The shift from static web site content to sites powered by blogs has been a blessing and a curse to many businesses. All that fresh content does wonderful things for rankings, repeat traffic and link generation. On the other hand, giving people who aren't trained writers access to post on your company blog can spell disaster in terms of punctuation and grammatical errors. It's with this problem in mind that Daniel Scocco writes an excellent post outlining bloggers' most common punctuation errors.

Daniel outlines six of the most common errors. He also offers up examples of the right and wrong way to tackle each issue. You'll need to read his post to get the full scoop, but here's a quick summary of them.

1. Apostrophe for Plurals
The apostrophe is used to form contractions (e.g., It's time to go) and to indicate possession (e.g., Mary's car is blue), but never to form plurals.

2. The Comma Splice
When the comma is used to separate independent clauses, there must be a conjunction connecting them.

3. Quotation Marks for Emphasis
If you want to add emphasis to a word, use the boldface type and not the quotation marks.

4. Multiple Punctuation Marks
Unless you want to sound like an overly emotional teenager writing on MySpace, you should limit yourself to one exclamation point.

5. Punctuation Outside the Quotation Marks
If you are writing in American English, other punctuation should go inside the quotation marks, even if it is not part of the quotation itself.

6. The Missing Comma After Introductory Elements
Sometimes you want to give an introduction or provide a background to a certain sentence. That is fine, but do not forget to place a comma after that introductory element.

Lest you think you stand no chance at avoiding these errors, remind yourself practice makes perfect. Few bloggers and business writers manage to avoid these errors every time they write. It's why editors (and forgiving audiences) exist. Keep in mind that even professional bloggers make mistakes like the ones Daniel mentions. In fact I'll likely have my brother-in-law (a real editor, not a "content director" editor like myself) review this post before it goes live. (Wouldn't want any inadvertent irony going on now would we?)

Part of being a good blogger is recognizing your weak points and reviewing your content to catch them. It's a running joke here at Search Engine Guide that I overuse the word "that." It's not at all uncommon for me to run a search for the word "that" before I publish a lengthy article. Without fail I end up removing half a dozen or more occurrences of it.

If you're just getting started as a blogger or realize it's time to improve your writing, Daniel's post would be an excellent one to print out and hang near your computer. A quick run through your post or article to make sure you haven't broken any of these rules can go a long way toward improving the way your content is perceived by your audience.

October 31, 2007

Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.

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