I took my very first journalism class, with actual article assignments, my second semester of Freshman year in college. I had moved from California to Boston only four months before and still couldn’t figure out how to get from campus to the Boston Common (I have no sense of direction.) Being in a newish city, being new to journalism, and not being a sports fan, I had a challenging experience writing an article about the Boston Red Sox. I believe the assignment was to go out and talk to five students on campus, get their opinions of the baseball team, and then pull it into an article. I got a ‘C’. I called them the Boston Red Socks in half my piece.
I share this story with you to not only impress the importance of copyediting and spellchecking your own work, but also to talk about accuracy. Those of us who think faster than we can type oftentimes end up with a piece of content riddled with typos and incorrect autocorrects, not to mention grammar mistakes. So, before I talk about the few grammar mistakes that drive me nuts, I’d like to ask everyone to read over their work more than once before submitting final copy for anything. Read it slowly, read it out loud, do whatever it takes to track down the mistakes that are easy to fix, but if caught by a manager, will impair their opinion of the quality of work you can produce. Now, on to grammar:
Spelling changes everything
Just as I completely changed things by calling the Red Sox, the Red Socks, spelling counts when using contractions. Their, There, and They’re all mean something different. Only one is actually two words put together. It’s and Its, same issue. Only one means ‘It is,’ and that’s all it means. If you’re using ‘it’s’ to represent ‘it has,’ you’re wrong. Your and you’re is another example of the importance of spelling when you want to use a contraction. ‘You are’ means something completely different than the possessive word, ‘your.’
But, when you’re writing something so quickly, whether under a tight deadline or just because you have this amazing idea you have to get down on paper, these words easily get jumbled together. However, using the wrong word in these instances totally changes the meaning of what you’re trying to say. Slow down and don’t forget to reread and edit for accuracy.
Our love affair with commas
They’re cute and so very functional, breaking up sentences in just the right way if you use them correctly. It’s when they’re overused, when you find them everywhere, that you interrupt the flow of your content. Too, many, commas, add, unnecessary, pauses, in, your, work. People will stumble over your punctuation rather than get the message of what you’re trying to say. Use commas sparingly and with purpose. Remember that just because ‘and, but, or’ is in the middle of a sentence, a comma isn’t always necessary. The comma shows up in these cases when you’re separating two complete sentences or clauses with a conjunction.
There are a lot of comma usages rules, and they change often. The whole conversation around the Oxford comma is pretty intense in certain circles. I prefer to use it, and I’ll admit, it’s hard for me to leave it out if that’s the style requirement for content I’m writing, but I acknowledge that comma rules are a hazy mess. I’d suggest using commas when it feels right to you on your first draft of a piece of content, then reread and pause where the commas are. Does the pause still feel natural? If not, take that comma out. I also often rely on fellow grammar-obsessed individuals to read my content for comma usage. An extra set of eyes to proofread your content is so very helpful.
Focus on quality over speed
You want to submit the best possible work when you’re creating content for a project. You want to build a professional reputation for being attentive to all the details and ensuring your content has correct grammar and spelling go a long way in getting you there. You have no idea how many people struggle with these issues, so if you can remember to reread, copyedit, and proofread your own work, you’ll show you have the skills to be a quality content creator.