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For Bloggers: The Spelling and Grammar Debate

by Marian Schembari on March 23, 2011

The first draft of this post was called “The Spelling and Grammer Debate” I read over it a dozen times before catching my mistake. So before we dive in to this topic I want to remind you Grammar Nazis that mistakes happen to the best of us.

That said…

As I’m sure any blogger can tell you, there are always a handful of readers who annoy the crap helpfully inform you of any spelling/grammar errors.

And yes. You know who you are.

During my first year of blogging, I got defensive about this. In theory I knew readers were being helpful, but I also thought, “Calm down, who cares?”

Apparently I do. Because the more blogs I read, the more I see too many bloggers pay ZERO attention to the way they’re coming off and the more annoyed I get.

I don’t know why this has been driving me so crazy pants lately. The occasional spelling mistake doesn’t grate on my nerves the way it does to others, but writing like a five-year-old does a blogger no favors.

Story Time…

I led a social media workshop in London last year and consulted with one attendee to get his blog up and running. He has yet to get any decent traction and when I occasionally stop by his site, I can’t concentrate on the content because of his horrible spelling mistakes, completely inarticulate sentence structure and inability to capitalize the word “I” (and not in the cute way design*sponge does it). I can promise you his traffic isn’t growing because why would you trust anyone’s advice if they can’t spend two seconds proofreading their work?

That said, I’m realizing more and more that writing doesn’t come naturally to a lot of people. Some folks I’ve met in real life are so articulate it hurts, but when I visit their blog I’m eye-raped by some of the worst copy I’ve ever read.

The majority of those incredible blogs out there aren’t run by “real” writers. They’re photographers who tell a story or healthy living folks who advise up on good-for-you meals. They blog to teach. Or share their lives. And you don’t need to be an A+ speller to do that.

I recently came across a fabulous food blog that has the most typos I have EVER seen. But this girl gets hundreds of comments per post and was recently able to quit her day job due to the success of her site.

Spelling Champion = Success?

The success of your own site probably won’t have much of a bearing on whether you can spell like Akeelah Anderson or if you use “who” instead of “whom”. I don’t care if you blog about photography or literary theory, blogging IS different from traditional writing and if you do want to be successful online, you need to post often and consistently. And to be honest? Unless you have a huge amount time, it’s not realistic to think you can edit every post to perfection 5 days per week.

As Dave van de Walle wrote, “Doing a proposal that could get your company the next big contract? By all means, attack that with the red pen, get many readers looking at it, run it through the spell check. Doing a blog post that needs to get out the door by 8:30? Go with the flow, even if there’s a chance of error.”

That said, if you’re trying to grow a business, get a job or land clients and you’re only posting once or twice per week, you might want to invest in an editor or barter with someone to read over each post.

Lauren Huston smartly wrote, “Many people blog for business and errors in blogs are similar to having errors on a business card.”

I’m not a Grammar Nazi, and I’m sure you can find a spelling or grammar mistake in every single post of mine (including this one). It’s not because I don’t care or don’t edit my posts within an inch of their lives. It’s simply because no matter how hard we try, mistakes happen and there are bigger and better things I want to spend my time on.

My brilliant advice:

Don’t beat yourself up over every mistake, but also, why risk it? Worry about spelling/grammar enough so that your posts are clean and professional – even if you swear a sailor or only if your mom reads your stuff.

I know you guys are going to have a field day with this one… People get weirdly worked up about spelling. So let’s have it: Agree? Disagree? Want to hit me over the head with a dictionary?

An Updated Note: As predicted, people feel strongly about writing errors, but I want to address something a few of you have commented on… Yes, spell check is great. Use it. There’s no excuse for NOT using it, especially if your browser automagically checks for mistakes. HOWEVER, spell check doesn’t fix everything, especially when a word is spelled correctly, it’s just not the right word. Or apostrophe mistakes (like I made above – now thankfully fixed). My gripe is that people get MEAN about spelling and I wish they wouldn’t. No need to be jerks, guys!

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