Grammar is a touchy territory. Talking to grammar snobs is probably one of the most uncomfortable moments for anyone. Who (not whom) would not feel uneasy when talking to someone who (again, not whom) seems to check whether your subjects and verbs agree? However, when you are in content marketing, flawless grammar matters. It distinguishes a trusted brand from second-rate ones. It gives the impression that you are taking your job, your brand, and your audience seriously.
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Pop satirist Weird Al Yankovic has some tongue in cheek reminders. With over 15 million views on Youtube, “Word Crimes”, a parody of Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines”, became an instant anthem for grammar police and nerds. The rise of social media has taken its toll on grammar — young people do not write in complete sentences anymore, spell words correctly, use punctuations, and so on. What we have is a generation of slang mumblings, you know? I mean, ain’t that right? Texting also altered the language landscape. It eliminated some “waste words and letters” but resulted in grammar ignorance and indifference. Weird Al’s grammar lesson aims to take us out of that black hole. Content marketers can pick up a few things from his two cents and save good content from forthcoming death.
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Look at “Word Crimes” as a cooler version of Strunk-White “Elements of Style,” a grammar bible even today or half a century after it was published. Linguistic conservatives acknowledge the fact that language is ever-evolving. However, there are some things that never go out of style like the proper use of pronouns, punctuations, and idioms. Weird Al devoted an entire verse differentiating the possessive adjective “its” and the contraction for it is or “it’s.” His English for the dummies also reminds everyone to say “to whom” and never “to who,” proper use of “less” for collective nouns and “fewer” for the plural form of things, and “doing good” as in performing noble deeds as against “doing well” referring to achieving success. Texters are also most guilty of another word crime — using numbers to mean words (not so gr8). In case you’re not aware, there is also no “X” is espresso.
Weird Al Speaks to Content Marketers
Content marketers have more to worry about other than just content, style, or being viral. A writer at Fractl, a company producing marketing campaigns, surveyed 500 digital publishers including Time, Huffington Post, and the New York Times about the importance of grammar in content marketing. The results showed that 85% of publishers would automatically disregard a pitch with spelling and grammar errors regardless of the content’s quality.
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Social media is another challenge. For example, Twitter has only 140 characters but as a professional marketer, don’t you ever fall for that. One of Weird Al’s pet peeves (and should be yours, too) are using texting and chat languages such as B-C-R-U (Be, See, Are, You). Always write in complete sentences and words “unless you’re seven or your name is Prince.”
Remember that the online world is a big world and your words are your emissaries to reach every single population in that part of the world. Your writing style gives you personality — warm, fun, serious, credible. However, it is your sentence constructions and choice of words that give you that professional, competent, and trustworthy vibe. Social media platforms such as blogging and Twitter and Facebook updates are some of the most effective ways to reach an audience. Make sure you don’t come off as amateur and stupid. Do not be an easy target for “internet trolls.”
Proofread Before Publishing
Never assume that your first headline is perfect. Never assume that your lead is flawless. Never assume that you got it all right. Content marketing is serious business. Why else would companies allocate budget and hire teams to perk up that department? Make sure you have in your team proofreaders who will go crazy with the incessant use of “literally” and “I could care less.”
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It’s hard to spot mistakes in an article that you yourself wrote. Two heads are better than one, so they say. Sometimes it’s not enough to go by the rule: “if it doesn’t sound right, it’s probably wrong.” Grammar is a science and assumptions are not welcome.
Do not worry about your writing style taking the backseat to grammar. There is no need to compromise. Proper use of words never goes out of style anyway. Weird Al’s “Word Crimes” is an amusing reminder for writers and content marketers: do not be careless. It is true that when it comes to language, nothing is written in stone. Language changes and evolves. However, in a world wherein people “take your word for it,” there is a stricter standard of language that effective content marketers must adhere to. If you want to be taken seriously, take Weird Al and grammar lessons seriously. It’s also a way of showing that you take your audience seriously.