Grammar in Social Media Presence

Welcome to S. Brett. Johnson, our guest Blogger. Brett has a passion for all thing grammatical and is a valuable member of the AlphaPixel Reach writing team.

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Grammar. There aren’t many subjects that make people’s eyes glaze over and roll back in their heads like grammar – tax law being the exception. Nonetheless, our grammar is important. I often remember a discussion in my Intro to U.S. History class in college. The professor assigned a paper, and someone asked if spelling and grammar would count. Of course, this being at Regis, a Jesuit institution, Dr. Brockway replied “yes.” When the inevitable “but this isn’t an English class” protest was lodged, Professor Brockway said something that has stuck with me ever since: “You’re writing in English, so your English grammar needs to be correct and precise. If you don’t do this, people reading what you wrote will assume you don’t know what you are talking about. This is a lesson that applies everywhere, and why English grammar will count in this history paper.” Dr. Brockway’s lesson stuck with me because, everywhere I have been since, it has proven true in the twenty-five plus years it has been since he gave it. This rule applies to web and social media presence too. Proper spelling and English grammar is usually the first place that customers interact with a business. If we want to present ourselves as competent professionals, it is imperative that our internet presence have proper spelling and English grammar.

One of the most common errors is the improper use of homonyms, for example, your and you’re. While they sound the same in the spoken English dialect, in written language they mean quite different things. Also problematic are their, there, and they’re; to, two, and too; were and we’re; then and than. Each of these words has a precise meaning in the written language, and spell-check doesn’t
catch them all. With all of these, particularly as it relates to your and you’re, nothing makes you look more unprofessional and downright clueless than misusing these words. Know them, master them, use them correctly at all times – including in memes that other people have created – or sacrifice your credibility with your customers.

Using an apostrophe s when writing plurals is another common and infuriating point that destroys online credibility. The apostrophe s indicates that something belongs to someone. It is presented either as Johnson’s when referring to one Johnson, or, Johnsons’ when referring to a plural. Using s apostrophe s in the plural is archaic and no longer necessary. For example, when talking about the hem of a dress, one can simply say “the dress’ hem.” Anything else just wastes characters, and we all know that characters are a premium in some platforms.

Commas are a bit more complicated, even academics don’t agree on everything in their style manuals. However, in the business world, APA style generally wins the battle. The 6 th edition of the APA, published in 2010, calls for using commas between elements, including before the word and and the word or, in a series of three or more items. It tells us not to use a comma between two separate parts of a measurement. A good link to this, with examples, is here. Of course, unless you are writing an employee handbook, or some other legal document, (Daniel, 2018) the Oxford comma is a matter of semantics.

Finally, even on Twitter, your professional presence in social media should avoid using “textisms.” Never type, gr8!, or any other text-ism, when the proper word will do. You want to come across as a professional, not a hack.

These, along with people getting cute and putting text jargon into their SM, are the common mistakes I see that destroy professionalism and credibility before customers even walk into your business.
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Bibliography:
Daniel, Victor. (2018, February 9). Oxford Comma Dispute Is Settled as Maine Drivers Get $5 Million. The
New York Times. < https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/09/us/oxford-comma- maine.html>.

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