15 Grammatical Mistakes That Damage Your Marketing Credibility
By Justin | Oct 28, 2019 (5 min read)
Those years of dozing off in the back of your high school English class are probably affecting your marketing efforts.
That’s right, it turns out, grammar is really important. According to a study by Global Lingo, 59% of people claimed they would not use a website littered with poor grammar.
It only takes a person .05 seconds to form an opinion about your website, so why let bad grammar influence that split-second decision?
The web today is saturated with mediocre content. As clicks disappear off SERPs and 1st-page ranking becomes even more important, your ability to create high quality technically sound content can make or break your content strategy.
In this piece, we’ll help you channel your inner English major, avoid the most common mistakes and produce grammatical masterpieces.
15 Grammar Mistakes That Damage Your Marketing Credibility
1) To vs. Too
Most of us know the difference between to and too, but it’s still one of the most common grammar mistakes all writers make. It’s just so easy to leave that extra o off the word without even realizing it. For anybody that’s a little shaky on the usage rules, here’s a quick overview.
First of all, “to” is most often used before a noun or a verb and often describes a destination, or activity.
Here are a few examples:
- We flew to Europe. (destination)
- I sent the report to my supervisor. (recipient)
- I’m going to grab a drink (action)
On the other hand, “too” represents an alternative to the word “also” or “as well.” You can also use it to explain an adjective in extreme terms.
Here are a couple of examples:
- He works in digital marketing too.
- She, too, reads the Brandastic blog.
- We all think the movie is too long.
At the end of the day, avoiding “to” vs. “too” mistakes comes down to careful proofreading. Copy editing all-stars may even want to search the words “to” and “too” in order to sift through and validate every usage in your copy.
2) Passive Voice
Students hate passive voice. That’s because professors and teachers agree on their abhor for the sloppy writing habit. Guess what? They’re right because active voice makes your writing direct, stronger, and, of course, more active. On the other hand, when it comes to passive voice, the subject is acted upon by a separate performer of the verb. (If you are paying attention you might notice the use of passive voice in the previous sentence.)
With that being said, passive voice is not technically incorrect. There are even times when skilled writers use it to improve their content.
Here are a few examples:
- She will always beat out the competition (poor use of passive voice)
- She beats out the competition 100% of the time (quality use of active voice)
- Rules are made to be broken (passive voice that works in context)
Writers often struggle to understand negatives in using passive voice, but whether you see it or not, switching to active voice makes your writing far more authoritative and clear.
3) Affect vs. Effect
This next grammar mistake plagues plenty of talented writers. Affect and Effect are easy to mix up. In short, Affect is usually a verb that refers to an impact or change. On the other hand, effect is usually a noun and represents the results of a change. Here are some examples to help familiarize you with the proper use of affect and effect.
- Page speed affects your SEO efforts.
- The off-season affects eCommerce sales.
- Sleep affects your health in a positive way.
- The effect of great grammar is a better blog post
- Closing a sale results in a positive effect on employee mood.
- That medicine has various side effects.
4) Who, Whom, Whose, Who’s
Who, whom, whos, and who’s are all common terms in the English language that give people plenty of problems. Let’s take a look and break down the correct usage of each word.
“Who” is used to distinguish between living pronouns. Here’s an example:
- Who stole the cookie from the cookie jar?
“Whom” proves a bit trickier to work out. It is most often used to explain someone who is receiving something– like an Amazon package. Check out the below example.
- Whom did we hire to join the team?
“Whose” is simply used to address ownership to someone. Check below for an example.
- Whose AirPods are those?
“Who’s” is a contraction for who is that is normally used to identify a living being.
- Who’s writing that blog post?
5) Wrong Word Usage
There are various words and phrases that are often misused in sentences. While it’s usually an honest mistake, wrong word usage reflects poorly on the writer can even alter the meaning of what you write. There are hundreds of these commonly misused words, so we can’t list them all, so it’s always best to check the definition and spelling of a word. See below for a couple of common examples.
