Writing well for social media is a must

writing for social media, writing and punctuation for social mediaPeople seem to forget–or just disregard–the importance of writing well for social media, even their personal accounts. Keep in mind that what you put out on social media becomes identified with you: It’s all part of your brand. And what you put on the Web stays on the Web.

PRNews Online offers six reasons why the rules of grammar still apply. Although the column is aimed at PR professionals, the reasons apply to everyone. Social media addicts should review that list, paying particular attention to Rules 2 and 3 (Professionalism and Respect). Do you want to be taken seriously? If so (and you should) adhere to the rules of grammar and punctuation while writing for social media.

Grammar and punctuation errors on social media (and forums, for that matter) are as varied as the writers themselves. But I’ve seen several types of mistakes time and again. Let’s review these. If any apply, make an effort to improve. (Of course, if your copy suffers other ailments, work on those as well.)

Because Facebook and Twitter are such popular platforms with the masses, they host the lion’s share of problems. But even heady LinkedIn sees a fair number of errors.

Grammar and punctuation errors on social media

These three rules of grammar are the most-widely violated on social media, by my admittedly unscientific calculation.

Capitalization: As in, a lack thereof. Entire sentences, even paragraphs, are written entirely in lower case. I used to blame it on smartphones. Smartphone owners tell me, however, that it’s not difficult to produce an upper case letter.

As you may recall from English grammar, these three parts of speech always are capped: the pronoun ‘I’ (the only way the letter ‘i’ is used alone), the first letter of a sentence, and all proper nouns (names of products or people).

If you can follow this rule, you will improve the quality of your writing substantially.

Punctuation: The most common error being the overuse of the comma. We’ll see sentences like this:

That is a really nice boat, I wish I had one like that.

Software developers are not immune. When you download software, you’ll likely to see this prompt:

Please wait, the program will download in a few minutes.

Somewhere along the way people became infatuated with the comma. It’s a great punctuation mark; don’t get me wrong. But we can’t forget about the others.

Each of the above examples includes a complete sentence. We need a longer break between them. The period is fine–why not use it?

Become reacquainted with the other punctuation marks. You will find they’re quite useful.

Spelling: Wow. This column could go on forever. I’ll limit it to the top three I see.

A. You’re/your issue: The first is a contraction for ‘you are’ (and ‘you were’), while the second is a pronoun. Too often we see your when you’re is called for. I believe it’s because those individuals write phonetically. Because they pronounce you’re as your, they spell it that way, too.

B. Used to/use to: The proper form is used to. We used to go to the beach when we were kids.  There is no use to.

C. Should’ve/should of: Should’ve is a contraction for should have. There is no such term as should of.

As is the case with example A, B and C are the result of writing phonetically. You simply need to learn and memorize the proper spelling.

D. It’s/its: It’s is short for it is, while its is a plural pronoun. Too often we see it’s or even its’ when the situation calls for its. You just have to remember that the pronoun (its) does not have an apostrophe. Just like hers and yours, that’s the way it is.

Do you have difficulty with these types of errors? Don’t feel bad; many people struggle with these. A good reference is Prof. Paul Brians’ Common Errors in English. I highly recommend you bookmark his page and refer to it often.

For related reading, see “Remember the fundamentals of communication” and “Edit thoroughly for clean, professional copy.”

What grammatical errors do you see in social media? Feel free to leave a comment below. If you found value in this post, please share it so others may benefit from what you and I have written. You may use any of the following buttons. To contact me, send an email.

Tom Fuszard


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