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The Post-writing Rules I Always Break. Do You?

This guest post is by Kate Toon Copywriter.

I have an admission; I suffer from several deep-rooted blog-writing afflictions.

For years I thought it was just me, that I was the only one. Lately, though, I’ve realised that I’m not alone.

Yes, I’ve read all those “15 rules of blog writing” posts, but I just keep breaking them. I’m not a tween, I’m not a Gen Y; I am a fully (over)grown copywriting female. I have no excuses.

So let me be a voice for all those bloggers who, like me, are ostracised in this cruel grammatically correct, rule-driven world.

I share my story in the hope that it helps other writers.

How it all began

My parents sent me to an arty school—it wasn’t Montessori or Steiner, but we seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time playing music, dancing around with floaty scarves and learning italic handwriting. The teachers took the “enjoyment over correction approach” to reading and writing. So after several years of schooling I still could barely write my name, but when I did, it was in a beautiful mediaeval script.

Of course I loved it at the time; when you’re eight, who gives a jelly snake about conjugating verbs? I was happy enough making a human body (including organs) out of Play-Doh. But now I curse their stupid progressive schooling ways!

Here are some of the issues I’ve been left with:

I make typos

Although I have a rather good English degree from a relatively posh university and have been a copywriter for many years, I still can’t spell.

I struggle with even the easiest words and sometimes get complete “word blindness,” where I’ve written a word so often it just looks wrong. (Lawyer anyone?)

I often Google words before I enter them, just to be extra sure.

Writing a Facebook status update is fraught with panic as I post only to realise seconds later that I’ve spelt “realize” incorrectly.

If you’re in this camp with me, may I suggest the following:

  • Don’t write tweets or status updates when you’re in a rush. Take it seriously, or your readers will eat you alive.
  • Don’t send a status update from your iPhone as you’re more likely to make a mistake.
  • Do write your status updates in a text document first and then cut and paste them into whatever platform you’re using. Then at least the really obvious mistakes will be picked up by spell checker.
  • Do write a big batch of status updates at the start of the month and send them off to a proofreader to correct. Then you can safely upload one each day/week.

I’m ungrammatical

I know my nouns from my adjectives, and my verbs from my adverbs, but I’m prone to bending the grammar rules, sometimes to breaking point. Fellow sufferers, here are a few grammar basics that I think it’s okay to break (but don’t tell my proofreader):

  • Starting sentences with “but” or “and”: Although you don’t want to overdo it, the occasional sentences that begin with “but” or “and” are, in my opinion, no big deal.
  • Ending sentences with prepositions: Occasionally it just sounds better to put the preposition slap bang at the end of your sentence. Compare, for example: “They don’t have a leg to stand on” with “They don’t have a leg upon which to stand.” Or as Winston Churchill wrote, “This is the sort of English up with which I will not put.”
  • Using fragments: As long as your fragment clearly communicates a complete thought, it’s a great tool to create pauses and give your ideas great emphasis.

My English isn’t all that plain

I like using odd and slightly unusual words in my blog posts; perhaps it’s the latent poet in me.

Is this a bad thing? Well, I’d argue a firm “No.”

You see, while I’m all for keeping things short and simple, I also believe that it’s important to inject some personality into your copy now and again. Too much plain English and your writing just sounds, well, plain (and possibly a little bit dull).

I think I’m funny

“Everybody thinks they have good taste and a sense of humour but they couldn’t possibly all have good taste.”—Nora Ephron

I often try to inject humour into my blog posts, even when they’re about really serious stuff like SEO. I’ve been warned against this time and time again.

“Not everyone will get it!” they cry. “You’re bound to offend someone!” they shriek.

Well, if I offend, I offend.

Not everyone is going to like your blog. But if you inject your own personal taste, humour and style, some people will love it (and, yes, others may well hate it). But I’d rather have 200 avid followers loving what I write than 500 people who were mildly interested.

I use slang

I’m a big fan of slang. In fact, I think it’s awesome.

I know that seeing some teen speak in a grown-up blog can often be the cringeworthy equivalent of seeing your dad drunk dancing at your 17th birthday party.

If you use slang carefully and in a slightly tongue-in-cheek way, it can add a certain je ne sais quoi to your writing.

However, if you intend to use slang regularly I suggest you hire a 13-year-old to read everything you write before you post it.

I get emotional

I like to write about things I’m passionate about. Subjects that annoy me. Websites that are woeful. Clients who are horrible. Things I find amusing.

Sometimes that causes controversy. I’ve been sent hate mail about a poem I once wrote and published online. I’ve been insulted on Twitter by a fellow copywriter who took offence to a blog post. (He thought it was about him—it wasn’t.)

While I never actively seek to offend, insult, or discriminate against anyone, the blog posts on my business website represent my opinions. They’re not a sanitised, client-friendly version of things. Again, what I write might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s my cup of tea and therefore I think my enthusiasm and passion shines through.

