Top Ten Grammar Errors that Haunt Web Pages
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Copyright © 2006 Robin Nobles
all of this talk about content, don’t you think it’s
time to have a frank discussion about grammar? Our Web
sites are our online store fronts—our online images.
If our sites are full of grammar errors, what does that
say about the professionalism of our businesses?
The Internet tends to be a more relaxed atmosphere,
so should we expect to see a more relaxed use of grammar
on the Net?
No. Just because the Internet is a different publishing
medium, and just because we’ve gotten a little lax in
our editing or forgotten some of our grammar rules,
that doesn’t make it correct.
It’s time to pay attention to our own Web pages and
relearn some of the basic grammar rules that we may
have forgotten along the way.
Let’s look at what I consider to be some of the top
grammar errors that haunt Web pages:
= it is
Example: It’s perfectly okay to bring your dog
to work at Google. (correct)
Example: It’s goal is to increase productivity
by 100 percent by the year 2007. (incorrect)
In example #2, replace it’s with it
is. It is goal is to increase productivity
. . .
Doesn’t work, so you know it’s wrong. This is
one of the most common errors I see, so comb through
your Web pages for this one.
site (or page) vs. web site/page vs. Website/website
The Chicago Manual of Style states that
Web sites and Web pages are correct.
After all, we’re referring to the World Wide Web,
so Web should always be capitalized. The
book uses Web pages (sites) as two
Webster’s New Dictionary of the English Language
published in 2006 agrees with Chicago.
However, the online version of Chicago
states, “But generally, I would recommend Web
site for formal writing, but website
for informal writing or friendly writing. Unless,
of course, you prefer Web site even when
you’re being friendly.”
Now let’s look at it from a different slant. How
do people search?
Capitalization doesn’t matter, because the major
engines aren’t case sensitive at this point in
time. However, if you’re in an industry where
your keywords contain Web site or Web
page, you may want to use both variations
(one and two words) on your pages, because people
certainly search in both ways, no matter which
Think about your target audience and how they're
searching. After all, you want a professional Web
site, but your ultimate goal is to sell your goods
TIP: The titles of books should be italicized.
and commas: do they go inside or outside of quotation
marks, or does it depend on the sentence?
Example: She said, “Periods and commas always
go inside quotation marks, just like this.” (correct)
Example: This is “incorrect”, because the comma
is outside of the quotation marks. (incorrect)
It should be: This is “correct,” because the comma
is . . .
vs. email, plus what is the plural of e-mail?
E-mail stands for electronic mail. According
to Chicago, e-mail should contain
the hyphen, and it doesn’t have to be capitalized
Here’s where it gets interesting. The American
Heritage Dictionary considers e-mails
to be the plural version of e-mail.
Chicago says that either is correct. After
all, the plural version of mail is mail.
Here are some examples straight from their Web
“How much e-mail do you get each month?”
“Send me some e-mails when you get a chance.
If e-mail is a keyword for you, you may
want to include email on your pages as
well. Again, remember your target audience and
the words they will be using when searching for
your products and services. Honestly, if I could
make a prediction based on being an Internet person,
it would be that e-mail evolves into email due to popular usage. Do you know anyone
who uses e-mails? I sure don't!
This is one of those rules where I ran into some
contradictory information. In The Wordwatcher’s
Guide to Good Writing & Grammar by Morgan
S. Freeman, he states:
“How to form the plural of letters and numbers
is a stylistic decision. There are no rights and
wrongs, merely eye appeal. Some writers would
write the plural of O.K. with no apostrophe, and
follow suit with the plural of letters (the three
Rs) and numbers (the 1930s). Others think the
apostrophe makes for clarity (the three R’s, the
1930’s). Consider 'Hooray for the YMCAs.' Take
Chicago thinks differently. They believe
that capital letters used as words that contain
no interior periods can be made plural by simply
adding an s. However, lowercase letters
do require an apostrophe and an s.
However, every source agrees that if interior
periods are used, an apostrophe is required, like
My recommendation? Do whatever works for you and
be consistent. Personally, my choice is SEOs.
receive (remember: i before e except
all right (alright is not a word)
a lot (should always be two words)
cannot (preferred way to spell)
Visit yourDictionary.com (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.
compound adjectives + noun—hyphenate when the
adjectives appear before a noun but not if used
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
The material in the newsletter is kept up to date.
(There’s no noun following up to date,
so it shouldn’t be hyphenated.)
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
Example: There goal is to give they’re members
the best online experience. (incorrect)
Example: Their goal is to give their members the
best . . . (correct)
You vs. your vs. you’re – Using the search function
in your word processing program, search for 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)
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
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.
Example: The datum shows that the Yahoo! search
engine visited the site during the last twenty-four
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
Example: The research data is being collected.
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 logical.
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 needed.
Example: At the end of the day, he left the office.
Example: Therefore, the next SES Conference is
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 available.
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.
NOTE: To discuss
the points made in this article or other grammar
points, visit my Idea
Motivator Blog, a blog devoted to creating
Web content and link popularity through creativity.
About Robin Nobles:
Nobles conducts live hands-on SEO
workshops in locations across North America.
Localized SEO training is now being offered through
Engine Academy. Sign
up for a free SEO tip of the day.
Check out a few SEO
Workshop Photos or review our complete
Workshop Agenda here.
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