Your credibility is everything as a medical blogger. You are asking people to trust you enough to make a change in their behavior or to make an appointment to see you. But if you make grammar mistakes that make you look like you didn’t pay attention in school, or you just aren’t paying attention now, your credibility is shot.
The good news is that writing for the internet is a lot more relaxed than writing for AP exams. Writing for the internet is more about writing how we speak than writing how Mrs. Stevens taught in 11th grade English class. You no longer have to contort your sentences to keep from ending with a preposition. Sentence fragments are acceptable. And you can even start your sentences with conjunctions (and, but, or) if you want.
But there are a few common grammar mistakes that can shoot your credibility all to heck. Let’s look at a few of the most important offenders.
The Poor, Abused Apostrophe
NEVER use an apostrophe to make a plural. My neighbor has three cats, not three cat’s. That’s easy right? Well, you’d be surprised how many people have forgotten this rule or never learned it to begin with.
Contractions use apostrophes.
A contraction is when you smash two words together to make a single word. You + are becomes you’re. Not your. If you are confused by this, substitute the two words in for the one.
- You are a good friend to everyone who knows you. That works, so you can use you’re.
- You are dog just ripped out my hedges. That makes no sense. Use your.
You can use the same test for the words there/they’re or its/it’s.
A note on this. If you type very fast, you might make this mistake more often than you think. And spell check probably won’t catch it. It’s not a bad idea to look for these mistakes in all of your writing, even if you know these rules inside and out.
Writers commonly confuse lose and loose. And since you are a medical blogger, at some point you will write about weight loss. It’s essential that you know the difference. Here is a simple sentence to keep it straight:
When you lose weight, your pants will be too loose.
Lose is a verb that means something is lost, like weight. Loose is an adjective that describes something that is baggy. Like pants.
These words are crazy difficult for most people to keep straight. Usually affect is a verb and effect is a noun. Like this.
The effect of too much root beer was an upset stomach.
In the above sentence, effect is a noun, it names a thing.
I’m afraid the root beer will affect my digestion.
In this sentence affect is a verb, it is an action that root beer will take on my stomach.
BUT, if that’s not difficult enough to keep straight, there are times when affect can be a noun and effect can be a verb. Which is why I brought them up here. Business types often say things like:
The ad campaign is predicted to effect change in the targeted demographic.
And medical types will sometime say things like:
The patient presented with a depressed affect.
In both cases, the use of these words is jargon and you need to find a different way to say them. Jargon has no place in blogging for real people.
Instead you could say:
We believe the new ad will work with our target audience.
The patient looked sad.
The Dangling Participle
At best this grammar mistake turns your sentence into a joke. At worst the dangling participle makes your sentence impossible to understand. Here are a couple of examples:
Fermenting for three weeks, the winemaker waited patiently for his new creation.
That must be one stinky winemaker!
Producing only minimal side effects, the doctor encourages the use of the new drug for diabetes.
A doctor who produces side effects? I’m out of here.
In both cases, the phrases at the beginning of the sentence are removed from the words they are supposed to modify. See how confusing it makes things? If you are struggling with this concept, it’s better to break it up into two sentences.
If you want to understand the whole participle business a little better, I recommend checking out The Grammar Girl’s explanation. In fact, she’s a great reference whenever you have grammar questions.
Today’s to do is simple.
First, consider if any of these common mistakes apply to you. It’s okay if they do, because now you are armed with the knowledge you need to fix them. You’ll be aware every time you write something new. Isn’t it great to get better at something?
Second, go back and proofread some of your writing and correct any of these mistakes you find. Notice if you commonly make one of these mistakes so you can have it in the front of your mind when you write new material.
Quick Tip: use CTRL F and type in the word you are looking for. If you think you write “your” instead of “you’re” too often – search for “you” to find each instance of both uses. Or if you mix up effect and affect, search for “ffect,” again so you will find both uses.
Do you have any mistakes you tend to make over and over? Is there a particular mistake that you see very often that we need to address? We’d love to hear from you, so please share in the comments or on Twitter.
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