If you want visitors to your website to trust you enough to buy your products and services, you need to show that you're trustworthy and professional. Few things destroy the image you're trying to cultivate faster than poor spelling, grammar and punctuation. Keep reading for some common mistakes that you can quickly fix.
As I've mentioned in an earlier post (http://tools.devshed.com/c/a/Website-Content/Improve-Your-Sites-Grammar/), I may notice it a little more than most because I'm a professional editor. Even so, if you're trying to sell to an educated audience whose native language is English, they will spot your mistakes, and they will not trust you. To many of us, broken English is far too reminiscent of the spammy scamming emails we receive from Nigeria and elsewhere, and auto-delete in bulk quantities.
So how can you avoid getting classified with that nasty crowd? Well, as I mentioned previously, you can start by picking up a good grammar guide. It's also a good idea to have someone else read over your work before you post it, preferably someone with an excellent command of the English language. And you can keep reading for some tips.
Periods, Commas and Quotation Marks. I can understand why there's some confusion on this topic, as this seems to vary with the country. I'm not sure that the usage in the UK is the same as it is in the US. But I can say with certainty that in the US, periods and commas go inside double quotation marks when you're trying to show that someone said something.
For example, it's correct to write “I will be there shortly.” Notice the placement of the period.
“I will be there shortly,” she said, is also correct. Again, notice the placement of the punctuation – a comma in this case.
But it is not correct to write “I will be there shortly”, with the comma outside of the quotation marks. This may seem like a little detail, but trust me, readers notice this. It's like seeing someone give you a toothy, dazzling smile – with a big piece of broccoli stuck between their two front teeth. That professional image you're trying to project gets shot to hell.
Common Spelling Errors. Yes, the way some words are spelled and used changes over time. Until that change happens, however, it's wisest to continue with the older spelling. This is true for two reasons. First, the change you anticipate may never actually happen. And second, until it does, spelling something the wrong way is going to grate on your audience, and that's the last thing you want.
Here are some correct examples and the mistakes commonly associated with them:
- All right (always two words; never “allright” or “alright”).
- A lot (this is always two words, never “alot.” The word “allot” means something completely different).
- Cannot (is preferred over “can not;” if you're writing informally, “can't” works).
- Receive (remember, “i” before “e” except after “c”).
- Accidentally (not “accidently.” Need a good way to remember this? The word comes from “accidental,” not “accident.”).
You can find more commonly misspelled words here (http://www.yourdictionary.com/library/misspelled.html).
Hyphens. Having a dictionary and knowing how to use it really helps when you're dealing with hyphen. To some extent, you can look at common usage. One example of this is the drift from “on line” to “on-line” to “online” (my spelling checker still doesn't consider “online” to be a real word). But neither the dictionary nor common usage may help when the context in which the word or phrase is used makes a difference.
For example, “That website contains the most up-to-date information available.” The hyphens come into play because the phrase “up-to-date” is an adjective modifying the noun “information,” which appears right after it.
But “The webmaster keeps that site's information up to date” is also correct. Since there is no noun following the phrase “up to date,” it's not hyphenated.
That's all I have room for today. For more on this topic, visit http://www.searchengineguide.com/robin-nobles/top-ten-grammar.php.
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