Common Grammar and Punctuation Mistakes

By January 21, 2011Industry Perspective

Last March, BLASTmedia celebrated National Grammar Day with a Twitter poll to discover what the most annoying grammatical mistake was to you. To refresh your memory, the winner was:

The misuse of their/there/they’re and the misuse of you’re/your, which received 60 percent of the online votes.

This past week, the one-and-only Julie Perry—BLASTmedia’s resident Social Media Director—put together some additional grammar and punctuation reminders we should always be brushing up on as PR and social media professionals. Following are a few that stood out to me:

Hyphenated Description (as Adjective)

Correct: There has to be an easy-to-remember rule to help me know when to use a hyphen. (The adjective “easy-to-remember” describes the “rule” in this instance; so hyphenate it.)
Incorrect: I came up with a rule that is easy-to-remember.

Correct: We saw a 50-foot yacht in the marina.
Incorrect: The yacht we saw in the marina was 50 feet.

Em dash vs En dash

An en dash (–) is bigger than a hyphen but shorter than an em dash (—).
  1. En dashes are used when indicating numerical ranges—of dates, ages, pages, etc. (Example: “I read pages 10–21 yesterday.”) Also use en dashes in the case of a “compound adjective hyphen” (when combining open compounds). Example: The phrase “pro-American” uses a regular hyphen because “American” is only one word, whereas “post–Civil War” uses an en dash because “Civil war” is two words. Another example: “South Carolina–Georgia border.”
  2. An em dash (the width of an m) is used to show a break in thought or a shift of tone. Em dashes often replace commas, semicolons, colons, and parentheses to indicate added emphasis or an abrupt change in thought.

Note: Most experts recommend using no spaces before or after en or em dashes.

Ending Sentences with Prepositions

The pet peeve of our Grammar Guru, Lindsey Groepper, this rule is commonly broken. Phrases we use when speaking every day, such as “where are you at” or “what do I put it on,” are technically incorrect.

Rule of thumb? Try revising your sentences to avoid ending them a preposition whenever possible (or risk sounding like a hick). 😉

Tips for Public Relations

We are all required as PR professionals to use proper grammar in our written and spoken communication. Here are some especially helpful tips you won’t find in your high school English textbook:

  • Branding. Make sure you are consistent with branding in all communication. It can be as simple as a client’s company/brand name or using the names of social media platforms correctly. For example, BLASTmedia is branded as “BLASTmedia,” not “blastmedia” or “Blast media.” When writing about certain platforms, pay attention to their specific branding (YouTube, WordPress, Foursquare, Facebook—not Youtube, WordPress, FourSquare, FaceBook), and make sure you and your clients are on the same page when it comes to every aspect of their company branding.
  • Web Writing. Use only one space after periods, colons, exclamation points, question marks, quotation marks—any punctuation that separates two sentences. What? Yes—since grade school you’ve been taught to leave two spaces between sentences, but the web is a different game.

Poor grammar sets a poor impression, so it can never hurt to brush up on grammar standards and always be conscious of how you are communicating!

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About BLASTmedia

BLASTmedia is a national PR agency specializing in media relations, content creation and amplification. We believe that hustle and dedication deliver results.

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