Blog Writing Tips for Identifying and Avoiding Common Grammatical Errors

grammar clinicI was honored to be a speaker at BlogHer ’12 in New York a couple weeks ago. I was asked to lead two 30-minute grammar clinics in The Writing Lab. The topic was How to Identify and Avoid Common Errors.

The sessions were small by design. We actually had fun talking about grammar and offered each other support and tips for better writing. I think my favorite quote from my sessions was from Annie, the author of Peach Prenni, who noted “My use of the semicolon alone should put me in jail.”

I promised that I would write about our conversations, and as I go through my notes, I think I may end up writing a series of posts.

I will get into some details on common mistakes and resources later. First, I’ll start with the basic tips I shared with the participants in my clinic.

These are the steps that I take to help me identify and avoid common grammatical errors.

  • Always proof read! This tip may seem like a no-brainer, but there are a lot of bloggers out there who just don’t take the time to proof read their posts before publishing. We discussed this in my sessions. Part of the problem is lack of time. Sometimes, other duties call, like sleep or kids, and you just have to publish and get it over with. It’s worth it to spend a few moments and double check that you didn’t make any silly spelling or punctuation errors. I shared that I usually write my posts at night and schedule them to publish early in the morning. If I’m too tired to proof read at night, I just make sure I read the post first thing in the morning when I wake up, and I edit any mistake, if needed. I’ll usually catch mistakes before the post is emailed to subscribers and before I share it on social media.
  • Write your post and then go back and delete excess words and punctuation. I say this as a trained copywriter. In copywriting, you want to keep things short and simple. You need to say what you need to say, give the reader a call to action and be done with it. I was taught to write first and cut the excess later. I’ll write posts, get everything out of my brain and then determine what just doesn’t need to be there. As I write this, there is an entire paragraph in the beginning that I’m pretty sure will be deleted before I publish. I’ll cut excess words, sentences, and even paragraphs, if they don’t serve a purpose in the post. And I mention excess punctuation because I find many people go a little nuts with commas and ellipses. It can be tough for bloggers to edit, but it helps create tighter writing.
  • Read your post out loud before publishing. This trick is so easy and helpful. Read your post out loud. Does it make sense? What sentence or words are you getting stuck on? Delete and re-write the words that just don’t flow out of your mouth. Sometimes, it’s easier to get rid of the stuff that just doesn’t sound good and write it again another way. Ask yourself, what am I trying to say here? This technique is also a great way to pick up typos that you might auto-correct in your head when you’re not reading out loud.
  • When in doubt, look it up. I’ll admit it. I look up grammar rules all the time. When I blog, I am constantly fact checking or making sure that I’m using a word or phrase correctly. I noted in the sessions that we all have one or two grammar issues that get us. For example, I can never remember how to properly use lay or lie. Know what you don’t know. Then, look it up!

How do you identify and avoid common grammatical errors?

If you’re interested in checking out some of the liveblogs from BlogHer ’12, you can visit BlogHer ’12 VirtualCon. I believe they are still loading all the resources and photos, but there are lots of good notes from the panels on the site.

Recovering from #BlogHer12

I’ve never been to a conference as big as the BlogHer conference. There were 5,000 bloggers at BlogHer ’12 this year in New York City.

Think about that. 5,000 bloggers – mostly female – in one place.

Yes, there was a smattering of men at BlogHer. In fact, the first person I met when I arrived at the Hilton was a dude. I commended him for having the fortitude to be at such a conference with so many women.

Though I missed President Barack Obama on Thursday, I did make it on time for my speaker orientation on Thursday and the Party at the Expo, where I mingled with bloggers and sponsors. (And, yes, you did read that correctly. Obama addressed BlogHer ’12 attendees because he understands the power of a female blogger.)

There was a lot of swag at BlogHer. A lot. Everything from bags of guacamole to vibrators. Seriously.

That’s a big bag o’ swag.

