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Punctuation, Spelling and Grammar – Quality Control for Bloggers

Posted By Darren Rowse 6th of September 2008 Writing Content 0 Comments

In our series on crafting blog content we’re at stage 7 (of 10) and having chosen our topic, crafted a title, written an engaging opening line, written a meaningful post, added a call to action and added depth – we’re finally ready to hit ‘publish’!

Or are we?

punctuation-spelling-grammar.jpg
Image by geminicollisionworks

Today I want to talk about Quality Control – one of the last tasks that I recommend before hitting publish on your blog posts.

Having put so much time and effort into getting the content of your post into tiptop shape it can be tempting to put your post ‘out there’ for readers to engage with as soon as possible.

However, taking just few extra minutes to check for ‘errors’ can take a post to the next level.

This is an area that I admit I need to improve.

On a daily basis I find spelling and grammatical errors on my posts and embarrassingly, so do my readers.

I put it down to excitement and wanting to get posts out quickly – but if I’m honest with myself I’m sure it’s also partly laziness.

While some of your readers will gloss over these kinds of errors and won’t let it impact how they engage with the content – some will not be so forgiving and will be distracted by your mistakes.

Every spelling error that you correct and every awkward sentence structure that you improve removes a barrier to readers engaging with your content.

The solutions are simple (yet a struggle for so many of us):

  • Take your time in writing posts
  • Take time to look at spell check in your writing tool of choice.
  • Reread your posts to see how they flow (sometimes reading them out loud will help).
  • Have someone else look your posts over (I know of at least two bloggers who do this for one another – they have logins to each other’s blogs and edit the post that the other one writes on a daily basis).
  • Test to see if links in your posts work.

Yes – this is an area that those of us who don’t like to pay attention to detail and those who blog in a language that isn’t their first language can struggle with, but it does pay off to work on.

As mentioned above – I’m not the guy to teach you how to improve on this aspect of blogging. As a result I’d like to point you to some others who are!

Resources for Bloggers

Posts to Read:

Blogs to Subscribe To:

Books to Buy:

Feel free to add resources, blog posts and blogs that you’ve found helpful in comments below.

Read the Full Series

This post is part of a series on how to craft blog posts. It will be all the more powerful if taken in context of the full series which looks at 10 points in the posting process to pause and put extra effort. Start reading this series here.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

  • Hi Darren

    I use to do lot of grammatical errors in my early blogging day (that is 2 month back i am only 3 month old as blogger :) )

    but as i spend more time reading mature bloggers like you and many other out their, i realized what i was is wrong and i need to change it before it too late.

    since then i started using Microsoft word as my default text editor. now i check twice my post on Microsoft word for spelling and grammatical mistakes. before that tempting *Publish* Button

  • I think the hard part for a lot bloggers is that by the time you get to the end of a post, especially an in depth one, your brain is tired and you just want to be done and publish it. I’ve recently started finishing posts and then taking a break and THEN rereading it for errors. Not only do I find and fix errors more efficiently, but I have a better chance of fixing any flow issues in the post. A fresh brain is always your best editor. :-)

  • Daily Writing Tips blog is a cool one by Daniel and am already subscribed to it. Gives lot of great information on writing stuff in the proper way.

    Btw great list posted there Darren.

  • Good to see more blog posts about grammar – not that I’m a grammar police :-) but, my pet peeve … your and you’re.

    I also found “The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation” the best of the lot.

  • My biggest issue is rushing through posts. It all sounds great in my head but then when I read it back I’m faced with the harsh reality that it needs ALOT of work.

  • I think Having Quality posts are Crucial. I can immediately notice the difference between a good quality post on my own blog as opposed to a not so good quality post.

    The visitors in numbers speak for themselves.

    Oh, spelling and Grammar is also important. :)

  • Glad you addressed this. There’s a big difference between an obvious command of language with a handful of typos, and little command of the language amply displayed throughout the writing. I think otherwise quality writing trumps a few typos, although a fine-toothed comb is still best. But lousy language skills ought to automatically disqualify you from DIgg, Stumble and others. Unfortunately there’s way too much buddy-sharing and linking and badly written content is promoted undeservedly.

  • I think it is a wonderful idea for most of us to take at least a 10 minute break between writing and proofreading. It’s so easy to read what you *think* you see, instead of what you actually typed! If you are blogging for your business and you’re pressed for time you definitely should get someone to proofread your posts for you – it would be terrible to turn off potential clients with poor quality work.

  • Darren, I cannot believe you are suggesting this “Have someone else look your posts over (I know of at least two bloggers who do this for one another – they have logins to each other’s blogs and edit the post that the other one writes on a daily basis).”

    Who will have time for that?

