who has good content that I'm very interested in but the writing is so amateur that I only read about a quarter of the posts. It's such a shame. Don't even get me started on people who use cliches way too liberally. A post for another day.

As content quickly becomes a key differentiator for businesses on the social web understanding how to write well is critical. It's ok to break traditional grammar rules especially when writing for a digital landscape. Just be sure to know the rules first and to do it purposefully. Otherwise you might just look like a fool rather than a cool, smart business person who stands out for all the right reasons. Here are a few particularly vexing grammar blackholes:

One space or Two?

In a 140 character world every character matters. So. Much. In a character limited world it's perfectly fine to use one space between sentences rather than the traditional two.

Real estate is valuable on the web.

It's ok to abbreviate a word-just be sure it connotes the right thing. For example, using Assn. for Association rather than Ass. (a real example used by a former boss before I corrected him).

Writing for social

When writing for social media make sure to know the proper usage of a hashtag before using it. For example, FTW means For The Win not For the Whales. Or Finish The Wine. Although you should always finish tasty wine.

The Oxford Comma Dilemma

The good old oxford comma is an unnecessary extravagance when writing for the web. Don't know what an oxford comma is? It is a serial comma, the name of a song, and something that is no longer needed for proper grammar but of course you can use it if you'd like. By the way, the last comma in that sentence is an example of an oxford comma. Here's a great little ditty about the modern use of the oxford comma by Grammar Girl.

I hope this has helped you treat words better. They're like my children. Please don't mangle them. And? You will be judged.  But only because I love you and I love words.