This post is a reprint of a guest post I wrote for social media expert and strategist, Frances Caballo. Enjoy and share. . .
“It’s just a Tweet—fewer than 140 characters. Too short to even think about grammar.”
“It’s just Facebook—they’re my friends [all 2749 of them]. They’ll understand what I mean.”
Did you know that the top two things that disqualify a potential date are bad teeth and—yup— bad grammar? And when questioned, people say they would be very reluctant to do business with a company whose website contains typos and incorrect grammar.
How you write and speak are two of the important ways you present yourself to the world. You never get a second chance to make a first impression. And once you make an impression online, it doesn’t get thrown in the trash or shredded. The Internet has a way of being forever.
Do you need to be a grammar pro to use social media? Of course not. But there are several things you should be careful about getting right. They are common mistakes that will stick out like a sore thumb in your social media posts. I mentioned Twitter and Facebook, but if you use LinkedIn, correct writing counts even more, as it is a professional site. And many people, including authors, use all social media for business, even if it crosses over into the personal. Even your personal Facebook page reflects you as a writer or any other type of professional you might be.
Here are some things you really need to get right:
- Proofread your posts, no matter how short they are. If your best proofreading is done after you hit Send or Post (like me), you will have to learn to do it a little sooner. We all make silly typing mistakes. I know that proofing your own writing is boring, believe me. I don’t like doing it, but then when I, writing about grammar, send out a post with mistakes in it, imagine how embarrassed I am! It doesn’t take long, so just get in the habit of proofing whatever you Tweet or post.
- Don’t confuse its and it’s, whether you have made a grammatical error or a typing one. It’s is a contraction meaning it is. ALL contractions have apostrophes, and it’s is no exception. Its is possessive. No possessive pronouns have apostrophes (hers, ours, yours, theirs).
- Ditto your and you’re. Use you’re when you mean you are. It is a contraction, and all contractions have apostrophes. Your is possessive.
- Be careful with your past participles. These are the verb forms you use with has or have. We have all seen or heard people use have went, have took, have wrote. These are incorrect. It is have gone, have taken, and have written. Also note have brought (not brung) and have swum, rung, and drunk—not have swam, have rang, or have drank. And there are many more of these irregular verbs, so look them up if you are unsure.
- If you have two sentences, please put a period between them. If you like semicolons and your sentences are closely related, use a semicolon. If you are using a conjunction like and or but, you can use a comma. What I am telling you is don’t use a comma alone to separate sentences. Here is an example:
- Check out this article, I think you will like it. WRONG
- Check out this article. I think you will like it. RIGHT
- Check out this article; I think you will like it. RIGHT
- Check out this article, because I think you will like it. RIGHT
- Please don’t use apostrophes in your plain old plural words. You didn’t post photo’s. You posted photos. Apostrophes are for possessives and contractions, not plurals. The only time you need an apostrophe in a plural is when not using one would be confusing: I got all A‘s on my report card (without the apostrophe, the word looks like as).
- Be careful with I versus me, him versus her, and who versus whom (which is tricky). I, he, she, who, we, and they are used for sentence subjects. Me, him, her, whom, us, and them are used for objects, which are generally after the verb or after a preposition like between, to, for, or with. And if there are two people and you are one of them, put yourself last. Here are some examples:
- Me and him went out. WRONG
- He and I went out. RIGHT
- He gave it to him and I. WRONG
- He gave it to him and me. (Hint: Take one of the people out and say the sentence: He gave it to him. He gave it to me. ) RIGHT
- Between you and I. WRONG
- Between you and me. RIGHT
- Who are you going with? WRONG
- Whom are you going with. RIGHT
Okay, who and whom are tricky. Here are a couple of hints: (1) Answer the question in that last example. Use him or he. If you would use him, you need to use whom: I am going with him. (2) Find the verbs in the sentence. Find the subject of each verb. If your who or whom is not the subject of any of the verbs, use whom. If it is a subject, use who. Or you can refer to a blog post I wrote about who and whom.
If you pay attention to those seven guidelines, will your posts be grammatically perfect? Maybe, maybe not. But you will be avoiding the most common mistakes that I see online and the ones that will get you noticed—and not in a good way.
So happy posting! The great impression you give through your writing will pay off. And don’t forget to make your website grammatically pleasing too!
Grammar Diva News and Notes:
This past month I spoke at the Cloverdale Rotary, and next month I will be speaking at the Sausalito Rotary. Seems the Rotarians like my talk! They even told me I could be a stand-up comedian, so I will be working on a grammar comedy routine (maybe).
The Best Grammar Workbook Ever! has been selling well, likely because school has just started. Thank you to all who have purchased the book. In addition to print copies and PDF copies (which are available on this site), the book is now available on Kindle, Nook, iBooks, Kobo, Smashwords, etc.
The next book I will be releasing is 50 Shades of Grammar, hopefully by the end of 2015.