So there you go. If you’ve read this post and think you’re suffering from similar symptoms, you too could be a victim of blogrulebreakingitus. Please share your faults with us in the comments. It’s only by working together that we can get through these terrible afflictions. Blog rule breakers of the world unite!

Kate is an award-winning SEO and advertising copywriter with over 18 years’ experience. She’s also a well-respected SEO consultant, information architect, strategist, hula hooper and Creme Egg lover based in Sydney, Australia.

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Comments

  1. Great confessional Kate. I will happily admit to all of those and even add one more.

    If I occasionally post something with an error, I don’t lose sleep over it. I don’t pull my hair out and wonder if that’s my reputation evaporating. Mistakes happen, even after careful proofreading. And when I see the occasional error in other’s work, especially flippant social media updates, I don’t think less of them.

    It’s not that I don’t care about grammar. I just care more about the big picture I’m trying to communicate.

  2. Great confessional Kate. I will happily admit to all of those and even add one more.

    If I occasionally post something with an error, I don’t lose sleep over it. I don’t pull my hair out and wonder if that’s my reputation evaporating. Mistakes happen, even after careful proofreading. And when I see the occasional error in other’s work, especially flippant social media updates, I don’t think less of them.

    It’s not that I don’t care about grammar. I just care more about the big picture I’m trying to communicate.

    * Please forgive any auto corrects in this little comment. My brain ignores auto corrects even better than the iPhone *

  3. mohit says:

    I always make some mistakes in my Grammar,not some time it is most of time but nevertheless i am in learning stage and will surely learn it one day. :) : :)

  4. marty says:

    Hi my name is marty .And I am blogoholic…hehe sorry Couldn’t resist.My biggest problem is my spelling I am dyslexic so sometime I mix up my words and I think I wrote it right but its not until I reread that I realize my mistakes

  5. Erin says:

    I’m new to this blogging thing so I’m definitely no expert but I completely agree with you on being yourself and writing in your own style. To me it makes a blog personal, interesting and different from something more formal you might read elsewhere. I seem to have missed the grammar classes at school too but I don’t let that bother me!

    • Yep Erin, glad you agree. Be yourself as everyone else is taken. In ‘real life’ we all say the wrong thing, mispronounce or fluff up now and again. That’s what makes us human and loveable. Let’s be ourselves and leave perfection for the robots.

      Thanks for commenting.
      Kate

  6. I too am grammar challenged. And I tend to reverse letters when typing fast. I have also found a danger zone when I try to post to late at night. I am glad I am not alone.

  7. Dave says:

    First post in a long time that I’ve read from start to finish here on PB.

    Nice one.

    • Ah well that deserves a big fat, furry moist hug!. Thanks Dave, you officially win my ‘favourite comment so far’ comment and can go out an buy yourself a curly wurly (just in case you are not English – Google it).

      Thanks for your feedback
      Kate
      x

  8. Jennifer says:

    My kids go to a Waldorf school and it’s well-known that Waldorf kids can’t spell! I’ve never let it bother me ~ after all, everyone has spell check these days anyway . . . And I agree, breaking the “grammer rules” is not just okay, it actually makes your writing more readable and interesting. So no, you are not alone and you are not wrong! When your content is good, the readers worth keeping won’t care about a typo here or there. It just makes you human.

    • Agree Jennifer. I’d love to send my kids to such a school but ’round here it’s all very ‘normal’. Often when you’re reading you even ‘read through’ the errors as you’re so engaged in the awesome content. Well that’s my hope anyway.

      Appreciate your time reading and commenting.
      Thanks
      Kate (Human) Toon
      x

  9. I often write a sentance and then realise I have missed out a key word. Worse still, if I proof read it right away, my brain sometimes fills in the blank for me… That’s why it’s good to wait for an hour before proof reading I guess.

    Great post anyway, these little mistakes make our blogs more human right?

    • Right. Try to find a human proof reader. Especially if your blog is in some way connected with the way you provide yourself with food, accomodation, curly wurlys. I actually can’t write for toffee but my very clever proof reader makes me sound like a genius!

      Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts Mr. Mark.
      Kate
      x

  10. David Boozer says:

    Great piece Kate! You do not have to have some masters degree here to gain some headway with your marketing and blogging efforts. If you are not a born writer, you will become one over time and practice…Thanks.

  11. Charity says:

    My biggest problem is that I will start a blog in a niche that I truly enjoy and then pretty well forget about the blog, because I can’t stand the thought of a “catch all” blog.

    • Ah but people LOVE a good niche. Yes there may only be 16 people in the universe searching for Mongolian Guinea pig hairdressing, but if you’re the experts you will have 16 very loyal and loving fans. Quality over quantity and all that. Thanks for commenting.
      Kate
      x

  12. Eric says:

    Thanks for the helpful tips! I am guilty as charged where I will try to rush through short comments, status updates, all that you shared (updating from my phone). You nailed me!

