Uh-oh. When I heard the siren I pulled over immediately. But this cop isn't like most. She's the grammar police, a business communications expert. This is what Barb Sawyers has to say in this week's guest post:
Bloggers, I love your raw energy. After decades of writing for often-stuffy business and government leaders, it's exhilarating to ride your wave.
But, there are two things you do that drive me crazy. So listen grasshopper, as I reveal the two of the most closely guarded secrets of the masters.
I'm not going to make you relearn all those boring grammar rules from school, just two easy ones that will help readers understand and remember what you've written.
- Confusing sound-alike contractions and possessives (e.g. it's; its). By doing this, you not only look bad, but also become more difficult to understand.
- Unnecessarily long lists. Ask yourself: how many items can I remember if I forget my grocery list?
Allow me to expand.
1. Confusing sound-alike contractions and possessives
Although I see this on my kids' reports cards, the local TV news crawl and countless emails every day, bloggers are especially notorious. The conversational tone of blogs and the inability of spell check to catch them probably explain why.
The top mistake is confusing it's (contraction of it is) with its (possessive). Please stop.
The second most frequent mistake is mixing up you're(contraction of you are) with your (possessive of your). Cease and desist.
The third one is they're (contraction), their (possessive) and there (adverb), a bonus sound-alike gremlin.
To look smarter right away, all many of you have to do is use it's and its correctly. Unless you're aspiring to a more enlightened level of writing, simply try to avoid these big minefields.
2. Unnecessarily long lists
I've read a ton of posts extolling the virtue of lists, a technique that has also worked well for many traditional publications. Who wouldn't want to buy a Cosmopolitan with a cover that promises 5 Ways to Tell if Your Man is Cheating?
The trouble is many lists on blogs are way too long for anyone to remember. Often they enable people to ramble on instead of thinking about what want to say and how to best organize their thoughts.
- Limit your list to no more than three to five items.
- Put the most important at the beginning and your second most important at the end.
- Save any points you didn't cover, if they're that important, for your next post.
I cannot remember 34 Way to Improve Your SEO any more than I can recall 34 items at the grocery store. The human memory is still your best bookmark, so focus on what readers' minds can store and retrieve.
I could go on about excessive wordiness, irrelevant links and much more. But I know you don't want to remember a long list.
Just focus on these two.
- Double check everything with its, it's, your, you're and they're, their, there.
- Limit your lists to no more than three to five points.