I’m Glad You Asked: Grammar

What’s acceptable in blogging in terms of proper grammar and formal writing vs. “write it like you’d say it?” I find when I write informal emails I use a lot of dashes, ellipses, and commas for cadence. When writing a blog post I find I’m more formal. In that formality I feel like I lose “my” voice. – Christi in Pennsylvania

Scroll down to see the answer to the “voice” part of this question. Today, I tackle the grammar v. “write it like you’d say it” for business blog posting.

So here’s the thing, I believe in accessible writing that sounds like a human wrote it. Let’s say I’m blogging for a brand that one single person doesn’t represent. I write posts in a voice that is accessible to the readership of that brand. The “target audience” (a somewhat dehumanizing term, but you get the point) will respond more favorably to certain styles of writing than others. And as a writer, it’s my job to generally understand the people in that audience… and to speak to them.

For example, you’re my audience. And I know that I can write about “dehumanization” and you’ll be okay. If I were writing for a client, I wouldn’t likely use the term “dehumanizing,” but I might use lots of words and turns of phrase that I, personally, would never say. That’s because my personality isn’t what’s important in these writing cases. (Except for that essential bit of it that allows me to view a situation or product from a variety of lenses.)

Communicating in alignment with the brand is what’s important. This is why, in my writing process with clients, I spend a great deal of time getting to know a business’s existing messages, unearthing the covered up ones, and creating repurposable wording that communicates these messages.

For many-to-most entrepreneurs – Christi included – their personalities are a key component of brand communication. They are, in essence, their brand. They’re their brand… which brings us to grammar’s role.

Grammar, I think, is sadly misunderstood. And I don’t simply mean they’re and their or the invasive apostrophe catastrophe. Those are the particulars of grammar, and I’m talking about the concept of grammar. The concept of grammar is widely misapplied.

Grammar is intended to clarify meaning, not imprison it.

Like any tool, it can be a weapon in desperate or ignorant hands. When we begin to censor or contort ourselves out of fear of the Grammar Gods – or use it as a way to mock other people – we are missing the point.

Grammar is our friend. Seriously.

Not having grammar would be disastrous at worst and really annoying at best. If we didn’t agree to certain structural elements, we wouldn’t be able to communicate. So we have subjects and verbs. Declarative sentences end in periods. Interrogatives require a question mark. These are things we accept, just like we accept that we read and write from left to right on a page.

And so correct grammar – or correctish grammar – is an aid in communication. And it is more or less essential for written communication in business. Ignorance of grammar can confuse your message and erode your credibility.  Intentional use of grammar – throwing in em dashes and commas for emphasis, establishing tone and cadence with punctuation – can be lovely as long as you (more or less) know what you’re doing.

One final quick note: it’s the author’s opinion that intentional misuse of grammar is fabulous when it heightens the message in some way. But before you can intentionally break grammar’s rules, you have to know them. And staying true to grammar’s conceptual purpose is, in my experience, a must.

X to the O.

Shine on,

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MB Outdoor HeadshotI’m Mary Beth Huwe, content strategist. I help entrepreneurs identify, articulate, and translate their most essential messages into kickin’ content that is engaging, communicative, and practical.

These essays are forays into the art and essence of communication. They have not been subjected to the full scrutiny of my editor’s eye(s), and may contain typos. (But you’ll probably never find apostrophe abuse, because that’s just cruel.)