To everything there is a grammar—even social media
Caroline Wall, IBM Social Content Editor
In the grammar of skydiving, opening your parachute at the appropriate moment is vital to success. The grammar of driving instructs us to apply the brake prior to careening off a cliff. The grammar of language is really no different; you’re placing identifying marks in certain places to ensure the welfare of your sentence. Even so, the grammar of language is often thought to be important only for those persnickety enough to care whether their participles are dangling.
I care deeply about those participles. I’ve been a social content editor for the IBM ITSO Social Media Residency programs for the past year. As I’ve learned more about social business and the various social media initiatives at IBM, I am even more convinced that good grammar is a part of success.
Why is grammar important?
Good grammar, usage and mechanics have power. Proper utilization of punctuation improves clarity and enhances your words with a level of professionalism. Think of it as putting your best foot forward. As a business communicating on the web through social media, it is important to represent yourself in the best possible way—and the key to that is being grammatically correct. Correct grammar means that your words are interpreted exactly as you wish them to be. For a silly example, take the following two sentences:
1. Let’s eat Grandma!
2. Let’s eat, Grandma!
The first example doesn’t use a comma and invites everyone within hearing distance to make a meal of poor Grandma. The second example uses a comma and clarifies that Grandma is being invited to eat, rather than being dinner herself.
Like most people, I follow brands I like and products I’m interested in on Twitter. So when an education company recently posted a tweet with a glaring spelling error about how their services could help me, I was less than impressed. In fact, I ran from that business as fast as I could. I evaluated the company based on what they presented: words. Those words were not crafted in a way that made me have faith in their products or their name.
Making sure what you or your business puts out there is grammatically correct says a lot about you. It tells your followers that:
You care. Even something like a tweet, which people could easily dismiss, is held to a high standard and scrutinized for perfection. You deliver the best you can manage in every facet of your business.
You’re detail oriented. The small things don’t escape your notice. Customers and colleagues can expect that attention to detail in everything you do.
You’re trustworthy. You leave nothing to interpretation. You say what you mean, without hiding behind vaguely worded sentences or possible misunderstandings.
Easily improve your Tweets and posts
Now that I’ve hopefully convinced you to keep an eye out for grammatical errors, I thought I’d give you a small crash course in some common mistakes to avoid:
Capitalization. Some people like to capitalize for emphasis, importance or simply because they feel like it; however, correct capitalization is far more effective. Make sure you capitalize proper nouns, like people’s names and brands.
Your and you’re. Remember that your refers to something that belongs to you, whereas you’re is a contraction of “you are.”
Their, they’re and there. A joke people like to tell me is that when an editor is upset, just tell them “Their, they’re, there, it’ll be okay.” In this case, their shows that more than one person possesses something, they’re is a contraction of “they are” and there is a reference to a location. They’re in there with their bear, for instance.
Apostrophes. The apostrophe plus S shows possession. For example, saying “I saw ten dog’s” is wrong. There is no need for the apostrophe—“dogs” will do just fine.
Though many people dismiss grammar as unimportant, it can be a significant factor in how you are perceived by your audience. By paying attention to grammar and how you construct your sentences, you can better represent yourself and your brand.
Have you had your ideas changed about a person or brand because of their grammar? Leave a comment below, or feel free to connect with me on Twitter @hewts.