When Language Evolves: The Thing About Grammar & Blogging

March 4th is National Grammar Day, which works out nicely for me since I have a writing blog. As I was brainstorming topics to commemorate the occasion, I decided to use that wonderful means of crowdsourcing, Facebook, to ask my friends for suggestions.

Being super-smart and intelligent people, they made some really good suggestions about “grammar peeves,” which got me thinking about how many of those errors I read each day in blog posts.

And I never bat an eyelash at them.

My career as an English teacher, though a lifetime in the making, was ultimately short-lived. It just wasn’t for me and the 5 years now separating me from it feel like a lifetime. Still, I can clearly recall hunching over students’ papers, circling every minute error and preaching the ways of Standard English.

The students, for their part, always said, “But that’s not how we speak. Why should we write like that?”

To be honest, this question gave me some pause. I knew the answer, but had a very difficult time articulating it. So I would reply that they need to be able to express themselves and communicate clearly as educated people.

This is absolutely true. The ability to communicate clearly is one of the most valuable, marketable skills you can have. I think, though, especially with blogging, that we also need to consider the way that language evolves over time because that’s important to understanding grammar and how we write.

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Bloggers: Cool It With the Wikipedia Links, Yeah?


Wikipedia is wonderful, huh? If you need to look up some quick information about the Roman Empire, Wikipedia is there for you. If you want to find out whether or not Alexander the Great was, in fact, great, Wikipedia is your man. When I was teaching, I always warned my students that, while the site is a great place to get some cursory information, it is still user-generated content and so you should exercise caution. It’s not the be-all and end-all of information.

That being said, it’s a great place for bloggers to do a little bit of quick research that can lead them to some really solid sources. And if you’re blogging about a subject that might not be familiar to the vast majority of your readers, then including a Wikipedia link or two is a good way to help your readers get a quick idea of how the topic applies to your post. If you start loading up on Wikipedia links to really obvious things, however, there’s a good chance you’re making a horrible impression on your readers instead.

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Please Stop Advertising Cheapness

Cheap, eh-Everyone wants a deal. Whether it’s clipping UPC codes for rebates, joining grocery store loyalty programs, extreme couponing, or lining up for Black Friday sales, everyone wants a deal.

And it makes sense. Economically speaking, these have been some tough times. We want to save money where we can. Those pennies need to stretch further than we’d like. So we become bargain-hunters and bargain-shoppers. We take to discount chains and we price-compare like never before. In fact, search the Apple App Store or Google Play for “price comparison apps” and you can hook yourself up with an app that will be, within minutes, telling you where you can get a better deal. (For more info on comparative pricing, Gregory Ciotti has a great article on the psychology of advertising over at KISSmetrics.)

It’s no surprise, then, that companies advertise their products and services as being cheap. Maybe no one thinks about what they’re saying before they release that copy out into the world. Every single time I see anything advertised or described as “cheap,” I wince a little. This word doesn’t make me think of its price, as the company probably intends.

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What is Plagiarism? Breaking Down a Writer’s Worst Offense

Plagiarism is sneaky.When I was teaching, I’d always try to stress to my students how important it is to completely understand plagiarism and why it’s a horrible idea. I’d cite instances of reporters being fired from major publications and schools (especially colleges) suspending or expelling students for plagiarizing work. These, of course, are lessons and tales that all students hear about…

… and forget as adults, it would seem.

Now I’m a writer. I spend a good deal of time interacting with other writers, reading blogs, and immersing myself in what it means to publish online. It’s rather astounding to me that there are people who make careers out of online publishing (or try to) and still don’t truly understand what plagiarism is.

The general belief is that, “Oh, it’s just when you copy someone’s writing.” 

Plagiarism is much more finely nuanced than simply copying someone’s writing. In fact, that’s something of a frustrating reduction.

It’s also one that serial plagiarists commonly use to excuse themselves from other dubious “borrowing” practices.

Because so many writers with good intentions don’t fully understand all the ways in which a person can plagiarize, they’re committing the act unknowingly. That’s a pretty big risk to take, as it only takes one major publication calling you out before you can land yourself in a world of trouble, legal fees, and lost trust.

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Not Happy With Your Outsourced or Freelance Content? Provide Feedback!

Providing Outsourced Freelance Content FeedbackContent creation is a big job, and businesses don’t always have the time or resources necessary to support it in-house. Instead, they’ll often turn to some kind of secondary source, such as outsourced content or freelance writers to help them build out the content on their sites.

Unfortunately, this method can be rather hit-or-miss for the businesses involved. When a freelance writer or content generation firm is good, fantastic! You’ve found yourself a gem.

But what about when they’re not so good? What about when they don’t seem to have a good enough grasp on your material? What about when they aren’t able to convey your ideas as well as you might like? What about when you find yourself making so many edits to their work that you wonder if it’s worth your investment at all?

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Free Writing: When Writing Crap Can Actually Be Productive

Keeping a notebook with you is a great way to work on developing your writing voice.

Caption: Keeping a notebook with you is a great way to work on developing your writing voice.

