2019 is about creating relationships that last and common writing snafus hurt your credibility both as a writer and a brand. Grammar applies to all writing whether you are penning the great American novel or crafting an informative blog to support a brand — that never changes. Unfortunately, the fast-paced world of content marketing makes errors easy to miss. Once you get past all the naughty grammar issues, you can focus on evolving your content writing skills based on the current trends.
The Pesky Comma
Yes, they do. The comma — she’s as elusive as she is beautiful. I would say the comma is also the most controversial of all the punctuation marks. When is the last time an editor argued with you about a questionable question mark?
When mastering comma placement, keep these four rules in mind:
1. Commas go before FANBOYS conjunctions that join main clauses. What is FANBOYS? I’m glad you asked:
You don’t need a comma before coordinating conjunctions such as “because.” It’s one of those weird grammar rules you don’t want to overthink.
2. Use commas to separate items in a series. There is a caveat with this rule, too. Depending on which style you write in, AP, Chicago or one of the others, you may or may not need a comma before the second to the last item in the series. You’ll notice I did not put one after Chicago because I’m used to writing without using a serial comma. When following the Chicago style, you would put in the comma.
3. Use commas to section off interruptions.
4. Commas go after introductory word groups.
Your Modifier’s a Joke
Don’t dangle or do anything else bad with your modifiers. Being descriptive is a great writing tool but only if the reader knows what you are describing. Do you want a drink that is dark, dirty and rundown? I think not.
Use the Right Word or Else
Yikes, check, check and double check your spelling. Word mixups are especially common in internet writing thanks to everyone’s best friend — the spell-correct.
- Two, to, too
- For, form, forum
- There, their, they’re
Don’t get caught in a word trap; they can be punishing.
Get Some Help for 2019
I could continue writing about common grammar errors, but, let’s face it, no one is perfect. A grammar tool should never take the place of good old fashioned proofreading. There are plenty of great writers that are underachievers when it comes to proofreading, though. That’s why having online resources comes in handy such as:
- Grammarly – I have a confession to make, I use Grammarly. I use it a lot because it does more than check grammar. This online tool improves your word choices and checks for any duplicated copy on the internet all in one package. There is a free version, but I find the professional paid program worth the money.
- Hemingway Editor – Hemingway is a helpful tool, too, and one that goes beyond just checking your punctuation. It grades the reading level, points out overly complex sentence structures and suggests ways to dumb down word choices. It’s as good as Grammarly, just not as convenient. You will have to cut and paste your copy into the editor. It is free, however.
- Ginger Software – Ginger, like Grammarly, helps you edit as you go. It corrects grammar errors and improves word choices. I have not used this one but may try it out for 2019. The premium plans cost less than Grammarly, and the reviews are good.
Anyone of these programs works with you to improve your grammar skills.
Content Writing Trends for 2019
Content writers are not above making grammar mistakes, but they also can make style errors that diminish the effectiveness of the writing. For instances:
Failing to be concise — We call all those extra words filler. The key to good, useful, beautiful content writing is to make every word count. In the last sentence, one descriptor is enough, I would think.
Poor readability – Ideally, someone reading your content should be able to scan the page to understand the basics. That’s where things like bullet points and subheadings matter. To make something readable, focus on these four qualities:
If you have those four things, your writing has readability.
Add some sprinkles – I could have written about grammar mistakes only, but I added sprinkles like the section on quality online resources. In 2019, consumers going to brand blogs will expect sprinkles.
This year, if you want to evolve as a writer or someone who hires them, focus on grammar, style and content quality to get the best from the written word.
Darla F is a full-time freelance writer published internationally and an award-winning author. Over the last decade, she has ghostwritten memoirs for a successful entrepreneur and created byline pieces for USAToday, Jillian Michaels, USARiseUP, New York Times — About.com, Multibrief, MedCity News, LiveStrong and AOL. Darla is known for her ability to take complex topics and make them clear to anyone.