Grammar & Style for the Digital Age

Happy National Grammar Day, y’all!

I have a deep respect for the rules of grammar and usage and a love of all its intimate properties. Grammar and language are beautiful things when used properly. Even with our regional dialects and quirks – I live in the land of Pittsburghese where “dahntahn” is a place and “yinz” replaces my beloved “y’all” – I still find words to be mighty when wielded with care.

But how important are the rules of grammar and usage in the digital age? Handwritten letters have gone the way of the dodo, every one of our devices has spell check standard and “wut r u up 2?” is a sentence I’ve seen all too often, so the rulebook must have been thrown out the window, right? 

Wrong. Social media and texting may have benefits in and out of the workplace, like teaching us to write concisely and helping us to keep in touch with friends and loved ones no matter where we are, but these methods of communicating have also made our writing lazy. I think there are three reasons we should mind our p’s and q’s when writing for PR.

  1. It maintains your credibility.
    If your copy or pitches are riddled with grammatical errors, it makes you seem careless and inept. Why should someone else, a journalist or consumer, listen to you if you don’t even care enough proofread your pitches, posts or content.
  2. It fosters respect.
    If you respect your audience enough to put meaningful, worthwhile, well-written content out there and yourself enough to take pride in your work and do it well, other people will respect you and your work. Growing up, my mom always said, “you have to give respect to get it.”
  3. For the sake of clarity.
    Errors in grammar and punctuation can often make your writing ambiguous and confusing. Example: “Let’s eat Grandma.” vs. “Let’s eat, Grandma.”

And for more fun, here are some of my favorite grammar mistakes – and by favorite, I mean “things that drive me nuts.”

  • Numbers – Numbers one through nine should always be written out, all other numbers are numerals. Exceptions include percentages, which are always numerals, followed by the word “percent,” not “%.”
  • “More than” vs. “over” and “fewer” vs. “less” – More than is always used with quantities, whereas over refers to a spatial description. Fewer is also for quantities, while less is for hypothetical quantities, like “less than expected” or “less successful.”
  • That and who – Who is always used when talking about people. That is for places and objects.
  • Affect vs. effect – Affect is to cause or influence, while effect is the result.
  • “Alot” – Dear Lord people, alot is not a word. Ever. There is no place where “alot” should ever be used.

If you need more tips and help with grammar and AP style, check out Purdue OWL or follow AP Stylebook on Twitter for tips and reminders.

Happy National Grammar Day!

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