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Punctuation, Grammar and Vocubulary

Punctuation, Grammar and Vocubulary

There’s a big difference between writing for academia and writing for the web. I had to learn quickly what Internet users were looking for, as I touched on at the beginning of this report.


When you do business online, you have nothing to represent you but your writing. You want to make that writing as clear as possible. Your readers aren’t expecting you to be perfect, but avoiding a few common mistakes can help you avoid looking unprofessional (after all, they don’t have to know you’re not a pro).


Keep your sentences short and sweet. The same goes for your paragraphs. If you find yourself covering more than one main idea per paragraph, you need to start using the return [Enter] key more often.


Writing for the web is casual, but there’s a difference between being casual and being sloppy. Even though you can throw formal grammar and vocabulary out the window, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t pay attention to a few important rules.


Punctuation can get complicated if you let it. To keep things simple, don’t worry about semi-colons, colons, dashes or other exotic punctuation marks. All you’ll really need to focus on is periods, commas and the occasional exclamation point or question mark.


Periods are easy. You use them at the end of a sentence. When you complete your thought, you use a period. If your thought is a question, you use a question mark. And if your thought is exciting or needs emphasis, use an exclamation point.


Use exclamation points cautiously. Even if you are excited about every sentence that you write, use a maximum of one exclamation point per paragraph. Any more than that, and you risk looking like a 15-year-old girl writing an email to a boy she has a crush on through Facebook.


            Commas help break up long sentences. They can get tricky if you over-think them. The best way to find a natural fit for your commas is to read your writing out loud. Anywhere that you’d take a breath or a natural pause, add a comma.


            Note the difference between:


            “When you’re worried about your credit even little financial problems seem like they’ll overwhelm you.”




            “When you’re worried about your credit, even little financial problems seem like they’ll overwhelm you.”


            Notice how the comma breaks up the sentence into two parts and makes it easier to read? In general, your sentences should be pretty short. Commas can help things flow better when you need them.


             If you use a Microsoft Word or another word processing program with spellcheck you may think you’re covered for grammar as well. Not true! Your spellchecker will not see the difference between it’s and its, or their, there and they’re. Learn the difference between these variations, as well as you’re and your and affect and effect.


·         Only use the apostrophe in its if you are trying to shorten “it is.” So it would be, “It’s going to rain,” or “A bird broke its wings.”


·         They’re means “they are.” Their is when you’re talking about people (Their house is big) and there is when you’re talking about a place (there is a gas station.). 


·         You’re means “you are” and your would be used to say, “Your website is great.”


·         Affect is a verb and effect is a noun.  “Did the movie affect you?” versus “What effect did it have on you?”


            Grammar is important but it won’t make or break your eBook. Just be as clear as possible. If you end up with long, winding, incomprehensible sentences, just rewrite them so they make sense. 


You’re not here to impress people with your proper English – they want information on the topic. They’re not interested in oohing and ahhing over your mastery of the English language.


            As far as vocabulary goes, follow this simple rule: If you don’t really know what a word means, don’t use it. In fact, if you don’t know what it means, chances are most of your readers won’t either. 


            With certain topics, there will be specific words that will be important to define during the course of your eBook. But beyond that, you should use layman’s terms whenever possible.


If you want to say “car,” then don’t say “automobile.”  Say car. Write how you speak.  I recently read an eBook that was otherwise good information, but the writing was so stuffy it bothered me to the point I never finished it. 


The writer would start sentences with “Hence, the primary goal is to…” Who says “hence” when they’re really talking? I know I don’t!  Any word you use, try not to use it too much. How many times have you seen “However,” in a sentence?  I get sick of howevers. Look at the sentence below:


“However, commas break up thoughts, so they can make reading easier.”


What happens when you take the “however” out?


“Commas break up thoughts, so they can make reading easier.” 


You just said the SAME thing, but without an extra word nobody really uses when they talk anyway, right? It’s even better if you start your sentence with “But” because it’s what we actually use when we’re talking.


I know, I know – you’re not supposed to use “But” at the beginning of a sentence. It’s okay – this is for a consumer, not a college professor. No one will fail you if you use “but” first or leave a preposition dangling at the end of a sentence, like this:


“Guts or fear - what are you made of?”


Word will even underline it with a green squiggly line to show you how wrong you are. Avoid caving in to conformity – just write how you talk and your consumer will appreciate it because the words will flow smoothly as they read them.

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