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9 Grammar Rules all Bloggers Need to Know

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Suffering from impotence, a man visits serveral doctors asking for help. All to no avail. Finally, out of desperation, he visits a witch-doctor. The witch-doctor gives him a potion that can only be used once a year and tells him to take it before he is ready to be intimate. Then, when the time is right he should say “1, 2, 3” and his impotence will be cured for as long as he likes.

The man asks, “How do I make the potion stop working?”

“Oh, that’s easy,” the doctor replies, “You just say, “1, 2, 3, 4.”

That evening before he enters the house, the man drinks the potion. He surprises his wife by immediately leading her to the bedroom. Things are going well and the man whispers, “1, 2, 3.”

His wife gives him a funny look and asks, “What’d you say 1, 2, 3 for?”

And that is why you never end a sentence with a preposition!

Oh grammar, why must you be so funny? Okay, so it isn’t really funny or fun, but it is important. As promised, I will do my very best to make a very droll subject interesting. Grammar is one of those things that, when not done correctly, can make you look really stupid really fast. The careless use of “I could care less” can cause someone to start ignoring you faster than you can say “irregardless.”

The most important thing to remember – before you scroll past this post – is that all of the rules I’m sharing with you today apply to you. Even if you are not a blogger, following these basic rules will make you sound smarter regardless of your audience. Correct grammar is key if you want to be taken seriously in any venue. Breaking the rules can be fun and all, but you have to know them first.

Since the World Series is just a couple of weeks away, I decided the magic number for this post would be nine. So here are nine grammar rules that are often broken.

1. Who/Whom

The best way to figure out if you should be using who or whom in a sentence is to reword it. You can use the pronoun to determine the correct word. Here is an example:

Who/Whom is the best blogger ever?
He/Him is the best blogger ever.

Recite the second sentence (either aloud or in your head – whichever makes you feel less nerdy (Let’s face it, as bloggers our nerd quotients are probably high enough already) and decide which pronoun is correct. Are you done? Did you say “He” is the correct answer? Good. You’re right. And since we’d use “He” we know that the correct possessive is “Who.” You can use this replacement trick without fail and you’ll never misuse who/whom again.

2. Compliment/Complement

Do you know this one? If you do that’s great, but you might be surprised how many people get this wrong. Let’s say I wanted to tell my coworker (via email, of course) that her hat really goes well with her shirt. I would write:

“Your hat really complements your shirt.”

If I wrote that her hat “compliments” her shirt then I would be saying that her hat paid her shirt a compliment, not that it was a good pairing. I have a mnemonic device that I use for this: “I complIment you. My E-ring complements my necklace.” Yup, it’s lame, but it works.

3. However,
People are constantly messing this one up. The grammatically correct way to use “however” is at the beginning of a sentence, followed by a comma. Need a mnemonic? “However has a cap and a comma.” “Cap” being the capital letter at the start of the sentence. Repeat this a few times a day for a week or so and it will be forever stuck in your brain, I promise.

4. Split Infinitives
You’ve heard this term, but do you know what it means? It is actually very simple: an infinitive is simply a verb with the word “to” preceding it: to run, to write, to dance. The key is to keep the “to” and the verb together and not separate them by other words. The most likely offenders in a split infinitive are adverbs: to quickly run, to calmly write, to slowly dance. The correct way is to keep the infinitive together and follow it with the adverb: to run quickly, to write calmly, to dance slowly.

5. Lie, Lay, Lain, Laid, Lying

For such short little words, “lie” and “lay” can really cause big problems. You lie down on a bed. You lay a CD on the passenger seat. In an example from her book Painless Grammar, Rebecca Elliott, offers up this handy example:

For lie:
“Today I lie in bed.
Yesterday I lay in bed.
Many times I have lain in bed.
Yesterday I was lying in bed all day.”

For lay:
“Today I lay the book on the counter.
Yesterday I laid the book on the counter.
Many times I have laid the book on the counter.
Yesterday I was laying the book on the counter when Mom came home.”

6. Prepositions

The rule (and the joke) says that you should never end a sentence with a preposition. However, this is one of those rules that can be broken in some instances. The problem is, when you rearrange a sentence to make sure it doesn’t end with a preposition, it often comes out awkward. Let’s say I write, “This is the class for which I registered.” Grammatically, that is totally correct. Too bad it sounds weird and stuffy, especially if I am writing dialogue. So I write: “This is the class I registered for.” Half the English language snobs gasp and the other half shrug, realizing that sometimes you just gotta go with what sounds right.

