Alright, I’ll admit it. I’m a bit of a grammar girl… and by a bit, I mean that I’m actually super into semicolons, apostrophes, and subject-verb agreement. I’ve always been pretty good at telling what’s grammatically correct from that’s grammatically atrocious, and so therefore I embraced being a grammar nerd.
For that reason, I was incredibly excited to learn that my job was sending me to my first professional seminar. The grammar nerd in me leapt at the chance to spend seven hours in an editing boot camp with the American Copy Editors Society! Plus, I’d never been to Pittsburgh, and the travel meant I got to spend my birthday working from home… in my pajamas!
On Sunday afternoon, two of my coworkers and I left the Queen City for Pittsburgh, and the drive actually wasn’t so bad. 4.5 hours with some stunning fall views of the mountains of West Virginia and western Pennsylvania.
When we arrived at the Omni William Penn Hotel, I was psyched to find that my company credit card equaled company status, which meant a complimentary upgrade to a much-larger-than-one-person-could-ever-need room complete with fuzzy robes and a bedside table with motion-activated floor lighting. We had dinner at the hotel restaurant (best Salmon BLT I’ve ever had in my life!), and then my exhausted self got some sleep!
The “Editing Boot Camp” workshop kicked off perfectly. I was immediately intrigued when the workshop began with this little music video.
Seriously, if you haven’t heard Weird Al’s “Word Crimes,” a parody of the awfully sexist and infuriating “Blurred Lines,” watch it. Really. I put it right there for you. All you have to do is click.
The following seven hours (with lunch break!) were a great refresher on the importance of grammar, the mistakes we all make from time to time, and why a consistent, brand-specific style is so important. I actually thought the workshop would be great for fellow bloggers who are looking for a crash course in grammar and branding! Here are a few of the reminders that I gained from working with ACES:
1. Subject-verb/subject-pronoun agreement
This rule can be so easy to get wrong, especially when using a singular but collective noun like “class” or “company.”
For example, instead of
The team can win their game today.
you should say:
The team can win its game today.
Both the subject and its pronoun are singular
2. Passive voice
Sure, it isn’t quite so terrible as your high school teachers made it out to be, but you should always try to use active verbs. They’re more exciting, more descriptive, and more likely to keep your readers engrossed in your posts!
3. Misplaced modifiers
When you begin a sentence with a dependent clause, typically with an -ing verb, please please please be sure it modifies the subject of the sentence.
“Eating his breakfast, the boy’s mother asked him to hurry.”
doesn’t make any sense. It just doesn’t.
4. Quotation marks
Something that I didn’t realize was a thing until this workshop was the use of quotation marks for emphasis.
If I told you I had
A “great” new post
on the blog, you would probably wonder why I was referring to my own post in such a sarcastic manner! Italics are definitely more appropriate.
Not every word with an “s” on the end needs an apostrophe. In fact, very few do.
If it’s a personal possessive,
Tyler’s book, then go for it.
If it’s a plural noun,
Tyler has many book’s, then maybe think twice.
6. The ever popular Oxford comma
Technically, there is no rule saying you have to use the Oxford comma. Do I prefer it? Of course, I do. Does that mean you should use it? Not at all. (Well, maybe a bit!)
Unless, you need it for clarification.
The pastor blessed their meal, the children attending Sunday school and the regular parishioners.
Since the pastor probably doesn’t plan to eat the children or the parishioners, you’d need a comma after “and.”
7. Having a style guide can help you maintain consistency in your written communications.
I feel like this is less about grammar and more to do with “communicating in this crazy twenty-first century world.” I’m currently working on my own style guide that will help me have the same style for different types of blog posts, my Thrive communications to other bloggers and readers, the formatting that I use for my Pins, etc. Google “blog style guide,” and you’ll find tons of resources to help you create your own!
I would seriously recommend the American Copy Editors Society’s editing workshops. The instructors are great, and they answered all of the questions that the attendees had and really strived to make it relevant to each person’s career/background. Check out future workshops and conferences near you here!