Grammar Rules You Still Have to Follow on Social Media
It’s time to clean up our social media posts, friends. Grammar mistakes, spelling errors, misinterpreted tone, and etiquette issues can leave you regretting pushing “post.”
Sounding too smart: over-punctuating
You are excited about extra punctuation and ready to shake up your usual comma, period, repeat. Great! But take a second to refresh yourself on the semicolon, the colon, and the dash (“em” dash, if we are getting technical.) The semicolon connects sentences that are pretty related; they both have similar topics. The colon often introduces a list: Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook users will all thank you. The (em) dash—which can set a thought apart—can come in handy when you’ve used too many parentheses already. The trick to fancier punctuation is to use sparingly.
Fragments and run-ons and misplaced periods: oh my!
It’s one thing to have a casual tone, “but writing a ‘sentence’ like ‘I went to the beach. Because it was hot.’ is just plain incorrect,” Petras says. To ensure you have a full sentence when you mean to, confirm there is a subject and a predicate (verb) each time. Another easy trick is to read the sentence aloud to see if the period is placed at a natural pause, which it wouldn’t be in the example above (between beach and because).
Using overly formal language
We all have that friend or family member who posts on social media as if they are composing their dissertation—fancy verbiage, long and poetic sentences, and complicated punctuation. But they may be accomplishing very little, aside from acquiring some eye rolls from scrollers. Instead, Petras encourages being casual and even using abbreviations such as “obvi” and “TMI” wherever you like. “It isn’t incorrect—it’s relaxed,” she says.
Ignoring grammar altogether
As with those college pictures of you that you should have taken down before applying for a job, posts on the internet stay with you and “out there,” sometimes for a long time. Careless errors from even decades ago can resurface along with posts you wish you hadn’t written. “And those mistakes last. Someone can click and see a mistake made weeks ago, even years ago,” Petras says. You should either delete them or correct them stat. Making spelling mistakes is, after all, one of the social media moves that could derail your career.
Correcting other people’s grammar in your posts
The irony of all of this is you do not want to be the person calling others out for any of the above mistakes. Both Petras and McCulloch emphasize the need for more kindness on social media, and that it only makes you look worse to be the one to criticize someone else’s grammar. Instead, McCulloch encourages us to accept a wide range of usage and to respect our differences as speakers (and writers) as well as paying attention to the content and intention. Petras discusses in her podcast You’re Saying it Wrong that “it’s one thing to be grammar-aware yourself and love the precision of English and the beauty in well-crafted writing. It’s entirely another thing to keep correcting people. You can gently hint, or work in the proper usage, word or whatever in your reply to them, but continually correcting errors is a sure way to irritate people.” Next, read on to find out what your social media posts reveal about you.