7.1. When to Use Commas

At times, I tend to go a bit comma crazy. Some people suffer from the exact opposite disorder, making their way through entire paragraphs without a comma to be found. Having a handy list of instances for using commas helps me curb my obsession:

  • Before a coordinating conjunction (and, but, for, or, so, yet) that introduces an independ clause (a clause that can stand alone as a complete sentence)
  • After conjunctive adverbs (however, finally, furthermore, indeed, meanwhile, nevertheless, therefore, unfortunately)
  • After most introductory phrases and clauses (the part of a sentence preceding the subject and verb is usually an introductory phrase)
  • To emphasize an adverb
  • (I typed, quickly, to meet my deadline)

  • When adjectives come after the noun
  • In lists
  • With cities and states, addresses and dates
  • In numbers > 999
  • With direct quotations

Are you asleep yet? Perhaps it’s time for a seventh inning stretch. Here’s another grammar joke: How is a cat like a comma? I will get back to that at the end of the article. For now, let’s move on to the last two and a half rules.

7.2. Commas Continued…

Here are some more occassions to use commas:

  • When speaking directly to someone
  • Before and/or after an interjection, a parenthetical expression or a title after a person’s name
  • Between consecutive adjectives (This morning was a rainy start to a soggy, gray, cloudy, dark day.)
  • Before and/or after some Latin abbreviations (I love blogging, writing, reading, etc.)
  • After greetings and before closings – in friendly letters
  • Before and after appositives (Our supervisor, John Doe, is a poor manager.)
  • To indicate omitted words (“Saturday I went out for lunch; Sunday, dinner.”)

8. Always Use Complete Sentences?

This is a fun rule to break. So fun! Before I tell you when it is okay to break it, I will first define it. A complete sentence has a subject and a verb: “I write.” Easy enough. Generally, it is a good idea to follow this rule. Some fragments for style can be acceptable, but this can easily get too “cute” and your readers will get annoyed. Here are three instances where you can use fragments:

  1. When used for emphasis: “I thought my grades would be great, but when I got my report card I had Fs. Three Fs!”
  2. When used for informal dialogue: “Gonna see a movie?” “Sure.” “At ten?” “Nah. Too late. Seven?” “Okay.”
  3. When used for exclamations and interjections: “Wow!” “Ouch!” “Hell, Yeah!”

9. Cut the Crap

When we are speaking, an extra “a” or “of” here and there does not make a conversation awkward. However, when you are writing, be sure you take the time to cut out extra words. You want to use the words you need and ditch the rest. A good example of this is when someone writes: “He sat down on the chair.” When you sit, you are nearly always sitting down. It is safe to cut that word. “He sat on the chair.” Always use the least amount of words you can get away with. As a blogger, you are generally not writing to word count or page inches. This gives you the freedom to be as brief as you want to be. You might find reading aloud to be useful in helping you weed out the extras.

With that, I will leave you to your own devices. But before I go, I know you’re dying to know the punchline to the cat joke, so here it is: A cat has claws at the end of its paws and a comma is a pause at the end of a clause. That is without a doubt the nerdiest joke I have ever heard – and I work in IT!

I am a strong advocate for breaking rules in most situations. However, as far as grammar goes, the best plan is to buy a grammar guide so you are prepared. Then, when you’re in doubt, look it up. The thirty seconds you spend checking for accuracy could save you many readers and much respect.

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When Is It Too Late to Start Blogging?

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Never!

Ego sometimes clings to limiting ideas. One such idea is the notion that starting a blog at some specific age proves to be futile because of it being too late. I recall hearing Gary Vaynerchuk professing how people in their early 20’s ask him if it is too late to begin a business. Do you see why ego deludes you? Fear manifests as all types of crippling beliefs holding you back. Someone clinging to fear, being 21 years old, asks if being 21 is too old for starting a business. Why? Some 21 year olds observe 14 year olds who create million dollar ventures. Or some 21 year olds see fellow 21 year olds who already became millionaires, when the limited-thinking 21 year old simply has never been an entrepreneur. Guess what? It is never late to begin blogging. It is never too late to begin blogging. I recall a 73 year old new to blogging who bought 4 of my eBooks after I wrote a guest post on Build Your Own Blog. He began blogging at 73 years old. Imagine that? Yet 21 year olds some 50 years his minor fear being 21 is too old for beginning a successful venture.

