Grammar – Does it Really Matter?

Grammar Wielding her Whip!

Image by molarade via Flickr

Of course grammar matters! …and I suppose I could end this post right here. But why grammar matters has, perhaps, changed over the years.

The rules of grammar and syntax exist for reasons of clarification – if we all play by the rules, we should be able to communicate more effectively. Taking the time to use correct grammar also indicates a love and respect for the language.

Now, though, grammatical errors and poor or incorrect syntax are (lamentably) becoming more common – so common, in fact, that readers tend to overlook the errors or simply don’t care.  With the enormous amount of informational, content-style writing around these days, the emphasis seems to be more on a conversational style than correct grammar.

Honestly, I have more faith in my readers’ intelligence than that. Perhaps this is because editors and writers are among my readers; but I know that many of them will not read an article or paragraph if the grammar is wrong and the syntax poor. I am one of these people myself – I have been known to chuck a letter if it has glaring grammatical errors in the first few sentences.

I like to think that correct, effective writing will stand out in the ever-growing sea of poor writing that’s out there.

In short, good grammar and proper syntax are always appropriate. Grammar still matters.

 

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But is it Art?

Calvin and Hobbes

Image via Wikipedia

Remember that wonderful comic strip Calvin and Hobbes? The younger among us may not, but it was a unique and powerful strip in the late 80s and early 90s. The strip’s creator, Bill Watterson, had what I would call a non-conformist approach to comic strip production, and ended up frustrating the syndicate  and himself; he retired from the strip long before his time. Have you ever wondered why a strip so popular never generated mugs, animated cartoons, stuffed animals, pencils, phones, and all that merchandise we love to collect? This was the main source of Watterson’s angst: commercialism. He felt that it would compromise the strip’s integrity and “cheapen” it if its characters were degenerated into merchandise. He apparently saw the lust for stuff going on in the world and just didn’t want to participate. He considered his strip “art,” and therefore wanted to protect its integrity.

So why am I invoking this elusive master of his craft? Watterson comes to mind when I think of someone who produced quality work for the sake of the work; the integrity of the product was one of his primary motivations. I admire that, and I also recognize that such an approach can be terribly difficult in a day and age that heaps financial rewards on “quick and noticeable.”

I don’t know that writing web content is “art.” But I will contend that there is an art to it, as there is to any good writing, and it is the watermark of the individual style that sets good content – content with substance – apart in a saturated market.

 

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“High Quality Content”

An animation of the quicksort algorithm sortin...

Image via Wikipedia

Google’s algorithm change has altered the face of web content writing, and personally, I am thrilled. This CNNMoney.com article notes that the main beneficiaries of Google’s change have been those writers who produce “high quality content.”  As someone who touts her ability to write web content with substance, I am pleased that Google’s change has given a more audible voice to writers of in-depth pieces.

According to the article, “content farms” were among the hardest hit by the algorithm change. My best friend and I have an inside joke (about to become public) about this kind of “content farm” writing one sees around the web these days. When we were kids, which was in the 80s, there were TV infomercials for all kinds of largely useless and bulky products that, for all their bulk, apparently made significant impressions on our young minds because we still remember them. There was one commercial for some kind of steamer that claimed it used “real molecules of steam!” to accomplish its steaming action. Of course, there is no other sort of steam to be had, but the advertisers decided to state the obvious as though it were important information exclusive to their product. This same sort of simplistic approach is often seen in web content writing, and my friend and I call it the “real molecules of steam” style.

I take pride in producing “high quality content” and in-depth articles. For example, high quality content would explore what the steam does and how it accomplishes its purpose (softening bread, getting the wrinkles out of clothes, etc.). Google’s algorithm may open new doors for this kind of writing, and I hope to walk through a few open doors! …if the real molecules of steam don’t drift through first…

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What Does “Substance” Mean?

Mat Pilates na prática

Image by L.A. Fitness Solutions via Flickr

I talk a lot about producing web content with substance – after all, it’s in my tagline – but what does that mean, exactly? What is meant by “substance”?

Simply put, web content with substance is real writing. It’s writing that uses unique syntax, effective word choice, and correct grammar and punctuation. It contrasts strikingly with ineffective web content that has many words but says very little. Here is an example of “hollow” web content, which is my original creation gleaned from various perceptions of this kind of content on the web. It’s followed by a substantial version on the same topic.

Hollow:

How Pilates Can Help You Lose Weight

There are many ways that Pilates can help with weight loss. Weight loss is one of the many benefits of Pilates. It tones muscles and gives you a good workout. It will burn calories each time you do it which is a benefit for those wanting to lose weight.

Substance:

How Pilates Can Help You Lose Weight

Pilates consists of specific exercises and movements that are designed to strengthen core muscle groups.  These muscles are not only stretched and strengthened during a workout; because you use them every day, they continue working between Pilates sessions to improve posture and boost metabolism, thus resulting in weight loss.


The first example does not say much about how Pilates can help with weight loss; it just says that it does, and its sentence structure is cliche, clumsy, and repetitive. This kind of web content may be easily obtained for cheap, but it won’t give your site the kind of unique interest that substantial content will. Readers appreciate real information!

 

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