    Anyway I agree with the first comment – until you finish writing you are tired and you just want to be done and publish it.
    Recently I have blogged about useful tool I found (http://www.web2whizzing.com/spell-checker/). You just paste text and it correct spellings for you. The tool is free to use.

  • My blog also suffers from absense of correct punctuation and structured sentences and paragraphs as english is not my mother tongue.
    It truly is embarasing when you notice a mis-spelling on a published post.

  • Darren,

    This is a wonderful tip for my Boomer in the Pew Blog.

    I have been looking for a writer’s grammar text, but these writing blogs will work wonderfully.

  • Great blog post. I sometimes think I spell checked my posts but relized that I forgot after It posted which really sucks

  • Very interesting series Darren, and thanks for the mention of Daily Writing Tips.

  • Be sure to follow GrammarGirl at Twitter. Her book, based on her podcasts, is really good. “Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing” by Mignon Fogarty. She even has chapters about blogging and tweeting. Love it!

    Dani
    http://bloodredpencil.blogspot.com (a new group blog for the editing-minded)

  • Darren,

    At HeBlogsSheBlogs.com, we run a weekly “Putrid Prose” column in which we gently poke fun at real-life grammar, usage, and punctuation mistakes and offer tips for how to fix common errors. As professional writers/authors, we have a pretty good handle (most of the time) on grammar/usage/punctuation. I’m a former high school English teacher, and I actually enjoy helping people fix their writing problems (I know; it’s a strange hobby, but I can’t help myself).

    Laura Christianson

  • Thanks for the links – I really need them.

    I’m learning hard-core Norwegian at the moment – (Norwegian just looks like english spelt badly) – but I’m in so deep that now I’m forgetting how to spell English! lol.

  • I write, proof-read three times, THEN hit publish.

  • There’s always prowritingtips.com. :-)

    Even I, though, have my wife read my posts before I submit. I’m a firm believer that you should never edit or proofread your own writing, if at all possible.

  • I like this post, save me a lot of trouble to correct my grammar mistake.. Way to go Darren…

  • On the list of books to buy I would strongly recommend “The Elements of Style” by Strunk and White. This little book handles the elementary rules that we should have learned a long time ago as well as addressing topics such as clarity and phrase strength. It continues to change the way I write.

    Thanks for posting on what I consider an important topic that can easily be overlooked.

  • Pet peeves:

    1. There are no such words as “alot” or “allot”. A LOT is two words, and always has been.

    2. They’re is a contraction of “they are.” Their is possessive, as in “their beer is now my beer.” There indicates a place, or a direction. “They’re going over THERE to get their beer.

    3. There is a difference between “to” and “too.”

  • It’s funny that on the same day as this great piece of advice, there is an article over at Copyblogger on how to write a post in 20 minutes (not written by BC, btw).

    Although the article admits that this time doesn’t account for the sketching out of ideas, it fails to mention time spent proofreading and checking links.

    Anyone who can write a post in 20 minutes is either not proofreading it or not writing anything worth reading IMO.

  • knowledge and end result.
    while i do have sufficient English knowledge,
    (not a serious blogger just as yet),
    but when i see my posted comments, i feel like tearing at my hairs, seeing what i have written, some one will think i am an idiot.
    i think its got a to do a lot with as to which stage of your blogging path you are, as new bees like me tend to make more mistake,
    may be out of excitement, as also laziness at times.
    but your post is worth keeping in mind

  • I really loved Eats, Shoots and Leaves. It was a fantastic and fun read, which kind of surprised me. I was expecting it to be dreary and a bit dry. Far from it!

  • You say take your time writing posts and then Copyblogger is telling people how to write a 20 minute post. Interesting….

  • If I come across a blog that has a lot of spelling errors I am less likely to return. I won’t take the information seriously if there are mistakes all through the post.

  • It’s interesting that Shaun Connell mentioned the book Eats, Shoots & Leaves. The phrase “eats, shoots and leaves” is intended to demonstrate the importance of the serial comma, which is sadly missing from the header image: “Punctuation, Spelling and Grammar.”

  • Dare I say it? I sometimes edit after I publish. Sometimes, I catch an error days later… yep, I still edit. The purists don’t like that attitude, but I figure the blogging platforms have post-edit capability for a reason.

    Dani
    http://bloodredpencil.blogspot.com

  • Rob

    I worked many summers as an editor/proofreader at a university press. No matter how many times and how carefully we read something, errors end up in print in books – when it’s too late (except eventually in errata editions, of course). There’s nothing that makes invisible errors appear than when they are are published! Grrr! The same is true with blogging, unfortunately.

    Rob
    Editing is a rewording experience.

  • Lusy

    It’s definitely better to save it as a draft and come back to proofread before finally posting it. Thanks for the links to the blogs to subscribe to.