Fear makes you think silly things. Be beyond fear. Feel fear. Release fear. Move in a direction of possibilities. Move toward opportunities. Now is the time to begin blogging whether you are 21 or 101. Now is the time to begin. Seize the moment. Do you plan to be around for a bit? Blog. Begin blogging. It is never too late to start blogging because you and I sit in the perfect place at the perfect time for our individual journeys. I began blogging in my mid 30’s. 35 years old, to be exact. Being a 35 year old beginner blogger never crossed my mind as being too old because I did not cling to the fear fueling that too old, aged, limiting belief. I saw actual 12 year olds blogging during my newbie blogging days. Who cares that a kid 20 years my junior began blogging? I had 20 more years LIFE experience than he. Possessing 20 more years life experience puts you at a tremendous advantage when it comes to learning the in’s and out’s of blogging the right way. Heck; the 73 year old new blogger may have zero blogging experience but 73 years of life experience. What seems more important at that point in your life? Does knowing how to format a blog post at 73 count more than the fearlessness, serenity and peace you acquired from facing 73 years worth of fears? Dude begins blogging with the mindset of a Blogging Yoda, for all he faced and for all the experience he has. Does THAT sound like it’s too late for blogging?

The only thing I would say is to begin blogging now because blogging experience is your best ally. Do not wait on the sidelines. Even though you can begin blogging at any age, why wait until you turn 45 when you can begin blogging now, at age 40? Why hesitate? Experience benefits you tremendously. Whether you start blogging at 13 or 73, experience earned and learned from, accelerates your blogging success. But you need to see the journey through and you need to begin blogging now. Go ahead. Blog. It’s not too late!

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Do you fear deleting your worn out, failing blog to start over? Buy my eBook:

Why Trashing 3400 Blog Posts Was My Greatest Blogging Success

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A Simple Guide to Collecting Feedback from Your Blog Users

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Alter exit pop-up

Poor feedback from your readers and customers can spread like wildfire. So sometimes it’s best to go to the route of a problem and fix it before you lose your readers or hear them discuss your site around the web.

By making it easy for people to share their feedback about your website or service you’re providing, you can find out what your site users really think, improve your work and then watch your subscribers and conversions grow.

Prevent the trouble

Before going into much detail on how to collect and address your readers’ feedback, let’s start with the most important aspect of that: Prevention.

Whether you are starting a new blog or setting up a site to promote affiliate products, you can avoid a lot of problems by monitoring your competitors or the brands you are going to advertise on your site.

Let’s say you are going to resell a hosting service, and you may even like it yourself. But have you ever thought of unhappy customers of that brand? How likely are they to accuse you of promoting a poor service? Do a quick Google search and read though the customer review to understand common problems their customers are dealing with.

Run a quick question research to get a better idea of what their customers are dealing with and whether you can answer those questions. Text Optimizer is a great tool for that as it goes right to Google to extract data around any search query. Its question research feature will give you a good idea of the type of struggles your readers may be dealing with:

Text Optimizer

Don’t ignore the numbers

An easy and simple way of honing in on the problems of your site is to keep an eye on the numbers that your blog provides you with.

Web analytics will very clearly show you what pages on your site bring in the clicks and views, and which ones drive your customers away. You will also see what is and isn’t working and what requires your attention.

Get techy with it

If web analytics isn’t giving you all the answers, think about investing in some technology that goes straight to the source and tells you what’s going on in the background of your site.

Exit-intent technology is perfect for collecting customer feedback in terms of statistics so you can see exactly how many people are leaving your site.

Alter is a great option to use here as it uses Artificial Intelligence to personalize exit-intent popups and keep your blog readers on your site.

Alter exit pop-up

Alter needs 1 minute to install and no time customizing it (unless you really want to play with the features). The tool will analyze your blog visitors’ behavior and learn to engage each of them in a most effective way. It is also completely free unless you have too much traffic coming in to analyze.

Survey your readers

Surveys are often the easiest way to get feedback from your readers. The fact that they can be embedded straight into your blog means that they are eye-catching and difficult to miss when positioned correctly. A quick search online can show you many different ways to create surveys that can be attached to your blog, from the simple to the majestic, depending on your budget. Here’s a good option to get you started.

The problem with surveys is that people often get bored of them halfway through and click off before completing, particularly when the questions seem to go on forever, or are too long. So keep them short and sweet. Make the questions open-ended when possible to ensure that the answers you’re getting are not only honest, but also creative. This will lead you to original insight you may never have thought of yourself – and this can be like gold dust when it comes to improving your site.

Incentivize those opinions

Having trouble getting people to complete your survey? Well then make it worth their while! The easiest way to get people to do what you want (especially if it means their taking time out of their day) is to incentivize them, make them want to do this for you.

Make sure to do this by providing them a free gift, template, or entrance in a giveaway upon their contacting you with feedback. The choice depends on you and what your website is about.

Pick an incentive that is relevant to your blog to make sure that it’s something your users will be interested in and watch the feedback coming in… Just make sure to follow through on your promise of incentives or that feedback might end up being entirely negative.

Chat your way to success

If you are looking for a far more personalized form of feedback from your users and want to make sure that they are aware of you being behind the website, you could use a live chat to have a two-way conversation. This will help get to the heart of their opinions and struggles.