    I really enjoyed the suggestions of slowing down, be professional, and double check everything!

    Lastly, I have learned the hard way not to try to be cute many don’t appreciate or get it.

    Great information!

    Eric

    • Thanks Eric
      But I would argue that if you are cute (which we both obviously are) don’t hide it. If people don’t get it, it’s their loss right? But yes, slow down and let our fabulous cuteness ebb and flow in it’s own good time.
      Thanks for commenting
      Kate

  13. I double check spelling all the time. And the issue with a word looking wrong after you’ve stared at it for five minutes…yep, happens to me all the time too. Especially when my nephew asks how to spell something, I tell him, he writes it, and then I second guess what I told the five year old.

    It’s good to know I’m not the only one who’s supposed to be ‘writerly’ and yet still struggle with spelling, typos and so on. Thanks=)

    • Salut Jennifer, the more of us writer types who out ourselves for our utter ineptitude the better. My three year old had me briefly pondering whether it was a C or an S the other day. I was tired but still. Thanks for joining the chat!

      Best wishes
      Kate

  14. Siya Mava says:

    Nice post Kate. I’ll be checking out your blog. Loved the “like to get emotional” part

    • Thanks Siya (cool name) yes. Without emotion we are just… motion? Just spewing forth stuff to please the SEO gods. Write from the heart and someone (even if it is just one) will love you for it.

      Thanks for commenting
      Kate
      x

  15. Ally says:

    Oh that’s a perfect name for it “word blindness’, I get it all the time. It always happens with the simplest of words as well ha ha. And it is great to inject a bit of personality into your posts, it helps your readers connect with you more and makes you sound more human

    • I had it today with ‘The’. THE!! I mean are you kidding me. I just thought is it teh? Or hte? Seriously. It was a long day and a 72 page copy deck. Just shows how your brain turns to soup after a while. Thanks for reading and joining the post blog chat.

      Kate
      x

  16. Samuel says:

    Slang and emotional writing can be very effective writing.

    I do catch myself writing in some places with poor grammar.

    But thanks to editing, I am able to catch those mistakes :)

    Always reread folks!

    Thanks for the awesome article!

  17. prabhat says:

    awesome article…and yes it has everything contained in it….every mistake that we make when writing articles.grammatical errors are almost inevitable, everyone makes grammatical errors but a person learns from his/her mistakes so its not a big deal if we learn from those mistakes.i do make many mistakes and i try to avoid them in my next attempt

  18. This is my first blog. I am a beginner in blogging. I need good hand for my career

  19. Well, many times gramatical mistakes just happen because of 100 simulataneous thought that are in your mind. In my case I do mistakes like raed, maximu, etc. these happen only because I don’t realise the keystroke. Sometimes I don’t realise that the key was pressed.

    • Shubhashish, You won’t believe how hard I had to concentrate to actually type your name with out a typo (right??) so I hear you. Apparently all good writers brains work faster than any human could ever type/write. I read that some where (Or made it up). Either way it means we’re awesome! Thanks for commenting.

      Kate
      x

      • Well you read it right. Brain signals are transmitted to receptors via a number of neurotransmitters and synaptic gateways. Most possibly the chemical reactions in these synaptic transfers causes the delay.

        And thanks to God that neuron are the largest cells in human body or there would have been a much greater delay due to higher number of synaptic gateways.

  20. When I’m writing content I try to write the way I speak. A useful tip I picked up from Pat Flynn was to record your post in a dict-a-phone first, then write it down. That way you are talking to the reader.

    • Good idea Mark. I recently purchased some dictation software. But sadly my strong Northern English accent discombobulates it and it ends up writing a stream of nonsense. Thankfully it is often better than what I’d originally written!

      Thanks for commenting
      Kate

  21. Lucy says:

    Don’t worry Kate you are not there alone. Even if my english is good I too make grammar mistakes sometimes though unitentionally when my emotions take over my writing. Though I don’t like to use slang in my writing I am not free of Typos somehow it just happens and you can’t help it.

    • Agreed Lucy. You have to go with the flow write? Although a swift run by a chum or a proof reader is a great idea if you want to save yourself some grammatical pain!

      Thanks hugely for commenting.
      Kate
      x

      • Lucy says:

        Yes, it is always a great idea to run your write up through a proof reader or ask your friends to give it a read. Sometimes your eyes cannot detect the mistakes in your own write up like others will do.

  22. Tsandi Crew says:

    We all make mistakes. But a reader trying to read something with typos and grammatical mistakes gets distracted by those mistakes. It pays, in the end, to proof read. Even if you use spell checker, there are mistakes it does not catch. Proof read. If you have an assistant, get the assistant to proofread as well because a second person will catch more than you might because your eyes are used to the blog you just wrote.