  • I’m a big believer in fresh eyes. I like to leave my post overnight and then reread it in the morning. So far, there’s never been a time that I haven’t changed or corrected something.

  • I’m studying journalism and I stiil can’t work out when to use which or that…and is it which or that that has to be followed by a comma????

    A really good article is by George Orwell – I can’t remember what it’s called exactly, but it’s something like “the english language”

    It’s great – …He presents these pieces of writing by professors that don’t make sense at all…He says the key to good writing is to not be pretentious. Take out unneccessary words. Don’t use dying metaphors or cliches.
    Worth a read if you can get hold of it

  • “Politics and the English Language” by George Orwell here:

    http://www.orwell.ru/library/essays/politics/english/e_polit

  • I hate when I find an error and only fix it after so many have already read it.

    I want to give the impression that I’m a skillful writer, always. And my mistakes certainly do not add to this desire.

    This is a great post. Thanks for sharing the resources!

  • This is a great post and advice I need to follow.
    I definitely need the fresh eyes!
    Sometimes when I proofread quickly I see what I think I should have written rather than what I really did write!

  • You know, I was just thinking about this today, only I wasn’t brave enough to call it laziness. :)

  • I recently make a big mistake for my poll. I didn’t test the link and application work or not. Because of that blunder no body bother to look at the poll.

  • Hey darren I use to do lot of grammatical errors with blogging. But later i found many text editors which can remove my errors .. like word,text pad etc..
    Well i am very happy with my blogging:)

  • I was once criticised heavily for bad grammar and language, and I thought that a personal blog should not be penalised for it. It was nevertheless a good wakeup call for me, because after that, I would revise my work and check the spelling and grammar. I do that for a living as well.

    I find a lot of errors when I read ebooks and other posts, and sometimes they do hinder understanding. While I am not asking for people to write accurately all the time, they should take the time out to find out their common errors.

    One example is the wrong use of ‘its’. ‘Its’ is similar to ‘his’ or ‘her’ in usage, but many write ‘it’s’ instead. The one with an apostrophe is short for ‘it is’.

  • I agree with You guys, because I am not native English talking – I just installed great spell check plugin for firefox – and it works just amazing. That spell check shows up writing this comment, before posting it in wordpress. For me more challenging is to just write good content. I use Windows Live Writer when writing my blog posts.

    Thanks for the article!

  • I know I’m not good in grammar, tense, etc..
    But it is important to improve our language..

  • I enjoyed reading your blog, and I agree with everything you say…

  • Hi Darren, I used to make mistakes in the earlier days of my blogging. Blogging helped me a lot to improve the language and wtiting skills.
    Thanks for the resources

  • Spell checkers are no replacement for proofreading & editing. A spell checker is not going to catch “there” where you meant “their,” because “there” is spelled correctly but is wrong grammatically.

    Spell checkers are useful at an initial layer of proofreading. After that grammar, style, sentence structure, strong vocabulary and so much more come into play.

  • Is it just me or has spelling and grammar been on the decline in recent years? It actually gives (the situation) competitive advantage to those who take the time to write good English and we should encourage everyone to learn from the good ‘wordsmiths’ as Darren is, here.

  • Darren, couldn’t agree with you more! Aside from unimaginative content, poor grammar and spelling is the quickest turnoff for me as a reader. I will walk away from a blog and never look back.

    I try to be super-careful with my own blog’s grammar, but it could always use extra attention.

    I think it’s important to point out that you don’t have to be rigid with your LANGUAGE to have good grammar. Know your readership – use LOL or WTF or whatever if that’s their language (even if it’s not in the dictionary), talking the talk of a culture or readership is extremely important to connect genuinely. But make sure your GRAMMAR is top-notch, or it will be so distracting that your message may be lost.

  • I still find grammatical errors that I also have to embarrassingly fix and I admit that it really has to do with the time factor. I am always in a rush to publish because I have so many other things to do.

    But I do try. What I do find annoying though is people who leave comments that do not take the time to use any grammatical niceties at all. What is really strange is that upon visiting their blogs I find that their posts are done in exactly the same fashion, and then they wonder why they do not have any readers.

  • Funny you mentioned Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation. It is a great book.

    Sadly, I think that the people who care about punctuation aren’t the ones that need help.

  • JQK

    Darren…very important article and links to wonderful resources that we can all benefit from.

    None of us can ever be perfect, yet we should never stop striving.

    I frequently revisit old articles I have written, and have never once came away satisfied that it is the best I could have done. I always find butchered grammar to repair or an ambiguous sentence or phrase to remold. It’s frustrating, humbling, and educational too!

    Thanks,

    JQK

  • I wouldn’t advice the blogger spelling test, took it for fun, but at the end u are not presented with the correct answers. and the link to the answers page from the beginning of the test doesn’t work.

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