Not only is live chat convenient and affordable to utilize, but it also bridges the gap between the reader and the blogger which can help form bonds and ultimately build community around your site.

This also means that if anyone is particularly angry or has a complaint, they’ll be dealing with someone polite, apologetic and enthusiastically wanting to improve their service. So you can win their hearts back. This is something an automatic email cannot always achieve.

If you’re concerned about where to put a live chat, remember to put it somewhere clear that your readers will be able to see it. There are many different forms of live chat software out there for you to choose from. Make sure the one you decide upon is simple to use and won’t intimidate anyone who plans to use it. Here are a few live chat plugins for WordPress blogs.

If you are into lead generation business, it is a good idea to use a CRM solution to collect and organize feedback as well as turn those readers into leads.

What happens after you get your feedback?

Gaining feedback on your site is only useful if you actually go ahead and do something with it! Don’t have an ego about your work and make sure to listen to what your readers are saying. They have no reason to lie to you, so if you listen to them, your business will definitely be improved, even if it stings at first to see negative feedback.

Make an effort to reach out to the people who shared feedback not only to thank them but also to ask them any more burning questions you may have – what led them to their opinion? What do they think will help improve the problems? Make them feel included in the development of your site. They could be a great (free!) resource for you to make the most of.

And finally, declare any positive feedback you get as loud and as proud as possible – highlight it on your website and social media. Show people why other people were impressed with you and why they would be too!

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Do You Surround Yourself with the Wrong Type of Blogger?

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Who do you hang out with blogging-wise? Who do you learn from blogging-wise? What bloggers do you seek for counsel? Who do you surround yourself with as far as blogging buddies? Blogging feels challenging sometimes. Surrounding yourself with the wrong type of blogger only increases these challenges in a major league way.

What bloggers do you connect with daily? Most bloggers struggle. Many bloggers have no idea what they are doing blogging-wise. But foolishly, the majority of bloggers surround themselves with failing, struggling bloggers. How can these bloggers teach you to overcome blogging obstacles? None of these folks knows how to overcome resistance. Guaranteed, none of these bloggers teaches you how to succeed because they only know how to struggle, fail, complain or make excuses. Stop surrounding yourself with bloggers who make excuses. Cease surrounding yourself with complaining bloggers. Quit hanging out with bloggers who fail because failures do not teach you, goad you and inspire you to succeed. Connect with successful bloggers.  Learn from these pros. Follow their lead. Model your blogging campaign on their shining example. Naturally, you slowly evolve into the person influenced heavily by your blogging buddy network. Culture shapes your blogging path. Environment plays a chief role in your blogging direction. Successful bloggers surround themselves with successful bloggers. Failing bloggers who wish to succeed lose failing blogging buddies and surround themselves with successful bloggers.

Imagine you drive 4 people to your blog daily. Look at your blogger buddy network. Everyone sits in a similar boat, driving 4 to 20 people to their blogs daily. The only lesson you learn from these bloggers is how to drive 4 to 20 people to your blog daily. Do you aspire to boost your blog traffic to only 20 people daily? Of course, you have bigger dreams than that! Aim higher by socializing only with highly successful bloggers. Learn their ways. Follow their lead. Position yourself to succeed. Learn from the best by surrounding yourself only with the best bloggers. Release everybody else. Never look at this releasing process as being personal or emotionally charged. But do see your blogging freedom, success and happiness as being at stake. I released a few negative nellie blogging buddies over the years for their energetic vampire ways. Suckers need to go. So, you can replace energy vampires with people who give energy, love, support and inspiration to you. Think gain, not loss. Be honest about assessing your blogging buddy network, too. Doing so feels uncomfortable because awkwardness, guilt and other fear-filled energies arise as you assess who needs to stay, and who needs to go.

Be with uncomfortable emotions triggered during these blogger buddy pruning lessons. Your success, freedom, happiness and peace of mind is on the line! Did you ever think of it that way? Let go struggling, negative bloggers. Communicate with happy, free, successful bloggers. Allow these pros to create a positive influence around you. Sponge up their inspiration. Follow their shining example. Take their inspired lead. Learn how to free yourself through their empowerment, and un-learn the victim mentality taught to you by your departed, failing, former blogging buddies. Surround yourself only with blogging heroes. Your success is on the line. Of course, your happiness, freedom and peace of mind is on the line, too. Honestly assess who needs to go and find new, empowered, successful blogging buddies to follow, to learn from and to gain inspiration from.

Where do you find these folks? Start with successful bloggers you follow on Blogging Tips. Virtually all of these bloggers are full time pros. Network with these leaders. Help them generously. Ask for nothing. Allow friendships to take root.

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