Top ten grammatical and spelling errors made online

There are many sites dedicated to helping would be on-line publishers make their mark on the internet. They tend to address matters such as the technology behind blogging or how to maximise page hits - and income - by Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).

However, while most blogging authorities agree with the adage "Content is King", seldom is there any emphasis put upon the building blocks of content. The words. The punctuation. Grammar. These are the essence of content.

Recently this was highlighted in the Performancing article titled Ten Signs of a Cheap Blog. This article was ruthlessly pedantic in outlining what the author deemed to be symptomatic of a cheap blog, such as coloured backgrounds and fixed width designs. Yet these lofty standards did not extend to the application of the rules of grammar taught to a ten year old: there are seven instances where the author has not capitalised the letter used when referring to themselves in the first person. Put simply, he used i instead of I when referring to himself on seven occasions. So this wasn't a typo. It was a choice. The comments that followed the article - including my own - were eager to point out the hypocrisy.

These oversights - and I am being kind using that particular word - are becoming the norm for online communications, not just blogs. Email is littered with them. People are either choosing to break the most basic rules of spelling, grammar and punctuation or they are ignorant of them. I fear it is the former.

If the blogosphere is to present itself as an alternative to more traditional forms of media it should not look like it has been hacked together by a twelve year old. This is as true for the design and implementation of a blog as it is the content. Every part of the content and not just those we choose to be proficient with.

To that end, here is my list of the top ten grammatical and spelling errors - including the misuse of punctuation and conventions - that get under my skin:

1) Using question marks at the end of a sentence that is not a question. Why do you think they are called question marks?;
2) Using more than one exclamation point at the end of a sentence. One is as effective as four and less juvenile;
3) Overuse of quotation marks. Use quotation marks for quotes. Use them for identifying unusual uses of a word or words. If the "reason" you are "using" them is to "emphasise" a certain "point" or to reflect the "voice" inside your "head", don't. When in doubt, leave them out;
4) Alot (sic). There is no such word. Use "a lot";
5) There are three periods (or dots) in an ellipsis (...), not a random scattering of very many periods (............).
6) When using an obscure acronym for the first time in an article or email, use the full term followed by the acronym in brackets. You can then use the acronym for the rest of the article safe in the knowledge that your reader knows what they are reading about.
7) To use the word "literally" in a sentence means just that - it is taken literally. "He literally ripped her to shreds ...". He probably didn't. Most likely he metaphorically did so.
8) Try not to use catch phrases. At one time the phrase "At the end of the day" was used ad nauseum in place of ultimately, in the end and eventually. Your point will be better made if you choose your own words rather than over using worn out phrases.
9) Use there for a location, use they're for the contraction of "they are" and use their to show possession. They are not interchangeable.
10) Choosing not to care. English can be powerful, poetic, dynamic and moving. It can also make you look like a fool. Don't choose to be ignorant.

We all make mistakes. I am sure there will be several in this article and many more in the rest of the articles in this blog. This doesn't mean we should stop trying to be better at using the core tools of our trade. Our words. , , , , , , , , ,