Copy-editing with a twist

The ins and outs of being a copy editor

Keep the online grammar police at bay

Posted by Noel Sanchez on September 16, 2008

Correcting news copy and correcting a person’s speech are two very different things. One of my pet peeves is when people correct me when I speak. I think most would agree that it’s pretty rude. But what about correcting a person’s online grammar? Should the same leniency be given to the errors and misspellings on a blog?

The Baltimore Sun had a nice little article on online grammar police. I don’t consider myself a grammar cop, and I try to look past mistakes. But many people are not so forgiving.

The writing on your blog should reflect your voice, but that’s no excuse for poor grammar. People are quick to dismiss what you have to say when you have multiple misspellings, little or no punctuation and way more ellipses than necessary.

People should take the writing on their Facebook profiles as seriously as they take their resumes. And I don’t think I need to go into the importance of good grammar and usage in an e-mail to your boss. If you’ve found yourself guilty of not editing yourself online, here are five tips that will make your posts, e-mails and other online writings look that much better.

  1. Spell things out. You aren’t getting charged by the character, so don’t try to abbrev evry wrd. It not only looks sloppy, but it’s also hard to read.
  2. Use consistent capitalization. If you really don’t want to use proper capitalization in your Twitter updates, no one will kill you. But do keep in consistent. don’t do This. AnD dEfiNatEly DoN’t do ThIs (It’s so eighth grade). In longer writing, like on your blog, use regular capitalization rules.
  3. Use apostrophes appropriately. This seems easy, but apostrophe misuse is one of the biggest mistakes I see online. Don’t use apostrophes to make words plural (unless the word is a numeral or a letter). Do use apostrophes to make a noun possessive.
  4. Limit your exclamation points. Ask yourself, “Would I actually exclaim this if I was saying it out loud?” If the answer is yes, use one exclamation point. Use two if your verbal exclamation would be followed by a fist-punch in the air (in other words, very sparingly).
  5. Read what you just wrote. Don’t click that publish button so quickly. Mistakes act as a distraction from what’s really important: your content. You don’t want your first comment to read, “You spelled ‘administration’ wrong.” You want it to say, “I wholeheartedly disagree with your assessment of the administration, and here’s why.”

For people to take your writing seriously, you have to take it seriously, too. That means editing it to the best of your ability. I won’t judge you, but those online grammar police might, and you don’t want to get on their bad side.

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One Response to “Keep the online grammar police at bay”

  1. Maggie said

    Speaking of which, this is a page from a Web site inspired by “Elements of Style” that I made for an English class.

    http://madoublegie.googlepages.com/epiphany2.html

    The picture links to what used to be a blog tracking several grad students as they traveled around the country correcting typos on signs. Apparently, they were charged with vandalism in August for defacing a national park’s sign, and the blog now reflects that. This elaborates a bit more on what happened: http://commercial-archive.com/node/145180

    Could be potential fodder for your next post. And check out the rest of my site if you want.

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