In the world of Internet marketing and advertising, grammar is often left behind. While webmasters and Internet marketing experts focus on much more trying tasks, their posts go unedited into the depths of the World Wide Web. Some argue that the Internet is more informal than print since it is a living document, while others claim that good grammar is archaic in today’s media-hungry society. Though I understand the points that grammar’s critics make, I disagree; syntax and semantics will back me up on this one. Laws of semantics refer to understanding, and syntax refers to the basic rules and principles that provide such understanding. Grammar rules pave the path for learning, teaching, explaining, and understanding.

There are three commonly-accepted reputable style guides, MLA (Modern Language Association), APA (American Psychological Association), and AP (Associated Press) Style. Unfortunately, the guidelines set forth are not exactly scalable to Internet copy. Other sources have cropped up, such as the Chicago Manual of Style, and more recently, the Yahoo! Style Guide. With these two sources in mind, below are a few tips and suggestion for improving your grammar skills. Whether you agree with me or not, you cannot deny the importance of having good style.

Perfect Punctuation

I) Semicolon: The semicolon is not nearly as scary as it seems. Most of us overused the colon in High School, but once introduced to the semicolon we developed a tendency to back away from colons and semicolons all together. Though this does not have much of an impact on keywords or search engines, it can make quite a difference in the flow of your writing. Even readers who do not know how to use semicolons will naturally know how to read them.

Semicolons create a brief reading pause, and have three basic uses.

  • You can use them to connect two independent clauses in place of connecting conjunctions such as “but, and, or, so.” Our economy has taken a severe turn for the worse; national unemployment has climbed to 10%.
  •  You can use semicolons with terms that designate how they relate, such as "however," or "on the other hand." The housing market is in bad shape; however, we could not afford this house at last year’s prices.
  • Finally, an easy way to clarify complex lists that include commas is to use a semicolon. We recently hired Joe Johnson, the sales manager; Sally Smith, the web designer; Matt Martin, the administrative assistant; and Amanda Andrews, the pay-per-click manager.

II) Hyphen: One thing that is important to remember is that a hyphen is different from a dash. Dashes designate “through,” (read pages 34-63) and are longer. There are two types (en and em dashes), but we will not get into that now.  Hyphens are used with prefixes, combined adjectives, compound words, written-out numbers, and in some awkward word combinations to provide clarification. If in doubt, leave it out.

  • Prefixes: all-inclusive, Anti-terrorist, three-dimensional (However, 3D does not require a hyphen.)
  • Adjectives (before a noun): Sixth Avenue is a one-way street; that is a well-known fact. If the adjectives come after the noun that they modify, hyphens are not used: That fact is well known.
  • Numbers: Thirty-two, fifty-seven.
  • Clarifications: Please re-sign the document with the changes. (Rather than resign.)

III) Apostrophes tell an interesting tale. They are generally used to denote possession or to form a conjunction. Apostrophes are of special interest to SEOs performing keyword research, because their presence can sometimes pull different results. Google has gotten pretty good at filtering out punctuation, but when you search “womens jeans” it asks, “Do you mean women’s jeans?” which takes you to different, but very similar, results. Google is getting smarter, but it probably provides different results purely based on the searches of others and their impact on the suggestion tool. 

Know when to use apostrophes and you will avoid keyword mishaps, as well as misunderstandings. Feel free to use them in your keywords and title tags. Google is paying more attention to proper usage as opposed to common usage, despite the suggestion tool.

  •  Possessive form: Jerry’s car; Mom’s flowers; My dog’s bone
  •  Conjunctions: I’ve (I have); we’re (we are); we’ll (we will)
  •  “It’s” is not possessive, it is a conjunction of “it is.” (Possessive Pronoun)
  •  SEO’s is possessive. If you want to discuss multiple SEO professionals, it is completely acceptable to write SEOs.
  •  If a word already ends with the eez sound, add an apostrophe to the end without an additional “s.” Hercules’ fame; Achilles’ heel
  •  Plural words do not require apostrophes except as a method of clarification: Do’s and Don’ts; the three R’s; straight A’s 


Phrases and Idioms

  • Could Care Less: Wrong! If you could care less, then why don’t you? The correct phrase is, “couldn’t care less.”
  •  One In the Same: Wrong! One in the same what? If you are comparing two things that are the same, then they are, “one AND the same.”
  •  Wet Your Appetite: Wrong! This version does seem to make sense, since we believe that a delicious treat creates drool, which denotes hunger (thanks, Pavlov). However, the word “whet” means to excite or stimulate, and the correct phrase is “whet your appetite.” 
  •  For All Intensive Purposes: Wrong! Are you trying to say, “For all highly concentrated/volatile purposes?” If not, then you should stick with the correct phrase, “for all intents and purposes.” 
  • Suppose To: Wrong! Suppose is a verb that is used to make a hesitant statement. If you are supposed to do something, the correct phrase includes the suffix -d, as in “supposed to."
  • Once and a While: Wrong! Once you did something and then a while you did something? The correct phrase for doing something occasionally, but not frequently, is “once in a while.” (Note the space.)

I hope these tips have helped! I welcome all feedback, both positive and negative. Feel free to challenge me, and stay tuned for next month’s tips!


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