Prior to BlogHer, there was a lot of talk in the blogosphere and on Twitter about the event. What to expect, what to wear, what to attend. Lots and lots of chatter. I was slightly overwhelmed before I even left for the event. Knowing that I would be leading a workshop at BlogHer ’12 only added to the anxiety.

But there was nothing to fear about BlogHer ’12. My outfits were fine. I was able to walk up to random bloggers, introduce myself, and have meaninful conversations. My grammar clinics went well.

I met up with Alysia at Try Defying Gravity who lives in my home town in Massachusetts and found out I was going to be at BlogHer ’12 while dining with my best friend from high school. Instead of “speed dating” on Friday morning, I went with two other bloggers in the hallway to have a deeper conversation about our blogs. Then, there was that great breakfast I had on Saturday, where we all just started going around the table telling each other about our blogs, our work, and our challenges and actually started to give each other some great encouragement and advice. I met Jen (another Jennifer!) who is a fellow copywriter working in the nonprofit world.

There were small moments like these for three days that made the experience as a whole just amazing.

Of course, there were helpful and thought-provoking panels that gave me much to think about and act upon. There’s the mountain of blogger business cards I received. There were the parties, that I mostly skipped because I was just too darn tired by the end of the day. (While that made me feel old at first, it felt really nice to leave the chaos for a while and just eat dinner with my family.)

Oh, and having lunch with Martha Stewart and Katie Couric was pretty spectacular. Martha Stewart noted that the things she wasn’t good at were the things she hasn’t tried yet. And Katie Couric is reserving two seats in the audience of her new show, Katie, specifically for bloggers. They were inspiring, to say the least.

Heck, being with so many strong, powerful women with voices in one place was pretty spectacular and inspiring.

My brain is still recovering from all that was BlogHer ’12. So are my feet. I will be blogging more about my grammar clinic, and some of the conversations we had, next week. For now, I’m going to enjoy the rest of the week with my family here in New York.

Were you at BlogHer ’12? What were the highlights of your experience?

BlogHer or Bust + Another Jennifer Magnets

So, as this post publishes, I will be packing myself and my family up for the long drive to New York City. We should arrive in the city in time for us to check in to the apartment we rented for the week and for me to head on over to the Hilton for BlogHer ’12.

On the agenda for my first day at BlogHer ’12: Listen/watch President Barack Obama address a room full of female bloggers via video (seriously), attend the Speaker Meet-Up, and pop in to the Evening at the Expo to check out the amazing sponsors. If I’m not too tired from the long day of travel, I might also go to the People’s Party.

I’m tired just thinking about my Thursday. Friday and Saturday are going to be insane. I hope I’m not too frazzled by the time I lead my grammar clinic on Saturday morning. Thank goodness for coffee!

I’ll have my business cards and stickers with me at BlogHer. And, thanks to some quick work by Nathan at MagnetsOnThe Cheap, I’ll also be armed with magnets.

another jennifer magnets

My magnets!

Nathan contacted me and offered to print some magnets to help promote my blog at BlogHer ’12. Of course, I jumped at the chance. I thought it would be fun to have a few different things to hand out to people.

I kept the design simple, using only my web address and tagline. I like simple. And if people are interested in another jennifer, I want them to visit my website.

The magnets came out pretty good. They are a little thin, so when I threw one in my bag, it got slightly curled. I’ll consider this when I take them with me to BlogHer. They look great on my magnetic board and refrigerator, where they are supposed to me.

The only small complaint I have is that the colors of my logo aren’t quite the red and purple I want. I’m probably the only one who will notice the slight difference, so I’m not too worried. I actually think it might be my fault, because I may not have set up the file I sent properly. We went back and forth a few times on email, and Nathan took care of everything for me. I was surprised he got them to me so quickly. I really thought I messed up the order. (Thanks, Nathan!)

Good customer service goes a long way. And, as the name suggests, MagnetsOnTheCheap does have some good prices. I’ll definitely check them out again for more magnets. They also offer yard signs, photos on canvas and banners.

Will you be at BlogHer? Tweet me at @anotherjenb. I’ll even give you a magnet.

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