6 grammar mistakes that drive blog readers nuts
Your website’s blog should be a space where you can inspire readers and demonstrate your brand’s authority in your field. It should contain a library of credible content that’s professional and easy to understand. Because of this, it’s imperative to use proper grammar in articles.
As the old adage goes, it’s not what you say; it’s how you say it. You could include the most compelling information in the world, filled with expert analysis and brilliant insights. But if that information is presented in a way that’s grammatically incorrect or otherwise difficult to read, you risk losing all credibility and, ultimately, losing your potential customers.
Let’s highlight a few common mistakes that irritate readers and can weaken your credibility. By avoiding the six grammar mistakes below, you’ll be able to communicate effectively and maintain your writing’s influence on readers.
But before we get into that, let’s further discuss why grammar is so essential in the first place.
Why is grammar important?
When you pull new readers into your blog, the ultimate goal should be to ensure they come back for more or believe in you enough to make a purchase from your business. You can do that through establishing credibility.
When someone searches for a blog on a particular subject, it stands to reason that they aren’t experts — they want to learn more. For example, someone who just had a tooth extracted might look up dental blogs to see what they should and shouldn’t eat or how to care for a temporary bridge they just had installed.
Even if you’re a prominent expert in the dental industry, communicating your points through crude sentences ripe with errors will kill your credibility. Imagine going to a conference to see someone speak about a topic. Will you trust what they say if they show up in a wrinkled, stained t-shirt, sweatpants, and old ratty sneakers with their hair askew?
In a professional setting, you want that speaker dressed to the nines in a sharp suit, polished shoes, and meticulously neat hair, or at least a look that captures a sense of credibility with the audience.
The same goes for any text-based communication, like blogs, product pages, and email marketing messages. But instead of clothing and hygiene, you have to make a solid impression through sentence structure, spelling, and grammatical perfection.
This need for polish is why many businesses outsource their blogs to content-writing services that can reduce the stress of blogging. Others use AI blogging tools to check grammar and spelling before publishing articles on their websites.
But these solutions have both pros and cons and can only get you so far. And even if you’re planning to outsource, you should still understand the basics of grammar to ensure that you receive quality work.
So whether you decide to tackle these writing responsibilities yourself or hand them over to someone else, there are a few common mistakes you need to watch out for.
1. Confusing words that sound alike
Certain words, called homophones, sound alike but are spelled differently, and lots of people get them mixed up when writing — and don’t even know it,
A few of the most common are these two sets:
- There, their, and they’re
- Your and you’re
It’s common to find people who use these words incorrectly, and when they are, it’s instantly recognizable and a massive blow to the writer’s credibility.
Let’s break these down one at a time.
First up, we have the word “their,” which is a plural possessive pronoun. In English, that means it shows possession by more than one person. For example, you could say, “Bert and Jessica are eating their dinner.” In this case, “their” shows that the dinner belongs to both Bert and Jessica.
Next, let’s discuss “there,” a word that denotes a place. “Ernie is going over there” would be the proper usage. It’s used to describe a location that’s not where you currently are. That’s why “there” usually contrasts with the word “here.” Saying something like “I’m over here, but I need to go over there” can show the two terms in action.
Then we have “they’re,” a contraction of the two words “they are.” The apostrophe takes the place of the letter “A,” and the two words become one. “They’re here” would be a perfect example.
So, for these first three, it would be accurate to say, “They’re going over there to get their dinner.”
Meanwhile, “your” is a possessive adjective pertaining to the person you’re speaking with. “Those are your books” would be correct.
The word “you’re” is another contraction of two words. In this case, it’s a contraction of the words “you are.” So, saying, “You’re on thin ice,” would be correct.
Together, the two words could be used in a sentence like, “You’re going to get your books.”
When you misuse the above terms in a blog, it’s instantly noticeable. Ensure you’re paying careful attention to how they’re included in your next article.
2. ‘Then’ vs. ‘than’
The words “’then” and “than” sound similar, but their meanings are different. You’ll want to make sure that you understand the proper meaning of each word in order to use them throughout your blog copy accurately.
“Then” is a term that indicates time. When discussing a series of events, it’s common to say that “this happened, and then that happened.”
“Than,” on the other hand, is a term used when comparing something. So, you could say something like, “those potato chips are better than the competing brand,” and you’d be right.
Now, let’s look at some improper usage.
If you were to say, “turn left and than turn right,” you’d be wrong. You’re using the comparative term to indicate time.
Similarly, it’s wrong to say, “those cars are safer then those other cars.” This time you’re using the time-based term to form a comparison.
When looking at these incorrect examples, you can see how jarring it is for the reader and how one might instantly feel uneasy about trusting the advice of a medical or legal blog when such errors are present.
- Then: Used to indicate time
- Than: Used to compare two or more subjects
3. Misuse of Quotes
Misusing quotes in your blog articles could cost you credibility and get you into legal trouble.
When you use quotes, you have to cite your source accurately. This process typically involves noting where you found your information online and hyperlinking to that source. Linking to a source page lets readers know you’ve done your research and allows them to explore the topic further.
We also do this to avoid plagiarism — when someone copies someone else’s words and passes them off as their own. Plagiarism is an instant credibility killer in readers’ eyes, and it can also be actionable from a legal standpoint should the original author decide to push the issue.
Plagiarism can be both intentional and unintentional. Deliberate plagiarism is when someone knowingly copies the work of another and provides no sourcing link. Accidental plagiarism occurs when you unknowingly make the same points in the same way as someone else.
To avoid being guilty of plagiarism, you either need to paraphrase the point in a way that makes it your own or put quotes around it and cite the original writer with a link.
