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By Greg Walker
You’ve read it before, probably on multiple occasions: Perfect grammar is less important when writing online content than it is for other types of writing.
Grammar does matter. It always has done, and it always will do. Wherever writing is used to communicate ideas and thoughts, grammar will be essential. Because in the end that is what grammar does: It clarifies exactly what you mean to your readers so that they can understand what you are communicating with as little effort as possible.
The whole idea that writing for the web means writing at a more basic level, avoiding lengthy words and complex sentences, has nothing to do with discarding grammatical rules. On the contrary, if you want to make it easier for your readers to understand you online then surely faultless grammar is even more essential.
Grammatical mistakes slow the pace of your writing. They give it a jarring quality which jolts the reader out of the flow, forcing them to use more effort to understand what you are trying to say. And as we all know, online readers are not prepared to put up with that.
Punctuation mistakes can lead to even greater misunderstandings. The ‘Dear John’ letter at this link is fantastic, and a perfect way to illustrate how two very different meanings can be formed through using punctuation alone.
Some would argue that rules are there to be broken, and there is nothing to say that you cannot break the rules for impact… but you have to know them first.
‘Unique’ Content = High-Quality Content
Unique is a word which appears a lot online. Clients often ask their writers for ‘unique’ content; people discuss its importance in forums and on social networks; everyone is always so quick to herald the benefits of writing which is ‘unique.’
I’ve got nothing against unique copy as such. But it has gotten to the point where if a piece of writing is classed as ‘unique’, the automatic assumption is that this must mean it is good.
No assumptions should be made from the fact that someone has written something themselves using words that have not been put together in that particular order before. If ‘unique’ implied high quality, we’d all be using article-spinning software to do our work for us on autopilot to turn the internet into one great content-regurgitating monster.
And what about slavish rewrites of previous articles, raising the same old themes but using different vocabulary? Unique, yes. Worth reading? I’ll leave that for you to decide.
There is a Penalty for Duplicate Content
Of all the enduring myths of online writing, this has to be one of the most prevalent.
This is probably because of the invested interests that some people have in keeping the myth alive (article spinning software creators, perhaps?) who propagate it as widely as possible for their own commercial benefit.
So, in a bid to bypass all of the current nonsense out there, I found a couple of quotes which might be of interest:
“Duplicate content doesn’t cause your site to be penalized.” Source: Google
“Let’s put this to bed once and for all, folks: There’s no such thing as a “duplicate content penalty.” Source: Google
OK, that’s pretty clear then. So where does the confusion come from?
Google also claims that duplicate content is only grounds for action if “it appears that the intent of the duplicate content is to be deceptive and manipulate search engine results.”
But this is another thing entirely, and as long as you do not actively try to deceive the search engines by using duplicate content for malicious purposes you will be alright.
Writing for the Web Means Writing for Peanuts
This is another abiding myth of content writing, and it’s just plain wrong. The likely propagators? Those who have tried to launch a freelance career, hit the bidding sites, discovered that they cannot find any jobs that pay more than $1 an article, and promptly given up.
It is easy to find plenty of people complaining about issues such as low freelance writing rates without doing anything about it. But you also do not have to look too far to find many content writers who are earning very good livings.
The argument that web writing is low paid is easy to believe. After all, it is simpler to start up a career as a content writer than a magazine writer, therefore this must lead to more competition and lower rates.
But it does not work like this. As with any form of writing, or profession, there are a whole range of pay scales. There may be more writers, but there are also more writers willing to work for lower wages for the jobs that you don’t want to do. There are also lots of clients out there who are willing to pay higher rates.
I have my own theory on this: Refusing to believe that there is money to be made online is another reason to delay giving it a go. It is easier to simply decide that there is no money in it and put the whole idea to one side rather than try it out.
The truth is that if you can write well then you can charge accordingly, whether that’s online or offline.
Ditch the Myths
These are a few of the most prevalent myths that seem to endure well beyond their sell-by dates and haunt new writers (I say ‘new’ writers because most people who have been writing web content for a while know what to believe and what to ignore).
Do yourself a favor and forget about these online writing myths. They will only get in your way and stop you from enjoying the success that you are capable of achieving. Remember, just because lots of people say something, it doesn’t mean it’s right.
For more about the right and wrong ways to go about freelance writing online, visit http://prowebwriting.com. Greg Walker has been writing online for years and can help you to avoid the pitfalls made by many new writers. He’s even written an ebook on ways to make money on the side using your writing skills which you can download for free at his website.