Conversational English vs. bad grammar

In Copywriting, Social Media by Marius Badenhorst

Online communication tends to be more informal and relaxed than written text. This conversational style has resulted in everyone sending an email or writing a blog, adopting his or her own version of poetic licence. It`s debatable about whether some rules can be bent to suit a writer`s will or particular style. Other rules are less flexible. By not observing them we detract from our credibility, and effectively announce our carelessness to the world.

Many people think that a few spelling or grammar mistakes will pass under the radar. They suppose that people read articles or blogs for content and not as lessons in the rules of grammar. Which is all very well, but it`s very difficult to take a writer and his/her content seriously when the text is littered with glaring mistakes.

In conversation it`s easy to overlook grammatical whoopsies in the natural flow of the dialogue. In the case of written work, there is no flow to carry readers past the mistake. It acts as a roadblock, with flashing lights and neon arrows to focus attention on it. The tacit implication of mistakes such as these is that you are careless in your work, and that makes potential clients doubt your ability to give their work due care and attention.

According to Brian Clark,, there are five mistakes that you need to avoid when writing blogs or web copy.

1) Your vs. You`re
2) Its vs. It`s
3) There vs. Their
4) Affect vs. Effect
5) The dangling participle.

The dangling participle will cloud over your intended meaning, and can potentially create amusing sentences.

Having been buried in the garden for years, my brother found our dog`s old diner bones.

My brother`s skeletal remains vs. the dog`s cache of buried bones.

Ciaran, SEO Director of digital service agency Altogether,, states that he would like to add one more item to that list:

6) Lose vs. Loose

Jodi Gilbert,, has also written an article on common grammar mistakes. Although her list goes all the way up to ten, it includes many of the mistakes already mentioned. In some cases she adds an extra word that is often confused with others.

1) They`re vs. their vs. there
2) I.e. vs. e.g.
3) Effect vs. affect vs. impact
4) Different than vs. Different from
5) Lay vs. lie (My personal pet peeve)
6) Then vs. than
7) Could of, would of vs. could have, would have

These errors are easily fixed. The referenced sites offer some handy hints to ensure that the correct forms become second nature.

Brian Clark raises an interesting point that is well worth considering. He never learnt the formal rules of grammar, but gained his writing skills by reading excessively from an early age. He states that he can correct an incorrect sentence, but if asked for the technical reasons behind the mistakes, he won`t be able to tell you. This begs the question of whether in-depth knowledge of grammar, and a strict, almost pedantic adherence to its rules, is really necessary in the realm of content writing?

It`s undoubtedly important to be as grammatically correct as possible, and to avoid silly mistakes that make you and the company that you represent look like fools. What is equally important for every writer is to be allowed the freedom to write in his or her own style. If this means that a few rules are bent along the way should it really matter so long as the meaning is clear? The only tools that writers have to convey meaning, imply tone and set mood are words. To achieve this purpose, it`s occasionally necessary to be creative with the way in which they use their words. I reiterate, so long as the meaning is clear, is it really a train smash if a few grammatical rules go astray?

Editors and other advocates for the proper use of the English language, say that it does matter. That grammar is always important and should always be used in its correct form. They do this out of a love for the language and to protect it from needless mutilation by those who would play fast and loose with it.

The matter is in a continuous state of debate. As a general rule, perhaps it`s best to apply the rules of grammar to the best of your ability.

About the Author

Marius Badenhorst