Here’s an example of how you can properly use quotes.
According to an article published by Bookafy, “segmentation enables you to group your target audience according to their characteristics and interests.”
We took a direct quote from a blog article, linked out to the source within the body of our text, and included the snippet in quotation marks.
Often, a summary of ideas is called for rather than a full direct quote. When you paraphrase information, you must still give credit to the source.
Let’s go back to our earlier example to showcase how to do this ethically.
According to Bookafy, you can use segmentation to split your target audience into groups broken down by particular shared interests or characteristics.
We avoided using quotes here, but we also give credit where credit was due by linking to our source. There are online tools to help avoid plagiarized and duplicated content. Tools like Grammarly will compare your text against millions of other sites and look for similarities. You can use the help of a professional paraphrase generator to craft plagiarism-free sentences. Remember that you should still give credit to the original source, even if you only use a summary.
4. Improper use of bullet points
Bullet points can be helpful when writing a blog. They can help break up a wall of text, guide readers down the page, and make long blogs feel less imposing.
It’s important to remember that many readers skim blog posts in order to find the type of content they want to see. Bullet points make this easier for them, presenting information in an easy-to-digest manner that can help determine relevancy and decide whether or not they want to keep reading.
The wall of text we mentioned above can also be intimidating to readers. That’s why bullet points are so important. They provide a break in the monotony and add white space to the page, making the article more inviting for readers.
But if you’re not using bullet points correctly, you might confuse readers or drive them off while they’re trying to skim your work. Your bullet points must be brief and concise and work together to form a complete thought.
One way to include bullet points is to make your list a continuing sentence. When doing this, you start normally, cut the sentence off with a colon, and then continue through bullet points.
Here’s an example from a blog entitled “What is a DVIR?”
As you can see, this is a continuing thought generated by the initial introduction. Because these bullet points are all complete sentences, they end in punctuation. But that’s not the only way to include bullet points.
You could also introduce an idea and then list your items one at a time. Here’s an example.
The following items should be included in your luggage when packing for vacation:
- A bathing suit
- Beach towels
- Prescription medications
In the example above, we introduced the idea with a complete sentence and then continued to create a list of items that a reader can easily skim.
Make sure that you’re using these lists throughout your content and that they’re structured properly. The end result is a more attractive and easily skimmed article that can show readers the relevancy of your content without a huge time commitment.
5. The difference between the words ‘affect’ and ‘effect’
Affect and effect mostly sound the same, but like some of the other terms discussed in this guide, they mean very different things.
Affect is a verb, meaning that it’s an action word. When using “affect” in a sentence, you directly relate to an action occurring. Something like “The weather affects our ability to play soccer” would be perfect. It’s the weather taking action in this sentence.
Effect is a noun, meaning it’s not an action word; it’s a thing. To use “effect” correctly in a sentence, you might talk about “the effect that the weather has on our ability to play soccer.” We’re not talking about the action the weather is taking. We’re instead referring to the effect as the subject of a sentence.
- Affect: A verb showcasing an action that’s occurring
- Effect: A noun that serves as the subject of a sentence
Remember to ask yourself whether you’re referring to an action or a subject before writing affect or effect to avoid this grammatical mistake.
6. Run-on sentences and fragments
You want your sentences to be short, punchy, and easy to follow. That’s why run-on sentences can be a giant credibility killer when used in your blog.
Run-on sentences are usually very long and confusing. You’ve got a run-on sentence when two or more independent clauses are used together with no punctuation or conjunction. With such constructions, you’re creating a rambling train of thought that’s difficult to follow.
Here’s an example:
I love cheeseburgers so much I would eat them every day if I could, but the doctor says they’re bad for my cholesterol.
There are three independent clauses in that sentence. Stringing them together like that creates a confusing and meandering thought that can lose a reader. Instead of listing your thoughts like this, you can split them into two or three sentences.
Here are two ways to fix this run-on sentence:
I love cheeseburgers so much. I would eat them every day if I could. But the doctor says they’re bad for my cholesterol.
I love cheeseburgers so much. I’d eat them daily, but the doctor says they’re bad for my cholesterol.
In the first example, we simply split each independent clause into its own sentence. We shortened the second and third clauses in the second example and connected them with a comma.
You also want to avoid sentence fragments, which are incomplete sentences that don’t contain a complete independent clause. Fragments are missing either a verb or a subject.
Here’s an example of a sentence fragment:
I went to the doctor. Even though I wasn’t sick.
Fixing these fragments involves a minor restructuring. The correct way to write these fragments together as a complete sentence would be:
Even though I wasn’t sick, I went to the doctor.
This edit creates a simple complete thought compiled into one sentence.
Good grammar requires practice
Remember, it’s not what you say but how you say it that truly matters. Your blog needs excellent and accurate information, but you must avoid excessive grammatical mistakes if you want to hold onto your credibility.
These six grammar mistakes are just the beginning, and maintaining your website’s accuracy requires practice and diligence.
To review, the six common grammar mistakes you want to avoid are:
- Confusing their, there, they’re, your, and you’re
- Misusing then and than
- Improperly using quotes and citations
- Improperly using bullet point lists
- Confusing affect and effect
- Including run-on sentences and fragments in your copy
By avoiding these six common mistakes, you’ll be able to craft elegant, easy-to-understand blog articles that will show off your expertise and keep your readers coming back for more. And remember that an engaging blog also calls for other elements, such as successful landing page design.
Be sure to check out our Guru Guide covering everything you need to know about launching a branded blog for more ideas on keeping your blog readers happy. You can also take your website copy to the next level with these tips to build your brand voice.