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How to Avoid Stylistic Errors in Blog Posts

Posted by on 6th May 2008 | 8 comments

This is my first blog post in BloggingTips, and I am thankful to Kevin, my friend, for that. My name is Lenin Nair; I am a prolific blogger of two blogs (one on writing and the other on various topics including SEO, Marketing, etc.,) and a freelance writer with Constant-Content, writing articles mainly on Web technologies and economics.

OK, let’s get to the task in hand. This is meant as an introductory post giving you some guidelines and thoughts. Writing grammatically and stylistically perfect blog entries is not a simple task to do. Though there are rules for everything, some of them are very flexible. But there are certain areas in writing, which, if you don’t care enough, can make your writing look substandard. Here are some of them.

  • I vs. Me: “It’s me” or “It’s I” which is right? The fact is that both can be right or wrong; the context decides it. ‘Me’ is the objective form of ‘I’; so, when the word is used as an object, you should use ‘me,’ and when used as subject, use ‘I.’

For instance, look at this context. When somebody asks, “Who is it?” The reply should be “It’s I,” not “It’s me.”

On the contrary, if somebody asks, “Whom did Ed meet?” the answer is “It’s me,” and not “It’s I.”

So the rule is: when you use it in subjective form, use ‘I’ and in objective form, use ‘me.’ Examples:

It’s I here. (Looks rather amusing, right? But it’s correct grammatically. Since the other form is used heavily, even some lenient grammarians deem it all right to say “It’s me.”)

Yes, he hit someone, and it’s me.

Jim and I did it right.

Tom taught Kay and me.

So, use it carefully; it is best to double-check if you mean subject or object. The same rule holds good in third person pronouns. In second person pronouns and proper nouns, this rule is not important.

“It’s Jim,” “It’s you,” etc.

  • The dangling modifier: Dangling modifiers or dangling participles form an extremely troubling area of grammar and usage. Look at the following sentence.

Having turned the corner, the hotel came into view.

Here, the part “having turned the corner” refers to ‘the hotel,’ but ‘the hotel’ didn’t and can’t turn any corners. So, the sentence is grammatically wrong. The correct sentence should be:

Having turned the corner, we saw the hotel.

The rule: Always place the dangling modifier right before or next to the word or group of words, it modifies to avoid confusion. For instance:

Having studied until the morning, Joe felt sleepy in the exam hall.

Jim saw Sarah, walking toward the department store. (Sarah was walking and not Jim)

Jim, sitting in the car, saw Sarah.

Sitting in the car, Jim saw Sarah. (In both these, Jim was sitting in the car.)

There are certain instances, which are deemed correct, though some fussy grammarians may frown. For instance:

To get higher percentage, the examination was repeated.

Without knowing the route, it was difficult to find the address.

You will find a detailed post about dangling modifiers in my blog post here.

  • It’s, Its; Their, There, They’re; and Your, You’re: Split them down in the following way.

It’s = It is or It has

Its = Possessive form (Its cat, its doll, etc.)

Their = Possessive form (Their daughter)

There = at some designated place

They’re = They are

Your = Possessive form (Your house)

You’re = You are

So, the rule is: Apostrophe designates auxiliary verb in any pronoun.

  • Secret of getting it right: Grammar is a big problem for so many bloggers out there. The statistics is very appalling. There is not even 1 % of bloggers in the whole blogosphere, who write good English. It is important that they learn grammar, punctuation, and spelling in order to write better and more authentically.

Mistakes related to semantics of words may make you look rather silly. Here is a sentence I found recently: “She moved out of site,” while it should clearly have been “out of sight.” This kind of mistakes can be easily avoided by using a thesaurus and a dictionary.

Whenever you write your blog entries, have your dictionary and your thesaurus nearby, and look up any confusing word or construction. Also, make it a habit to visit any educational websites or blogs out there. At the bottom, I will give you some links.

And here are some general guidelines to write good blog posts. These are not grammar or style guidelines, but some general thoughts.

  • The Point of View: If you are a recognized writer or an aspiring writer, you may tend to write articles in a generally third-person POV (Point of View)

rather than from your side, in the first person POV. I personally believe third-person POV is the most apt for fiction and encyclopedic articles. But for blogs, it must be first person POV. Here in blogs, what we come out with are personal opinions, judgments, and predictions. We are not here to write for academia.

