01 July 2014

Grammar + Genealogists/Family Historians = readable research writing that makes our ancestors shine!

How timely.  Just last week I shared a Grammarly Facebook (FB) graphic “A lot is always two words.”  My accompanying comment was “I always want to make one word and I have to consciously remind myself every time that it's two words. Do you have something like that happen to you? I like to think I'm trainable and this makes me wonder if I am.”  I learned that a lot of people are in the same situation

I bring this up as a recent Yahoo Small Business Insider blog post 10 Common Grammar Mistakes Even Smart People Make had my little issue as number three on the list.

It also talks about it’s vs its, or the overuse of apostrophes for plurals.  I know that my fingers on the keyboard love to always put apostrophes and then I need to go back and remove all the extraneous ones.  It also doesn’t hurt that Microsoft Word puts red squiggles (like it’s indignant that I would consider using an apostrophe there) where I have probably initially incorrectly used an apostrophe (never mind other spelling and grammar issues).

Why am I writing about grammar on a genealogy blog?  Well, don’t we all write up our research results? Don’t many of us post comments and questions about our research online?  Our family history research crowd does a lot of writing!  We need to make sure that we don’t distract our readers with enough mistakes that they question or ignore our messages.

For anything I do online, I also use Grammarly Lite (free) to highlight any errors I might be in the process of making.

The post about 10 common mistakes was a follow-up post to 30 Incorrectly Used Words That Can Make You Look Bad; another list that we can learn from.

For a more visual and fun way to appreciate some of these errors, check out The Oatmeal (Grammar page).

It almost makes me wish that I had spent more time paying attention in my high school English classes, though, I really did like the math and science classes so much better!

Are there grammar issues that you find are a particular plague to genealogical writing?  Do family historians have certain writing tendencies that drive you bonkers?

Editor’s Note: I hope you appreciate that I correctly spelled “a lot” and correctly used “it’s and its” in this blog post!

Editor’s Note: Note that I said “enough mistakes” instead of “any” mistakes.  I am a firm believer that no matter how hard we try sometimes, a spelling or usage or factual mistake creeps into what we write.  I cannot tell you how many times a piece, which has been reviewed by many, ends up being published with an error.  We are human. Mistakes happen. I think most of us have the forbearance to recognize that mistakes do happen and in spite of them we can still appreciate what someone has written.  I do believe though that many mistakes can distract (and/or frustrate) a reader enough that they will stop reading what you have written. We don’t want that to happen.

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