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I hate to open a post up with a cliche, but I guess since I just said that, I’m technically not opening with one, so here goes:

Never before in the history of humanity have we had such ability to communicate with each other as we do now. (It’s a bit cliche, but it is still true.)

Just think, it wasn’t long ago that print media was confined to capital-intensive businesses like newspapers, magazines and book publishers – now anyone can self-publish books or magazines. In like fashion, radio and television (that’s what we used to call TV way back when) stations were required if you wanted to broadcast audio or video messages – now we have podcasts and YouTube channels where anyone can be a star.

The popularity of social media is that in an instant you can reach out to people all over the world. Just look at how many apps on your phone allow you to send a message to people everywhere – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, even a simple text message… the list goes on.

We have never before had such an awesome opportunity to create, share and expand our personal brands.

And never before have our personal brands been so important.

Just think about it. When was the last time you Googled a person you were about to meet? How often have we heard about employers Googling, or checking the social media accounts of people they were looking to hire?

It happens all the time – and with good reason – we believe that who people represent themselves to be online is who they really are.

Let that sink in:

We believe that who people represent themselves to be online is who they really are.

So, what happens when you’ve worked hard to establish yourself online, but you find that you’re losing your branding? You’re not getting the respect you think you deserve. You’re not getting the activity or energy around your content that you expected.

What do you do then?

Do the same thing you do when you find you’ve lost your way on a road trip: Check your GPS.

No. I’m not talking about the Maps app on your phone. I’m talking about those things that you may have let slide for the sake of convenience, or lack of attention.

I’m talking about your

     Grammar

     Punctuation

     Spelling

I’m guessing it all started back in the days of texting on our cell phones – not the ones with the QWERTY keypads.  No. The ones with the alphanumeric key pads where you had to push the 1 key three times to get the letter “c” and six times to get a “C”. This is when we started getting the ever popular abbreviations known as “txtspeak”.

     OMG! I rmbr txtspk!

     LOL me2!

Let’s be clear. There was (and probably is) a place for abbreviations like these. But, please proceed with caution. These abbreviations have become so much a part of the vernacular that people actually say things like “LOL” and “OMG” out loud. That being the case, it is easy for us to incorporate them into our messages – even when it is not appropriate.

Autocorrect can be a helpful tool when writing a message on a smartphone. It can also destroy your credibility. Just search “autocorrect” on the Internet if you’re unfamiliar and you will see the problems autocorrect can cause. ALWAYS proofread before hitting Send. Always.

Understand what you are actually saying. Not what you think you’re saying. What the words you are typing are saying.

Confused? Let’s examine this next sentence:

     “Irregardless of what you would of said, your not likely to be literally laughing your but off over their.”

Wow! I might need a minute to recover. You don’t know how hard it was for me to type that last sentence.

Let me hurry up and correct that before any of you start thinking less of me. Hmm. Where to start? When in doubt, let’s start at the beginning.

Regardless of your preference, and irrespective of your opinion (see what I did there) “irregardless” is not a word. It. Is. Not.

Using words that aren’t words – unless you are Dr. Seuss – hurts your credibility.

Also, using the wrong words hurts your credibility.

Hopefully all of you caught my misuse of the semi-phonetic “would of” instead of the correct contraction would’ve. Yes, “would’ve” and “would of” sound very similar. The difference is one means “would have” and the other means you failed 3rd grade English.

Words that sound the same are called homophones. These cause trouble for a lot of people – on social media, especially. Your, you’re, and the more obscure yore are homophones. That indicates they sound the same. It does not indicate they mean the same things.

     Your – is the possessive of “you”. Your opinion belongs to you.

     You’re – is the contraction of “you” and “are”. You’re welcome.

     Yore – refers to long ago, or of former times. In days of yore…

I’ll skip ahead in the example sentence quickly and point out that but and butt are also homophones. If you don’t know the problem in the example, look them up.

Literally is a very popular word these days. And it’s almost always used incorrectly. Most of the time when people say they “literally did” something, they mean they figuratively did it. If you literally laughed your butt off, that means you now have nothing to sit on. If a comedian went on stage and literally killed the audience, that means he is now one of the FBI’s most wanted. If it literally cost you an arm and a leg to go on vacation, I hope you don’t plan on cycling.

For a humorous, albeit educational, take on grammar, please check out The Oatmeal. He does an especially good lesson on literally.

That takes care of the “G” – Grammar.

The “P” Punctuation is easier to address, but no less insidious.

On Twitter, we literally only have 140 characters to get our message across, so I can understand – and even excuse – leaving out punctuation. Under less limited conditions, however, let’s be civilized humans and use proper punctuation. That means each sentence should end with a period, question mark, or exclamation point AND the next word should begin with a capital letter. In the spirit of hypocrisy, I’m sure this post has its share of comma splices, but no one’s perfect. Right?

I have no affiliation with, nor have I ever met, The Oatmeal, but he has some hilarious things to say about punctuation as well. Check out this post about the most feared punctuation on earth.

The final thing that may be tanking your credibility may be either the toughest or easiest to fix. In our acronym, the “S” is for Spelling.

I say toughest because my mom has spent my whole life trying to convince me that either you can spell or you can’t. It is just genetic. Period. End of discussion. Did I say “Period”?

Honestly, I haven’t done any research into the characteristics of the spelling gene, nor do I plan to. Mom is a great lady. I love her a lot. She can’t spell to save her life – that’s just the way it is. I love her all the same.

Computer programmers must know people like my mother. Because they’ve [they have] created the little, red, squiggly lines that go under misspelled words. Not only that, but they have also provided properly-spelled suggestions in these cases. This is why I say it may also be the easiest problem to fix. All you have to do is check your spelling with the suggested words in your phone or computer, and they will help you. As long as you haven’t hijacked your dictionary with misspellings.

So, to keep you from losing your personal brand due to very preventable errors, make sure you check your G.P.S.: Grammar, Punctuation & Spelling.

Now, go forth and make your 10th grade English teacher proud.