Helpful Grammar Hints for Bloggers

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In one of the great sessions I attended at Blissdom, the topic of how important good grammar and punctuation is on a blog came up. It appears Shannon from Rocks in My Dryer is a grammar-a-holic. I knew I loved her!

I am a copy editor by profession. So please take what follows not as what the general population thinks about your blog but what I and other crazies might think. But really, you don’t want some simple punctuation errors to drive someone away from your blog, do you?

I wish they had let me teach a (very) short session on at least proper punctuation at Blissdom. I am honestly not too uptight about poor grammar when it comes to blogging. Many bloggers write the way they speak, and I think as long as you are aware you are putting prepositions at the end of your sentences (as I often do), it’s OK. But it does sometime baffle me that even very “big” bloggers make some simple mistakes over and over again.

I was never taught grammar or parts of speech in school, and maybe that’s the issue–we have a generation that missed that. I think it was a backlash from too much grammar, too many diagrammed sentences. Perhaps they’ve gone back to teaching it.

Here are a few simple things that will really polish your writing, and it would make me extremely happy if you could remember just one. If you ever decide to write a book and turn in your manuscript so it follows simple grammar rules (AND USE SPELLCHECK), I promise you will make your editor a happier person. I promise you I see all of these things, and much worse, on manuscripts I get from popular, established authors.

1. Put the period and comma inside quotation marks.

This is probably the most common thing I see on blogs. Please, please, PLEASE try to do this. Even if you are quoting someone else, the period or comma goes inside. Here is an example.

Marlene said, “Let’s just be friends,” but I wanted more.

Jo-Lynne, who is cute as can be, was around when I was ranting talking about this at Blissdom. I know it can be confusing, but here it goes.

Periods and commas always go inside the quotation mark. Semi-colons and colons go outside. For question marks and exclamation points, it depends on whether they are part of the quotation or not. If it is (like, “What did he tell you?” I asked) it goes inside. If it’s not (like, I can’t believe he called me “white trash”!) then it goes outside.

2. Please remember the difference between ITS/IT’S, YOUR/YOU’RE, THEY’RE/THEIR, etc.

ITS is possessive, i.e., The book lost its cover.
IT’S is always a contraction for IT IS. It’s rainy outside.

YOUR is also possessive. You lost your boots in the rain.
YOU’RE is a contraction for YOU ARE. You’re going to wear that?

THEIR is possessive. They lost their boots in the rain. (They must be pretty dumb to all do that!)
THEY’RE is a contraction for THEY ARE. They’re running home barefoot because they lost their boots.

3. You do not pluralize with an apostrophe.

This is at least as common as the quotations thing. I think a lot of people just do not know this.

The plural of movie is not movie’s, it’s movies.
The plural of pony is not pony’s, it’s ponies.
The plural of something that ends in s is generally that plus an es. Like glass becomes glasses.

I am really not trying to be catty or offend anyone. I just think if people would follow these simple grammar rules, it would bring a new polish to their blogs.

If you have any questions, I’d be happy to answer them. Leave your e-mail (it won’t post here), or I will answer in the comments.

36 thoughts on “Helpful Grammar Hints for Bloggers

  1. Can you do a lesson on commas? 🙂

    Half of my blogging problem is just being too lazy to go back and proofread but I am so bad with commas.

    I’m also glad to know I’m not the only one who didn’t learn proper grammar in school! I don’t know if it wasn’t being taught or if it was the fact that I was away in gifted classes and had to make up my schoolwork on my own time, but I swear I do not remember learning things such as…well, such as where to place a comma!

  2. Kudos for you for taking this on. Seriously, I’d be willing to co-panel a mini-session on this next year with you if the opportunity ever arose.


    Perhaps you could hire yourself out as a blogging copy editor?

    I think I’m good on the 3 above, but I admit to constant and careless use of the em dash.

    If you’d like to enlighten me privately on that or any other consistent mistakes on my blog, I’d love you “forever”.


  4. AMEN!!!!!! I’m a grammar snob too. It just grates on my nerves! My MIL is especially guilty of #3 and it drives me INSANE every time she e-mails me!!!

    My other big annoyance is when people misquote sayings. Example? One blogger I read always says “for all intensive purposes” instead of “for all intents and purposes”. ARGH!

  5. I can’t Stand random capitalization of Words. Not sure what that’s all about!

    I’ve gotta admit — I’m not so good with the grammar. There’s probably 100 mistakes in this comment alone. And, eep, I used to be a journalist!

  6. Did you know that where to put quotation marks is a source of discord between Americans and Brits? I learned this at some point and much to my own personal difficulty, I must have been taught to punctuate by a Brit, because I have all sorts of trouble doing things right. I also have a horrible habit of proofreading after I hit the comment button.

    And on an unrelated note, it was great to finally meet you in person at Blissdom.

  7. I am with you “110%”. Just kidding 🙂 The worst is twitter and skype. Once you press enter, there is no editing or turning back!

    And, I have re-written this comment about 5 times proofing everything to ensure that I haven’t done anything incorrect!!

  8. Yes. Yes. Yes! So true. It drives me crazy too.

    Was great to meet you at Blissdom. If you find those errors at my blog please tell me and I will fix them ASAP.

  9. Thank You! I am bookmarking this for future reference. And now that you outted yourself as a copy editor, maybe infiltrating your inbox asking for editing help.

  10. In the Commonwealth countries we consider the 1940s, 1950s, etc., to be simple plurals, so we don’t put an apostrophe in after the zero. US writers always apostrophise. Why is that?

    We are also taught not to put a comma before the “and” in a list of things, but U.S. writers always use a comma.


