There are two things that will absolutely put off any reader – Incorrect information and bad grammar. Yes, nothing makes a reader jump to another blog or put down a magazine article faster than bad grammar. Incorrect information can be forgiven, but weak English cannot.
You don’t have to be a grammar Nazi or the grammar police to ensure that every sentence is structurally correct and sounds right. However, many writers make certain common mistakes while putting pen to paper. Below are five grammatical errors that often (sometimes unintentionally) creep up in content writing:
Passive Voice vs. Active Voice
Perhaps the worst grammar mistake any writer can ever make is writing in passive rather than active voice. In passive voice, the object is placed at the beginning of the sentence. In comparison, in active voice, the subject is placed at the beginning of the sentence. Here’s an example:
Passive: The bowl of porridge was dropped by the cat.
Active: The cat dropped the bowl of porridge.
Writing in passive voice gives the impression that your content isn’t clear.
Incorrectly Using Apostrophes
Apostrophes are used to show possession. However, many novice writers misuse it in content writing. If it’s a plural noun, you need to add an apostrophe after the s. If it’s a singular noun, add the apostrophe before the s. For example:
- The students’ recess was cut short. Not the student’s recess was cut short.
- His wife’s health has deteriorated.
Subject-Verb Agreement Mistakes
Another common copywriting mistake cited by readers is when the verb of a sentence doesn’t agree with the subject. If the subject of the sentence is plural, then the verb must also be plural. The same grammar rule applies if the subject is singular.
- Incorrect: My cousin brother or sister are arriving by flight today.
- Correct: My cousin brother or sister is arriving by flight today.
Sentence sprawl occurs when a sentence is too long, has too many phrases and is difficult to read. Readers get lost and confused before they’ve finished reading the sentence.
Incorrect: John had a flight to Mexico which was suddenly delayed because of bad weather so his meeting there had to be rescheduled to the next day and his hotel booking was altered.
Correct: Due to bad weather, John’s flight to Mexico was delayed. His meeting was rescheduled to the following day and his hotel booking was altered.
Using long sentences in content writing will make text look clunky and unreadable. In fact, the most interesting content will be avoided like the plague by readers if it’s peppered with long sentences.
Using Contractions Wrongly
Even the most experienced writers use contractions erroneously.
- You’re is used in place of you are while your is used to indicate owning something. For example, You’re (you are) a fast swimmer is correct while Your a fast swimmer is incorrect.
- It’s is used in place of it is while its indicates possession. It’s (it is) Halloween today is correct while its Halloween today is incorrect.
- They’re is a contraction for they are while their refers to something owned by a group of people. They’re going to the mall on Thursday is correct and not their going to the mall on Thursday.
The Truth about Getting your Grammar Right
Proofreading and editing your content several times before publishing it will help you correct any grammatical blunders you may have made. Keeping a checklist handy, like this one provided by Grammar Girl, will help you avoid making typical errors. Sometimes, you might not even be aware that you’re making a mistake until you’ve proofread your blog a couple of times.
Practice and an awareness of the frequent grammar gaffes that you make will go a long way in keeping your content writing clear, crisp, accurate, and most importantly, error-free.