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Do your blog posts have to be written in perfect English before you publish?

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If you blog in English, whether you’re a native English speaker or you use English as a second or third language, do you worry that your written English isn’t good enough, or that people might call you out on your incorrect grammar or spelling?

Writing and publishing blog posts is a very public affair – our spelling mistakes, grammatical errors and typos are there for everyone to see, shouting: “Look! Look at me – here I am!”

I think this can make many of us a bit nervous about writing and publishing our posts; just in case (some) people think we’re stupid, or that we don’t know how to write English properly.

We know there are people online who love to publicly point out someone else’s ‘errors’, and that makes us nervous. And then there are the multitude of posts and infographics showing us “XX Grammatical Errors That Make You Look Dumb”!

Have you ever noticed a glaring error in one of your posts long after it’s been published, and after it’s been read by who knows how many people? And then you rush to change it while thinking ‘Oh hell, what an idiot I am’ and wondering how many people have noticed it. Should we really be that bothered about making these small mistakes?

And what if you’re a non-native English speaker and you’re blogging for an American, Australian or UK audience of largely native English speakers? Should you be overly worried about making a mistake or, as long as your writing can be understood, should you just write and publish?

English is the dominant language of global communication. It’s the official language in over 60 countries/territories and it’s estimated that it’s used by more than 1 billion people worldwide.

It’s not our English – as in it doesn’t really belong to anyone, and no country has a greater claim to it than any other. Mother-tongue speakers of English are far outnumbered by the numbers of people who use English as a foreign language (admittedly with varying degrees of fluency), and there are many varieties, accents and dialects of English (even within countries).

As Brits or Americans or Australians, or natives of any of the other English mother-tongue countries, we don’t have a greater claim to the ‘correct’ use of English language than writers from other countries – we have our own varieties, and we shouldn’t be worried that English is changing and evolving – or deteriorating, as some would have it 🙂

In my opinion, no variety of English is any more important than any other: what’s important is that you can communicate clearly in the context in which you need to communicate. We don’t all write in the same variety of English, or to the same standard. And at some point we all make mistakes in our writing, either because we simply didn’t notice, or we weren’t taught or don’t remember the relevant Standard English rules for grammar, spelling, punctuation etc. But does that really matter? If we have something interesting to say surely a few errors shouldn’t stop us.

In their excellent book Improve Your Global Business English, Fiona Talbot and Sudakshina Bhattacharjee talk about adding your local ‘splash of colour’ or ‘seasoning to taste’ to ensure the English you use is right for your target audience.

This is an extract from my review of their book:

Whilst the authors acknowledge that in many circumstances it’s important to free our business communications from references that are peculiar to our own culture (it’s no use writing business communications intended for a global audience and filling them with idiomatic expressions and references that your target audience won’t understand); plus they stress the importance of clear, professional, and results-driven business communication – they don’t necessarily advocate one variety of business English over another, and that’s a key issue for me. They emphasize using your own preferred variety of English and the right communication style for the task in hand and, where appropriate, you are encouraged to add your local ‘splash of colour’ or ‘seasoning to taste’ to ensure the business English you use is right for your target audience.

I think this applies to blogging too, whether we’re blogging to educate, entertain, provoke, get attention, or to demonstrate expertise.

I would have thought the most appropriate place for perfectly written copy is in other forms of communication e.g. press releases, adverts, business letters etc. and in my opinion, even business blogging can stand a strong personal element – and if that means your writing shows signs of your local “splash of colour” and seasoning then, like a tasty well-seasoned meal, it can make your writing more interesting.

The nature of blogging means that audiences and writers come from all over the world; you can’t please everyone or write for everyone. There’s a fine line I suppose between being yourself, and being understood (and being professional if that’s relevant to your blogging). I don’t think typos or differences or mistakes in grammar are distracting if the content is useful, interesting and engaging, and can be understood. They don’t bother me. I want to read what someone has said, in their words, in the way they use English. And if someone isn’t a good writer by other people’s standards, the best way to get better is to write and publish, and repeat.

A well-written piece of work is a beautiful thing – but even that’s in the eye of the beholder. For some, perfection will be their idea of perfect grammar and spelling, for others it will be something that connects emotionally regardless of whether the spelling or grammar is perfect.

What are your thoughts?

How much do you worry about getting your grammar, spelling and punctuation perfect before you hit publish on your blog posts?

And if you’re a non-native English speaker blogging in English, I love to know your thoughts about blogging in a language that’s not your 1st language. Have you ever had any negative comments on your blog about your use of written English?


photo credit: Francis Storr via photopin cc no changes.

Angela Boothroyd

I'm a teacher and linguist who specializes in helping non-native English speakers speak English more fluently. I review books and interview authors for the Birds on the Blog Book Club - if you have any suggestions for reviews or interviews please let us know 🙂