  11. Thanks for this. I want to use correct punctuation and grammar, but I’m not always certain of the rules. What about punctation marks outside of parenthesis? Shouldn’t periods, question marks, and exclamation points always be inside? I notice them on the outside quite often. (And I don’t have spell-check, so I may have some mistakes.)

  12. Yay grammar! Though I must say, for some of those who appear concerned, sometimes writing the way you speak makes the whole issue more clouded. There are all kinds of questions about parentheticals and ellipses that would just never appear in formal writing, and the “rules” don’t seem clear in those cases. At least to me.

  13. As your auntie AND an English teacher, I applaud you on this post. We are teaching grammar again, by the way, including diagramming sentences. Since we’re on the subject, my reason for ranting would be the lack of commas for interjections, direct address, and appositives. It drives me crazy, and I can’t understand how students can leave out these important markers that help the reader comprehend the meaning of the sentence. Keep writing!

  14. I KNEW that was the rule for Quotes! I am a grammar freak as well (although I don't always use my knowledge!), and I would have staked my life on it, but several people have told me that the punctuation always goes inside quotes. Thanks for clearing that up!

  15. I think I love you. You're my punctuation soul mate. An apostrophe also does not mean "Look out! An S is coming!"

  16. I love this post! I'm going to use it for teaching my boys too! Textbooks make grammar way more complicated than it needs to be! Short and sweet – just the way I like it. Thanks for the lesson. Blessings

  17. Too bad you're moving away, or we could put you on the Style Team for all of Publishing!! Mwahahahahahaha!!

    OK, so some exceptions to the pluralizing rule (not sure if these are in the corporate manual):

    p's and q's

    do's and don'ts
    [because dos would look like DOS, the computering term]

    Here're my pet peeves:

    * Where is not an all-purpose subordinating conjunction. A situation is not a location. (example—My car's spinning out because of hydroplaning is a situation in which I'd be really frightened.) A time in your life is not a location. (I'm at a point in my life at which I can tolerate some things; others, I choose not to.)

    * When addressing a person, use a comma!!

    Jessie, would you like to write a cookbook some day?

    Libbie, do you enjoy pushing Mommy's basket?

    Thank You, God, for good friends and good food.

    Thank you, Jessie, for this moment to expound on grammar rules. ;o)

  18. Haha! I love that you posted this. All of the items on your list drive me nuts, too! I love grammar, and I actually fantasize about diagramming sentences. Now, I will confess I am addicted to the ellipsis, parentheses, and commas. You couldn't swing a dead cat in any one given sentence of mine without hitting a blue million commas. If you ever happen across my blog, please be warned! :o)

    Things on my list are:

    1. using "I" instead of "me" as in "This is a picture of a camel and I at the zoo."

    2. using an apostrophe in a family name when referring to the family as a group (e.g. The Smith's instead of The Smiths).

    3. using only an apostrophe to show possession on singular nouns and pronouns that end in s (e.g. Jesus' versus Jesus's).

    Now, I know that #3 on my list can go either way (and maybe #2 can, too), but that is the way I like it! :o) (And I'm soooooo important…I know…)

    I found your blog because of the title. I grew up around Nashville. I am from a tiny town up 65 called Portland. We are the Strawberry Capital of the World. Self-proclaimed. ;o)

  19. I'm with Katie–when people say "The Smith's" instead of "The Smiths" it drives me nuts!

    I also find it frustrating when people say "that" instead of "who," for example:

    "I'm Alice, a girl that loves fashion" instead of "I'm Alice, a girl who loves fashion."

    Drives me up the wall.

  20. Proper comma use forms the difference between saying:

    Let's eat, Grandpa!

    and saying

    Let's eat Grandpa!

    One is a touching family tableau; The other is a depraved invitation to cannibalism.

  21. Amen to all of this! I am a teacher and all of these spelling/grammar mistakes drive me crazy in blogs. I understand people making typos and I certainly don't expect everyone to be an expert on grammar (I'm not!) but some posts I read are filled with mistakes! One error that makes me the craziest is when people try to use "higher" vocabulary but they clearly don't understand the true meaning of the word. Often, those same people misspell the word as well because they also mispronounce it and attempt to spell it the way they say it. Argh!

  22. I'm no expert but I do make an effort to be correct. So, BRAVO!
    One of my favorite pieces of flair on FB is "There, their, they're…not the same!!!"

  23. Great post! One question I have wondered about lately is where to put the period when you have parenthesis. Is it inside or outside the last parenthetical symbol? Thanks!

  24. I realize this post is about a year old, but I have to say THANK YOU! Yes, in all caps, too.

    I have a minor in English grammar and have difficulty reading many sites. As a matter of fact, I often print out posts and correct them or give them to my daughter to correct as part of her language arts class. She's 7.

    I can get past the inappropriate commas, definitely understand the errant typo, and will often overlook the confusion of what to do with that darn apostrophe when it gets near an 's'.

    However, the one thing that makes me grit my teeth every time is the fact that 'of' is not a verb. If I had a dime for every time I read 'I would of … ', I could split my bounty with you and we'd both be filthy rich!

    Dare I say, I wish I could of met you at Blissdom. (bwwwwwaahhhhhh!) Isn't grammar humor delicious?

    I enjoy reading your blog and promise I will be a better reader/commenter now that I know the importance of such.

  25. How about a post on myself, yourself, etc.? I go crazy when I hear these misused. Even the media gets it wrong. I think people are confused about using I and me, so they substitute myself, and so on.

  26. Oh how I hope you never read my blog. I cringed at every point you made– and I was the student with A's in English. 🙁

    Great post! You can bet I WILL remember your tips.

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