Using Good Grammar On Web Pages
By Robin Nobles
Copyright © 2006
(This article is continued from Part
6. Spelling spot check
receive (remember: "i" before "e"
except after "c")
all right (alright is not a
a lot (should always be two words)
(preferred way to spell)
(http://www.yourdictionary.com/library/misspelled.html) for 250
of the most commonly misspelled words.
This is a
confusing one-whether to hyphenate compound words, combine the words as one
word, or use them as two words. As it states in Chicago, the best place to go
for answers is the dictionary. Hyphens also depend on readability and trends,
such as the trend from on line to on-line to online.
+ noun-hyphenate when the adjectives appear before a noun but not if used
Example: The newsletter contains the most up-to-date material in
the SEO industry. ("up to date" is hyphenated because it is used as an adjective
modifying the noun "material")
Example: The material in the newsletter is
kept up to date. (There's no noun following "up to date," so it shouldn't be
8. Additional spot check
Their vs. there vs. they're
"Their" is the possessive version (their house-not they're house);
"they're" stands for "they are"; and "there" is a filler word.
There goal is to give they're members the best online experience.
Example: Their goal is to give their members the best . . .
You vs. your vs. you're Run a spell check on "you" and
make sure you didn't mean "your."
Example: If your looking for the latest
industry news, visit his blog. (incorrect)
Example: If you're looking for the
latest industry news . . . (correct)
9. Singular vs. plural (getting
close to ad nauseam by now)
Data vs. datum Data is plural; datum is the
singular version. So technically, if you're talking about multiple pieces of
information, you'll need to use a plural verb:
Example: The research data
are being collected as we speak. (correct)
If you're talking about one
piece of data, the correct form is datum, the singular version.
The datum shows that the Yahoo! search engine visited the site during the last
twenty-four hours. (correct)
However, popular usage has come into play.
Because "data" is considered a mass noun, it is now being treated as either
singular or plural except in formal writing and in the sciences. Because we are
in the data industry, this is important to know.
Example: The research
data is being collected. (correct)
When you read your
content out loud, do you naturally pause at certain places? The best rule of
thumb is to insert a comma in those places. Grammar can actually be quite
Let's look at some common uses for commas:
a. To separate
words in a list (apples, oranges, bananas, and grapes). Notice that I used a
comma before the "and." Grammar sources such as Chicago strongly recommend
inserting the last comma. Here's an example from Chicago:
"I want no ifs,
ands, or buts."
b. Introductory phrases and words. Use commas after
introductory phrases and words, especially if a slight pause is
Example: At the end of the day, he left the office.
Therefore, the next SES Conference is in December.
c. To separate
compound sentences. Use commas to separate compound sentences, which are
sentences that could be divided into two separate and complete sentences.
Example: Search engine optimization is both art and science, and it
requires both creativity and technology to be successful.
NOTE: I used
seven different grammar books as reference guides when writing this article.
None of the information is listed here without a reference from one or more of
those guides. I highly recommend that all content writers purchase a grammar
book. My latest is The Chicago Manual of Style, 15th Edition. You can even
subscribe to the online version at http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org. A free 30-day trial is
The Internet represents a lot of things
to a lot of people. In our informal areas like forums and newsgroups, we don't
need to worry so much about grammar and spelling. We're simply chatting among
But on our Web sites, our online store fronts, we must give a
professional image, in my opinion. Let's do our best to make sure our sites are
as free from grammar and spelling errors as possible.