Last week, I wrote about how you can break a few grammar rules for books and the internet (See How Good Does My Grammar Need to Be?). In the past week, however, I have seen a lot of writers who take the informal style a little too far.
Here are my top five grammar rules you shouldn’t break for understandable writing:
1. Use paragraphs.
I’ll be honest. If I see a full page of text with no breaks, I close the window and move on. Paragraphs break the writing up into thoughts. They make it easier to read. Without them, the writing looks intimidating, confusing, and time-consuming.
With today’s attention spans, most people aren’t going to read that.
2. Use full sentences most of the time.
Yes, you can use fragments to make the writing less formal. That doesn’t mean you can write mostly in fragments. Or in run-ons for that matter. A couple thrown in is ok (see the previous sentence); however, most of your sentences should be full sentences so that the reader can tell what’s going on.
3. Use real words (spell).
In today’s age of spell-check and online dictionaries, misspelling a ton of words is lazy (and embarrassing). The same is true of texting abbreviations. Sure, they’re great for shortening texts or making characters seem young. They are not great for blog articles.
Be honest. If you saw a post that was mostly misspelled or in texting slang, you’d mock it. Well, so would almost everyone else.
4. Use capitalization.
Using “i” instead of “I” looks like a mistake. When it’s done over and over again, it kills the souls of your elementary school teachers.
Ok, not literally. But when you think about it, they spent at least 4 years drilling you on that. It’s not hard to use the “shift” key, and while it may seem like a little thing, basic capitalization makes your writing that much easier to read.
5. Use punctuation.
If you don’t put a period, I don’t know where the sentence ends. Commas, apostrophes, quotation marks – punctuation is designed to make writing clearer. English is a messy, patched-together language. Adding or removing a comma can completely change the meaning of the sentence.
The main point is that having a great idea does no good if people can’t read it. Don’t lose readers because your writing is confusing or frustrating to read.