Everyone knows it, right? We’re taught how to write properly in elementary school, we’re expected to develop skills in essay writing during high-school and if/when we hit university, there are whole seminars, library programs, tutorials and websites made available to ensure that we know how to communicate via the written word.

So if good writing matters so much, what does it mean when spelling and grammar errors show up on major blogs and websites? It’s rare that I come across them on writer’s websites, but the times I find errors on sites written by editors, publishers, journalists and indeed marketing professionals takes my breath away. Everyone has different skill levels, of course, but if the co-author the CMA guide to email marketing ( who also works for a major publisher) writes the phrase “more stronger” on the blog of the Canadian Marketing Association, I have to wonder whether he takes me seriously as a customer.

Given this very disappointing reality, I’d like to offer these few tips on reaching your blog/forum/social media audience in a way that is concise, believable and most importantly, a way that does not insult anyone’s intelligence.

1. Write a draft.

A draft for a blog post? These things are supposed to be informal.

They certainly are, but not to the point of being incoherent. If your blog is private and only for certain eyes, do what you wish to reach that audience. But if you’re trying to convince others to agree with you, write out a brief outline and short draft of what you want to say before you say it.

This is particularly important for beliefs about which you are passionate. It’s so easy to get up on the soapbox about your cause, your news item, your brand, whatever. But having strong feelings on a subject doesn’t mean you get to leave coherence at the door. Plus, no-one will agree with an hysteric. Maybe that’s unfair, but it’s true.

I’m a stream-of-consciousness-writer.

No, you’re not.

2. Decide on a format

It’s perfectly normal to identify phrases and spellings differently depending on whether you’re used to Canadian, American, British, Australian or any other myriad dialects of proper English. Just don’t throw them all in a pot and expect your phrases and words to make sense. If you want to plough a field, you can’t also pick a favorite; for that you need to plow a field. Make your matches and keep it consistent, otherwise you’ll end up with an audience looking up what a gaol is when they could instead be swayed by your savvy arguments about prisons.

3. Use an electronic tool.

We’re talking about electronic media here, so even if you prefer a pen or stylus, transfer your thoughts to a word processing program before you release it into the big, wide world. Blogging, emailing and even some social media platforms support spelling and grammar checking as you write. Because of this, there is simply no excuse for poor grammar and spelling errors to appear online. Many mistakes can be found instantaneously.

These programs don’t understand what I’m writing

Fair enough. Many of them are imperfect and will find fault with something that’s actually correct. You can make use of the integrated dictionaries, grammar and dictionary websites and even online writing labs to be sure of yourself. If you write for an audience that uses lots of jargon for example, you can assume that your readers understand acronyms and short-hand. Getting used to looking for errors and checking twice to see if your sentence makes sense is an invaluable skill in the altogether literate world of online publishing.

4. Read it out loud

You might feel silly doing this, but reading aloud is one of the easiest ways to find common errors. The eye deliberately “corrects” errors when you read silently so that you can make sense of the whole phrase. Reading aloud forces your brain to convert text to speech, which even the most sophisticated computers still can’t do regularly or with inflection. Make your mind pick up on everything. You might feel self-concious, but your writing will be taken far more seriously than the next blog over (so to speak) that contains mistakes.

I assume if you’ve read this far that you realize why grammar matters. There are nitpickers and bored/ocd editors out there who go nuts for grammar on an almost unhealthy scale. These people are not my audience. You guys know that when you send out a message, you want the response and comments and share messages to be about how much you’ve opened their eyes about your cause/brand/product/event/neat thing you care about. If the comments and messages are about how ridiculous your wording is, or how you can’t use a spell-checker, your point is totally lost even if it’s a world-changing idea.

Language is a tool with which to remake reality. So make your reality about your passion, not your poor communication skills.

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