- PPC is beneficial as a compliment to your SEO strategy. (wrong use)
- PPC is beneficial as a complement to your SEO strategy. (correct use)
- We optimized the web page so it can perform at peek levels. (wrong use)
- We optimized the web page so it can perform at peak levels. (correct use)
6) Sentence Fragment
A sentence fragment is an incomplete sentence that doesn’t have an independent clause. These fragments often lack subjects, a complete verb, or sometimes even both. There are also times where a sentence fragment relies on the following sentence to provide context. Check out these examples:
- Because the site launched later than expected. (incorrect)
- The company lost out on sales because the site launched late than expected. (correct)
- The site performed poorly. In spite of optimizations. (incorrect)
- In spite of optimizations, the site performed poorly. (correct)
7) They’re vs. Their vs. There
Oh, the age-old confusion of “they’re”, “their”, and “there.” One is a contraction for they are (they’re), another refers to ownership (their), and one refers to a specific place (there). You probably know and understand the difference and a simple proofread gets rid of any mistakes.
Once again we suggest going to your word document and searching they’re, their, and there. Go through each inclusion and determine whether or not it’s used correctly. Here’s a sentence with all three terms in their correct form:
- They’re over there working on their website redesign.
8) Me vs. I
I’m sure you know the difference between these two common words, but when it comes to actually using one in your writing, problems arise. Both words are personal pronouns, but they serve different purposes. Confusing the different uses is an immediate sign of sloppy writing.
“Me” is used as a pronoun when it is used by a speaker to him or herself as the object of a verb or preposition.
- Just give me a minute?
“I” is also used as a pronoun implemented by a speaker to refer to himself or herself. Long story short, I is used as a subject and me is used as an object.
- I hate commercials.
9) Then vs. Than
“Then” versus “than” might be my biggest pet peeve when it comes to common grammar mistakes. “Then” is essentially an adverb that’s used to demonstrate actions across time. On the other hand, “than” is a conjunction used for comparing. See below for examples.
- I’d rather use this font than that font.
- Then he decided to increase the marketing budget.
- I like this website better than that one.
- If you wake up late, then you will be late for work.
10) Run-On Sentences
A run-on sentence typically occurs when you join two independent clauses without any punctuation.
- He wanted to send out the report she said not yet. (incorrect)
- He wanted to send out the report, but his coworker thinks it’s not ready. (correct)
- I love to write blogs I would write them every day if I had the time. (incorrect)
- I love to write blogs and I would write them every day if I had the time. (correct)
Semicolons are used to connect two different, but closely related independent clauses that could potentially stand on their own. For example, I can use a semicolon in the sentence: “email me tomorrow; I’ll have the data for you by then.”
As you can see, both clauses can stand on their own in a sentence, but it sounds better when they are conjoined. You can also use semicolons to separate items in a list, but only if those items already contain commas themselves. Here’s an example:
We offer two different marketing channels: SEO, which is optimizing for organic traffic; or PPC, which deals with paid search.
12) Dangling Modifiers
A dangling modifier is a word or phrase that modifies a word not explicitly stated in the sentence. More specifically, a modifier describes, clarifies, or give more detail about an idea.
See below for an example:
- Having finished up the quote, the agency sent it over to the client.
13) Referring to a Brand or Entity as ‘They’
You’d be surprised how many proficient content writers make this common grammar mistake. A business is not a plural and should never be referred to as a “they”. Instead, a business is an “it.” We often talk about brands as they rather than he or she, which further pushes the confusion.
14) Farther vs. Further
Most people use “farther” and “further” interchangeably, but unfortunately, they do not carry the same exact meaning. More specifically, farther refers to the actual distance between objects and further makes reference to figurative distances. The term further is also used as an adjective or adverb to mean “additionally.”
15) Incomplete Comparisons
The final grammar mistake on this list might be the most frustrating one for readers. Here’s an example:
- Our client’s website is faster, more responsive, and user-friendly.
The sentence is incorrect because we don’t know what the website is compared to. What is it faster than? If you ever claim anything that needs to be compared to something else to make sense, be sure to clarify what that is. If not, it confuses readers and makes you look sloppy.
There’s no doubt grammar is extremely important when it comes to digital marketing and your overall brand image. More specifically, poor grammar affects credibility, professionalism, respect, and clarity.
With a plethora of brands fighting tooth and nail for customers and brand awareness on the web, why risk losing sales due to laziness? Practice careful attention to detail in your writing and carry the skill over to other aspects of your business.