  • Talk to your readers: You have heard this so many times, I know. But here is a simple way to do this. First, picture your reader (picture her as sitting in front of you). The age is important and her knowledge level. Now, just write the first draft as how you will talk to her normally. You can use colloquial language here. Edit the draft to weed out mistakes and incongruous constructions at the end.

  • Link out like anything: Look at a Wikipedia article: full of links to relevant content. Linking out to relevant content is extremely important. Always try to Google your keywords and get some good pages that explain them well. This is good in two ways. First, if you link out to other blogs, they may recognize and evaluate your blogs, when they check their link popularity, and they may in any future posts link to your blog as well. Secondly, the links to relevant content has a direct influence on site’s authenticity and importance. It has a direct effect on your PageRank. Wikipedia articles below PR5 are very rare.

  • Keep it simple and straightforward: When you write blog entries, you are not expected to be extremely finicky by piecing together such intricate sentences, which can let your readers down easily. Blog posts should be simple and understandable. You should give more importance to talking straight to your readers than flaunting your erudition.

Here are some grammar and writing sites you may wish to check out.

http://owl.english.purdue.edu/

http://www.powa.org/

http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/

http://www.writing-world.com/ : Look at the Links section.

http://www.dailygrammar.com/

http://www.edufind.com/english/grammar/index.cfm


I am a prolific blogger and a professional writer with Constant-Content. I write and educate people on writing better through my blog.

8 comments - Leave a reply
  • Posted by Breakaway on 6th May 2008

    I give up on bloggers trying to learn these basic concepts…. it's sad. I use slang in my posts only because I am lazy, but not knowing the difference between they're their and there bugs me.

    Hopefully some people out there, COUGH infectedbybugs.com COUGH will learn the differences…..

  • Posted by Mike on 6th May 2008

    I recently found this page on Google and decided to bookmark it so I could provide this link. If there was ever a book to help with grammar The King’s English by H. W. Fowler is the best I’ve ever read, aside from the lack of a PDF format. It’s very intensive, but definitely worth the read if you can get into it.

    Still, most of us are prone to occasionally severe grammatical errors. I’ve always found that reading over a post before it’s submitted is probably the best bet to finding these errors.

  • Posted by Megapixels on 7th May 2008

    Woah . . . just had a wicked flash back to English class. Good tips though. The "picture your reader sitting in front of you" is a good visualization. It is important, to keep a good reference like that while your writing. It does set the tone for your post.

  • Posted by Joe Cavell on 7th May 2008

    Wow! I feel like I just went through elementary school english class. You have a great way of describing correct grammer and I like the examples you use. I will be checking out some of the links you suggest.

  • Posted by XLOR on 7th May 2008

    Thanks for an English grammar lesson.

    Didn't read till the end but it was interesting for the person for whom English language is not native.

  • Posted by XLOR on 7th May 2008

    Didn't read yet, I meant)))

  • Posted by Andrew on 15th May 2008

    An interesting article with some interesting points. However, it seems that you wrote this under the pretense that people actually want to have perfect grammar in their posts. I certainly don't in mine! I liked your suggestion to imagine the reader is right in front of you; generally I write in that style, as if I were speaking to a friend. When I speak to a friend though, I use slang, I use sloppy English, and I don't think twice about it. While I agree with the majority of your points, I think that while one should be aware of grammatical rules, they shouldn't allow their writing style to be a slave to them. You mention this in your third recommendation, to which I would like to offer an addition: Have a clear idea of what you want to communicate, and try to make your posts 'flow'. If you're unsure if your writing is difficult to read, have someone proofread it for you, or read it aloud. People often omit words during the typing process, and your mind simply fills in the blanks as you read it back to yourself in your head. It's not a 100% foolproof way to catch these errors, but it's something.

    At the end of the day, bloggers should just write the way they feel most comfortable. Do I write using the passive voice? Sure, all the time! Do I care? Nope! Then again, I'm not trying to make money from blogging, I'm not trying to get published in academic journals, heck, I'm not even writing to Penthouse Forum. I wish I had an excuse to do the latter though…

    BTW, there's an error in your article. Perhaps you put it in on purpose though, you sly dog!

  • Posted by HAlim on 1st Jun 2008

    Before:

    My writing skills also not good enough, to check my grammar I using some software to check the mistake.

    After: :lol:

    My writing skills also not good enough, to check my grammar, I was using some software to check the mistake.