Though it may not seem like grammar still matters online, considering how some websites are written, it most certainly does.
I say this not just as a former English teacher, but as someone who communicates with words. We who create content for the Internet are creating websites to communicate our ideas; if our grammar is incomprehensible, our ideas will not be understood. (For instance: how would some ill-constructed English content translate into another language if a user needed it translated? It probably wouldn’t translate well at all.)
Thus, we webdesigners and developers must be concerned, at least partially, about our grammar, especially if we are running an informational website. Above all, we want our users to understand our content!
Recognizing Bad Grammar: A Quick Little Quiz
They is gonna go, down their soon.
There are four grammatical problems with this sentence. Can you find them all? Not only is this a common spoken sentence, but this contains some of the most common Internet grammar slip-ups, too. (Answers at the bottom of this article!)
The Difference Good Grammar Makes
Read the following two samples. Which one seems more professional, more trustworthy, and worth following up?
Hey what up Im an web master and I could do your web site. Cause I can program and style it too. I been trained 3 year. Me and my brother been working on web sites together 4 a long time we like it. If you want me 2 design your site just msg me and well work something out.
If you’re looking for a webmaster, I would be glad to offer my services. I can do both development and design, and have 3 years’ experience working both with a design team and on my own. Please send me a message if you are interested.
While there is something to be said for #1’s easygoing style, #2 takes the cake in terms of professionalism, trustworthiness, and clarity. To understand #1, you need a basic working knowledge of textspeak/chatspeak; additionally, the sentences run on a bit long, yet they don’t really add anything to the “sales pitch,” so to speak. #2 makes its points clearly and quickly, and with more polish.
The only difference between #1 and #2? Grammar. Sentence construction, punctuation, even some basic elements of writing style–all fall under the broad heading of “grammar.” Simply put, grammar can make or break your website’s readability and enjoyability, not to mention its use as a reference.
If you had to choose between these two webdesigners for a project, which one would you trust more to do a better job? Most clients would go with the second designer, simply because the person sounds more capable and professional. We have to remember that our websites will be judged for their professionalism and trustworthiness in the same way.
How to Achieve Good Grammar
- Read your content aloud. Just like with checking your spelling, reading what you have written out loud will help you catch most of your grammatical errors, because your sentence won’t “sound right.”
- Consult Internet references–I have a selected list picked out below.
- If you’re still unsure of your grammar, have someone who is good with grammar and writing read over your content before you post it to your website. Better safe than sorry!
Online Grammar References
Final Notes: Answer Key
- “They is” is incorrect. It should be “They are,” unless you are purposefully writing in Southern dialect.
- “Gonna” is not technically a word–only in casual speech. “Going to” is the proper form.
- The comma between “go” and “down” is unnecessary.
- “Their” is a word that is spelled right but not used correctly. The right word to use in this sentence is “there,” which references a place, rather than “their,” which references possession of something.