GrammarIts the little things that make someone chose you rather then your compititor.

Ow. That sentence hurt to write. But I hope it makes a point. Good grammar and spelling aren’t optional; they’re critical aspects of almost any job in any industry. Proper grammar isn’t a matter of adhering to stodgy old rules made by stodgy old men for the sake of making your lives miserable. No, good grammar enhances understanding and gives us all some hope of understanding each other through this beautiful, complicated mess of a language.

I’m not asking everyone to become an expert on the subjunctive tense or able to explain what the heck pluperfect is. Most of the time, I can’t explain those things either (and don’t much care). What I’m talking about are the foundations of language: spelling (including those tricky homophones like there/they’re/their), basic punctuation and proofreading skills.

If you aren’t a word geek, how can you acquire those skills? I’m so glad you asked.

  • Get a style guide. Style guides are like cheat sheets. The best guides lay out basic grammatical and spelling rules and are easy to search for the persnickety rules you’re looking for. The two I follow, more or less, are the AP Stylebook and the classic “Elements of Style.” The AP Stylebook is the classic reference guide for journalists all over the world, and has been adopted by many bloggers as well. So if you can’t remember if it’s Internet or internet, website or Web site or web site, flip open this handy-dandy tome for your answers. When it comes to linguistic nitty gritty, Strunk and White’s “Elements of Style,” while dated and a bit stodgy, still offers great tips on when to hyphenate modifiers, comma usage and more. Pick up a style guide and live them, love them, use them.
  • When in doubt, Google it. Google is a thing of majesty and beauty. Every writer working today should fall on their knees and thank the heavens for such an amazing tool. A dozen times a day, I plug something into Google. Is “proofread” one word or two? Which variant of “impostor” is standard American English? And on and on. All it takes it the realization that something might look funny here, and a couple seconds.
  • Ask for help. Never, ever be ashamed of asking for someone to look over your work. We all have blind spots. We all have gaps in our education. Some of us are just lousy at that attention-to-detail work. Some of us are simply going to miss things, no matter how many times we read it over. Better to swallow your pride and ask for some proofing help than send something out into the world that’s wrong.

If you want great marketing, it all starts with good grammar. These tiny details build and build until you’ve created a foundation for something awesome that will help propel your business forward. What’s your favorite grammatical reference guide?