Writing rules no one can break

Become a better mom blog writer part 2: writing rules you can't break
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The general public could take or leave writing rules, and many just leave them. It’s like they (the regular guys, living among us) forgot everything they learned in school about contractions and possessives and how to form plurals and a bunch of other nit-picky rules. 

And therein lies the problem; they recall grammar rules as the darlings of overly passionate English teachers, teachers who stood ready to scrawl humiliating hieroglyphics all over essays. Somewhere along the line, our grammar reprobates decided they didn’t need that drama.

Before we get any farther, this is part 2 of our series on how to write better mom blog posts. Here’s part 1, if you missed it. 

It wouldn’t really have mattered much if it wasn’t for the dawn of social media and blogging. Now those same people—the grammar rebels—who vowed never to write anything beyond their weekly grocery list, are airing their ignorance for the rest of the world—us grammar avengers—to raise our eyebrows at.

You might be the artist, but you can’t break all the writing rules.

I used to be obnoxious and correct people’s spoken English; it gave me a little bit of a bad reputation. I was young and hadn’t realized that the spoken language is off limits; any native speaker may use it any way they like.

It’s unfair to the language, but true. Furthermore, language is constantly changing, adapting to a changing culture. What was cutting edge vernacular one day is taboo a generation later.

Now I mostly leave people alone about their speech. They can talk however they like. Let their background and culture color their every word choice and sentence structure. May they grace many a conversation with their unique use of our beloved English. They’ll get no argument from me (unless they’re my husband).

But as soon as they take pen to paper or finger to keyboard, they have to play by the writing rules. They must set their upbringing aside and forget all the colloquial mannerisms of their spoken dialect.

It’s time to write and writing is serious.

I think I better stop to say that I’m not talking about dialogue writing in a novel, or something. In order to communicate a particular accent or culture to a reader, some writers (Twain comes to mind) may go to great lengths to write words as the character would speak them.

But don’t get too hung up on this; unless you’re planning a highly controversial novel you don’t have much to worry about.

The bigger issue for us today is all those rules people break with the utmost irreverence on a daily basis and in front of hundreds and thousands of people. We’re talking the big ones. I can let a little me-versus-I error slide, but some things just need to be handled.

Moms, your blog post is one of millions out there. If you want to be taken seriously, take things seriously.

Someone I know once asked me to proofread some newsletters they were sending out from the mission field. This person is a college graduate. Smart. Not a strong writer, but most people aren’t. For their purposes most of the newsletter was fine, with the exception of two very big, very inexcusable errors.

This person was forever using “then” for “than.” Not just once, but every time. When I pointed this out to them, they responded that they never used than.

I’m sorry, what?

How do you just never use a word when it has to be used? Then isn’t a synonym of than. They aren’t interchangeable. My shock and exasperation were evident but I don’t know that I convinced the writer to change their ways.

The other error this writer made was to use the wrong form of “its” and “it’s.” It appears they had the meanings confused as I think every single instance used the incorrect form. I pointed this out as well.

This is an example of someone who didn’t play by the writing rules, and it showed.

We writers are humble stewards of the words and constructions set down by the masters of our mother tongue. Oh we can be artists, when the opportunity presents itself, but even in our art we must apply theory.

Here, however, are a few rules we bloggers can break without fear of offending:

  1. It ticked.me.off.

Here the periods don’t mean the end of a sentence. We’re using them for emphasis, hoping our reader will read it in the emphatic, choppy way we would speak it.

2.  Amiright?

I doubt this will be in vogue for long, but for now bloggers and social media posters alike may use it without much fear. Again, it’s a construction we’ve invented to help us write something the way we would say it aloud.

3. Fo’ sho’

You better be confident before you drop this one. It if suits your style and you want to drop it, be my guest.

Now that you’ve got an idea of some rules you may break without turning heads in a bad way, let me remind you of a few you can’t.

  1. Their taking there’s over they’re.

There/They’re/Their is a big one. I even find myself typing the wrong version sometimes (the horror, to think that I may have inadvertently set one loose in the blogosphere…). The rule stands, though, that only one of those words will suit your need at a given time. Only one.

2. The 1990’s were good to me.

The 1990’s what was good to you? Its music? Its fashion? What? When you  dropped that little apostrophe between the 0 and the s, you made 1990 possessive of something. You probably thought you were making the number plural, referring to the entire decade. Sorry, but no. If that’s what you intended, you needed to leave the apostrophe at home.

3. Calling all mommys!

Rookie mistake. Literally, rookies in the third grade make this mistake. Certain y-ending words change form when they become plural. Mommy transforms into mommies, baby into babies, and monkey to…monkeys. I don’t make the rules.

You’ll just have to accept it, grammar matters. There really are writing rules. You’ve embarked on a professional business venture, a newish angle for entrepreneurs called blogging where your success won’t be measured with letters A through D and F; it will be measured by your traffic, your profit, your reach and reputation.

To help you wade through some of the mumbo-jumbo we’ve reintroduced today, I’ve made a little worksheet for you. Download it and start scraping off the rust.

 

Become a better mom blog writer part 2: writing rules you can't break

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