As many of you know, my native language is Spanish, however I have decided to write my Lingua Franca’s posts in English. This adds a degree of difficulty because both languages have a different structure. Due to this linguistic handicap, I dedicate a few hours a week to study English grammar. Some weeks are easier than others. Grammar is not an easy task no matter what they say. However it is extremely important if you want to maintain a reputable blog.
If your readers find too many grammatical errors in your posts, they will eventually go away. High quality is still appreciated amongst many blog readers which I think is a correct attitude. The same is true with misspelled words and poor sentence construction. All of these writing deficiencies detract your blog’s credibility.
Today’s post will be about common grammatical errors found in numerous blogs I encounter during my daily Web journeys. Please avoid them, to the best of your abilities.
1. Your vs You’re. This confusion is very common amidst bloggers. All it takes to avoid this error is to take a second and think about what you’re trying to say. “Your” is a possessive pronoun, as in “your car” or “your blog.” On the other hand, “you’re” is a contraction for “you are,” as in “You’re ruining your writer’s reputation by using “your” when you really mean “you are”. Very simple. Keep it in mind next time.
2. It’s vs Its. This another common mistake. It’s also easily avoided by thinking through what you’re trying to say. “It’s” is a contraction of “it is” or “it has.” “Its” is a possessive pronoun, as in “this blog has lost its own personality.” Here’s an easy rule of thumb—repeat your sentence out loud using “it is” instead. If that sounds wacky, “its” is most likely the correct choice.
3. There vs Their. This one seems to pester everyone occasionally, often as a pure typo. Make sure to watch for it when you proofread your work. “There” is used many ways, including as a reference to a place (“let’s go there”) or as a pronoun (“there is no hope”). On the other hand, “their” is a plural possessive pronoun, as in “their bags” or “their opinions”. Always do the “that’s ours!” test—are you talking about more than one person and something that they own? If so, “their” will get you there.
4. Affect vs Effect. This one is a little tricky. You have to stop for a moment and put on your thinking cap before making a decision. “Affect” is a verb, as in “Your ability to organize your work will ‘affect’ your probability to get a raise immensely.” “Effect” is a noun, as in “The effect of using drugs on the brain is well documented.” By thinking in terms of “the effect”, you can usually sort out which is which, because you can’t stick a “the” in front of a verb.
5. The Dangling Participle. The dangling participle may be the most egregious of the most common writing mistakes. Not only will this error damage the flow of your writing, it can also make it impossible for someone to understand what you’re trying to say. Adjectives ending in –ing (and sometimes—ed) are called participles and must be used with care. Consider the following sentences:
- After rotting in the cellar for weeks, my brother brought up some oranges.
- Flitting gaily from flower to flower, the football player watched the bee.
In the first sentence, the reader might misunderstand that my brother was rotting in the cellar and not the oranges. In the second sentence, the reader might misunderstand that the football player was flitting gaily from flower to flower. If you said the last sentence to the football player’s face-to-face just the way it’s phrased above, you could end up as a bloody lump of pulp lying on the astroturf, because he might conclude you think he “flits gaily,” a thing most people in his profession don’t do, at least in public. The sentence should read “The football player watched the bee flitting gaily from flower to flower.”
The problem with both sentences is that the participial phrase that begins the sentence is not intended to modify what immediately follows next in the sentence. However, readers mentally expect it to work that way, so your opening phrase should always modify what immediately follows. If it doesn’t, you’ve left the participle dangling, as well as your readers.
Next time you start writing your blog post, remember that good grammar will make your blog shine like a candle in the dark. Good Day!