Content creators often miss a crucial step in the process. This step comes between the initial idea and the moment they hit “publish” on the finished product. I’m not talking about doing keyword research, optimizing the content, or proofreading the post.

I’m talking about failure. I’m talking about total crap writing.

Read a few blogs. You can tell right away which ones have a good command of voice and which ones sound like they were possibly written by Ben Stein (which is to say flat and pretty boring). You probably much prefer the ones with a strong voice, right? It gives the site character.

The difference between the blogs that are informative as well as fun to read and the ones that make your eyes glaze over with the generic-ness is that the good ones learned from being bad. In reality, everyone starts as a bad blogger. This is perhaps not in writing skill, but we all struggle to find our voice and our purpose for creating content.

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Celebrating National Grammar Day: 3 Mistakes to Avoid in Your Writing

How are you celebrating National Grammar Day?March 4th is National Grammar Day, a day when all of us word nerds geek out for grammar. While the day serves as a celebration of language, that celebration also inherently raises awareness of what it means to write and speak well.

The Internet has changed the way we write and speak. Part of the reason that blogging has become such a useful way for businesses to humanize their brands is because of the conversational tone that it allows. People researching products and companies would much rather read something with some character (read: brand humanization) than something that’s sterile and lacking personality.

Still, just because blogging is a bit more relaxed than, say, academic writing, it doesn’t mean you can get sloppy. Blogging is still writing, after all, and writing skills are among the most important to have. It’s important to be cognizant of grammar rules so that you sound interesting and intelligent! Remember, especially if you’re blogging for your business, that how you write says as much about your personal brand as it does about your company.

In honor of this year’s National Grammar Day, here are some little tips that you can start implementing today (and every day) to help you make a big difference in your writing.

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How to Remove Friends+ From Facebook Photos

Before I get started on this post that will tell you how to get rid of the Friends+ setting in Facebook (finally!), I just want to say thank you for your patience as I haven’t updated this blog in a few weeks. A number of things have been happening for me work-wise, and I had to settle in first. So — on to Facebook!

How to Remove Friends+ From Facebook PhotosFriends+ is one of the more annoying features that Facebook has rolled out recently, in my opinion. If you aren’t familiar, there was a period of time during which every tagged photo on Facebook was automatically set to Friends+ and there was nothing you could do about it. This meant that all of your friends saw every picture of you that someone tagged, and everything you tagged was shared with all of their friends.

All of this had nothing to do with your privacy settings. If your photo album was set to “Friends Only,” it didn’t matter. Friends+ was Facebook’s way of forcing you to share more than you might have been comfortable with.

It was also really annoying for friends of someone with a friend who tagged everything.

Eventually everyone started complaining because people they didn’t know (aka their friends’ friends) could now comment on their pictures because of the automatic Friends+ setting.

I don’t know about you, but I just stopped tagging my content on Facebook. Better safe than sorry — you don’t know who your friends’ friends are!

The good news, however, is that Facebook has changed this setting back.

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Giving Feedback: The Art of Constructive Criticism

How do you give and receive constructive criticism?Growing up, I wrote almost as much as I read. I kept notebooks full of stories, stuffing them into my backpack to take them to school and type them on the computers. Invariably, anyone and everyone who read anything I wrote between birth and age 16 said something like, “Wow, that’s really good!”

What was that about everyone being a critic?

After tenth grade, I found myself heading off to Susquehanna University (my future alma mater) for a week-long Writers Workshop, conducted as part of Susquehanna’s nationally recognized Writers Institute.

During that one summer week, I learned a tremendous amount about writing and myself as a writer from Drs. Gary Fincke and Tom Bailey. The most important lesson for me, as a fairly sensitive person, was in regards to constructive criticism.

When you’ve spent your entire life being told what a great writer you are, it can take the wind right out of your sails when someone tells you otherwise (especially the first time). I would go on to attend the Writers Workshop again the following summer, and, upon enrolling as an undergrad at Susquehanna, declare writing as my first minor. But that first lesson in constructive criticism has stuck with me.

Whether you’re writing creatively, for academia, or blogs, one of the most important aspects of writing is often overlooked: the ability to give and receive constructive criticism.

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Introversion Isn’t a Four-Letter Word: 3 Reasons to Hire an Introvert

Introversion Isn't a Four-Letter WordIn this world, you’re either an extrovert or you’re not.

I’m not.

People get the wrong idea about introverts. They think we’re perhaps a bit too shy or that maybe we just can’t keep up with rapid-fire conversations happening around us. In general, there’s an awful lot of negativity associated with being an introvert, especially in the business world.

‘How will she work as part of a team?’
‘How can he contribute anything meaningful to the conversation when he’s so quiet all the time?’ 

Plenty of people talk about introversion like it’s an unattractive quality and some affliction that can’t be overcome. The truth is that introverts are just fueled differently than extroverts. We’re in our own heads quite often. The quieter we are, the more we’re thinking and generating ideas. It’s not that we don’t know or don’t “get it,” but we’re just considering all avenues. It’s not that we can’t work with clients, but that we like to think about our approach first. And it’s certainly not that we hate being around others and prefer only to work alone. In fact, I find that working as part of a small team can actually boost my “introvert superpowers.”

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