    Here is why it’s really important: people learning to read and write English are using the internet to do so. That includes not only foreign people, but children as well.

    Second round of importance… don’t you want to look like a pro? Especially to other pros?

    There is a preponderance of slovenliness on the internet because so many people believe it’s OK to be sloppy there. Why be sloppy in public?

    • Hi Tsandi

      Agreed. Public sloppiness is not the goal. But I think you should write with out worrying too much about where to place you preposition, inject humour and emotion, and generally ‘be yourself’. Then yes by all means ask a chum (or preferably a professional proof reader) to work through your blog.

      Thanks for commenting
      Kate

  23. Sanju says:

    Hey Kate, Nice Blog. Reading this blog made me remember my mistakes and brought a smile on my face. Spelling mistakes are very common with me.

  24. Rahul says:

    Great Tips to write post and a good post can make thousands of visitors thanks for sharing.. :)

  25. Love this post! This has definitely been a topic of late — I got one troll on my blog who couldn’t get over the fact that I say “like” in my posts, like, because I’m from the Valley (San Fernando)…and I was recently accused of causing the destruction of the United States because I used conversational language on a post for my Forbes blog — you can judge for yourself here: http://onforb.es/YbvhSb

    We can’t please everyone with our writing style…so we just have to be ourselves. That way, we attract the kind of readers we’d like to hang out with.

  26. Julie says:

    I am so glad I am not the only one that has to Google how to spell words sometimes.

  27. Hello Kate

    Thanks for the chuckles and tips.

    My number one rule always, for every sort of non-fiction writing, is know your readers.

    Use of slang, cliches, jargon, emotion, humour, unusual words, lax grammar or punctuation, or unusual formatting can all be perfectly and uniquely appropriate and effective.

    And I don’t mind breaking rules, especially those so-called grammar rules that come from Latin and are irrelevant to English.

    Not surprisingly, I highly recommend all writers have their work edited or proofread – by someone with more than a basic understanding of what constitutes ‘good writing’.

    Belinda’s attitude to others’ typos is spot on.

    Keep writing the way only Kate can write.

    Desolie

    • Kate Toon says:

      ‘Use of slang, cliches, jargon, emotion, humour, unusual words, lax grammar or punctuation, or unusual formatting can all be perfectly and uniquely appropriate and effective.’

      I’m having that made into a banner and flown across Sydney as we speak.
      Thanks for your kind words, and encouragement Desolie!

  28. Arwen says:

    Great post Kate. You are certainly not alone in most of these. I usually write my status updates in Word first because I am paranoid about making mistakes. I think people do forgive it more in social media updates but the perfectionist in me still doesn’t like doing it.

    Word blindness happens to me too. I always find it strange that I can read over a draft post and not see any mistakes but then I hit publish, look at it again on my blog two minutes later and suddenly see spelling errors and grammar mistakes (commas are my downfall) that I swear weren’t there before. I’m tempted to claim that my computer secretly does something to it when I press publish but I’m not sure anyone would believe me.

    • Kate Toon says:

      I think people are EVEN MORE mean on social media than anywhere else. You only have to slip in an accidental ‘your’ instead of ‘you’re’ and they’re on you like flies on poop!

      I put commasin whenever, I, can, and semi-colons, it confuses people.

      Thanks for sharing.

  29. Spice Store says:

    Hi
    I was having a convo last night about tablets, in particular android tablets. This other person was a blogger and a regular forum poster, a forum I frequent often. Any way long story short he was telling me how he use’s is device for posting all the time.
    And my reaction was: Is that why your grammar is so appalling. Shockingly he said yes. Conclusion. Maybe we will see more bad grammar than ever before ;)

    • Kate Toon says:

      The Grammar Gods will not be happy. It is so hard to write anything decent on an iphone or tablet. That’s why I try not too! Especially when walking the dog, with a coffee in your hand. Thanks for commenting Spice store.

  30. Kate, I *loved* this post! “I like using odd and slightly unusual words in my blog posts; perhaps it’s the latent poet in me.” really jumped out at me – I’m the same way! Can’t help myself!

  31. Bill says:

    Do you know what all that rule breaking does, Kate?

    It makes you human.

    And we’d all much rather listen to a human than a gramatically-correct robot.

    Great post.

    Bill.

  32. Hey Kate,
    What a fantastic post. I’m currently in the start-up phase of my Virtual Assistant business and have been considering my blogging strategy for when I launch my site (hopefully next week). This post will help me immensely when the time comes for me to start writing. Thank you!

  33. Having non-English background I always make mistakes in Grammer and proper language, but Thanks to some of the plugins i use which makes it easy for me to go!

  34. Breeza says:

    I agree with writing your own style and your own way – it will grab your audience- however too many mistakes can be a disaster and put off some.