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POSTED 5.5.2017

Six grammar and punctuation hacks you just need to know

Everything you always wanted to know about punctuation and grammar but were afraid to ask. Ok, so even we admit this is not the sexiest subject for a blog but it’s got to be done.

By Martha Kearns.

As a business, you are going to be creating content in one form or another – for your website, for your own blogs, for your social media, for press releases or other contacts with the media. But you cannot just create content for the sake of it; it has to be compelling.

Compelling doesn’t just mean that it has a ‘clickbait’ headline (like we just did). Of course, the content has to grab attention but it also has to be of use to the reader so they will come back for more. And, just as important, it also has to be well written, jargon-free and contain no mistakes.

For a lot of the companies we work with, punctuation and grammar causes the most problems when they are creating their content.

Many people have forgotten the grammar they learned at school and many more just don’t ‘get’ how to use some forms of punctuation, with the semicolon and hyphens two of the most misunderstood forms.

Here we hope to clear up some of the confusion around some common mistakes and give you easy-to-remember tools to make your own content sharper and more trusted.

We have a feeling this will be a subject we will be coming back to again so if there are any particular issues you have — like when to use effect or affect or the point of a comma — just let us know and we’ll be happy to help you out.

1. It’s confusing!

The number one grammatical error that consistently occurs is people confusing ‘its’ and ‘it’s’. But it couldn’t be simpler. You only use ‘it’s’ when you mean ‘it is’. Eg: ‘It’s such a beautiful day today.’ And you use ‘its’ when you are using the possessive. Eg: ‘Our business is celebrating its third birthday today.’ Simples!

2. Because You’re Gorgeous!

The same goes for ‘Your’ and ‘You’re’. ‘Your’ is the possessive and ‘You’re’ is the shortened version of ‘You are’. Eg: ‘Your hat looks totally ridiculous’ or ‘You’re looking very nice today; is that a new hat?’

3. To ‘z’ or not to ‘z’.

Words that end in –ise or –ize are often mixed up. Eg: ‘Organisation’ or ‘Organization’.  In Ireland, the UK, and Australia, the form –ise is used but in the US and Canada, they use – ize. In actual fact, both are officially acceptable but it’s best to stick with what’s acceptable in the region where your audience is.

4. S’top Apo’strophe Abu’se.

Is it a plural? If not DON’T use an apostrophe. Eg: ‘I have 10 million followers on Twitter.’ Is it indicating possession? If so, DO use an apostrophe. Eg: ‘I have blocked that follower’s horrible comments.’ What if it’s both plural and possessive, then just put the apostrophe after the ‘s’. Eg ‘Why are all my 10 million followers’ comments so mean?

5. Are you winking at me?

The semicolon is not just a winky emoji; it is the most feared punctuation on earth. Just think of it as a tool to eliminate the pause between two sentences without using words like ‘as’ ‘and’ ‘but’ or ‘yet’. Eg: “I am heading into town; there is a great band that I want to see.”

6. How do you console a grammar nerd? Their, There, They’re.

Their is possessive, meaning it owns something. Eg: ‘That is their car’. There refers to a place or idea. Eg: ‘Look at that cat over there’. They’re is a shortened version of ‘They are’. Eg: They’re going to run over that cat over there with their car.