When I was in journalism school, I was often told that I wouldn’t be able to find a decent job writing. Whoever told me that was clearly not savvy to the rise of blogging and content marketing.
When I left college, I noticed there was tons of work for writers. But in the ever-expanding field of digital marketing instead of newspaper or radio station jobs.
When I first was hired here at HIPB2B, I was surprised to see the number of people writing for a living without the training in the craft of writing.
These writers, while often inspiring and creative, are missing some of the more technical knowledge of the English language. In today’s post, we look at some common writing mistakes that writers without formal training might never even notice.
COMPLIMENTARY VS. COMPLEMENTARY
It’s unlikely you’ll see someone fishing for a complement, but they might look for a compliment.
What’s the difference between these two words?
Compliment is used to commend, praise, or respect.
Complement is used to complete, add, or perfect something.
You will compliment someone when you notice that the shade of green they’re wearing complements their eyes.
If you compliment yourself, you will notice the letter “I” in it. Use that to remember that the “I” indicates the giving of kind words.
Complement looks like the word “complete” and something complements another thing by adding a part of the whole.
ENTITLED VS. TITLED
I heard there was a blog post written by a frustrated writer entitled, “15 grammar mistakes I’ve never made”.
This isn’t the correct usage of entitled.
Maybe the writer is entitled or entitled to their opinions, but their piece was titled, “15 grammar mistakes I’ve never made”.
I’ve read a lot of excellent copy that contains the word entitled when referring to a title of a video or piece of work.
The correct usage is titled, though some dictionaries have adapted their language to match today’s usage.
DO’S AND DON’TS/DOS AND DONTS/DO’S AND DON’T’S
How do you correctly write this commonly used phrase in content marketing?
This one is pretty easy; it just depends on which style guide you base your brand’s style guide on:
- The Chicago Manual of Style and others recommend dos and don’ts.
- The Associated Press and others recommend do’s and don’ts.
Most marketers follow AP style, as it is a better fit for more casual communication.
ALL ABOUT COMMAS
Most writers both under- and overuse these little points of punctuation.
Commas are supposed to indicate a brief pause. One of the most common usages for commas is in a simple series of three or more nouns.
I sat with my boss, his wife, and their son.
Here, I use what is called an Oxford comma. These are optional, and often in the past, these were eliminated from newspaper copy in the interest of space.
Online, space is no object, so use the oxford comma. It adds clarity to your sentences and is worth the minuscule amount of space it occupies.
Another common comma error I see is the insertion of a comma before “that’ in a sentence.
The blog post, that was evergreen is always relevant.
The blog post that is evergreen is always relevant.
That is incorrect usage of a comma. That introduces a restrictive clause, which means it isn’t optional for the clarity of the sentence.
You use a comma before “which” not “that.”
“Which” is used to introduce a clause that is optional to the sentence.
She created a blog post, which could be posted at any time.
There is one more rule that is very important regarding commas specifically. When you connect two independent clauses with a coordinating conjunction like “and” or “but” you must properly place a comma between the two clauses.
I created a blog post, but I couldn’t publish it yet.
Enough about commas, let’s talk about some other punctuation in and around quotation marks.
PUNCTUATION AROUND QUOTES
This is a tricky area for so many writers, and I remember learning a lot of these rules very quickly in journalism school.
After all, half of journalism is quoting the words of others.
As a general rule, in American English, commas and periods all go inside the quotation marks and dashes, colons, and semicolons go outside. Exclamation and question marks will sometimes go inside the quotation marks and sometimes outside.
Quotation marks are only used to indicate a direct quotation. You use a comma outside of the quotation marks to introduce it. If the quotation is a fragment, you use a comma inside to allow the sentence to continue past the quotation mark. If not, you can use a period inside the quotation marks to end the sentence.
Here are a couple of examples of correct usage:
She said that the blog post was “compelling and captivating,” but also that it contained a handful of typos.
She said, “The blog post is compelling and captivating, but I couldn’t help but notice a few errors.”
Here is an example of one of the more common errors I see with quotation (and one I made many times myself in journalism school.)
“The blog post is compelling and captivating,” she said. “But I couldn’t help but notice a few errors.”
Here, it may be tempting to put a comma after “said” because it seems like the sentence continues here. But you must put the period to end the sentence, even if you continue the quotation on the other side of it.
This one is simple. You might see a writer use the word irregardless, but it isn’t a word. Use regardless instead to maintain credibility.
Everyone is a writer with the internet at their fingertips. Hopefully, by addressing some of these common errors, more writers will be able to communicate with their audience in a clear and direct manner.
That’s all these rules are for — clear and direct communication. And just by reading through this post, you’ve gained just a little of the writing education that you need to propel your marketing strategies forward.