Brands, content marketing, and grammar.

Whether we like it or not, brands are publishers, and many of us read content published by brands on a weekly, if not daily basis. This means we're ingesting countless pieces of visual and written content like articles, blog posts, digital magazines, newsletters, Facebook posts, tweets, Instagram posts, Snaps, put out into the world by brands.

We can all agree that there are several reasons why this can be problematic, but I'm just going to focus on one for today, because I find it's often over-looked.


I can see some of you rolling your eyes and some of you agreeing with me. At least, I hope some of you agree with me.

First, let's get this out of the way, I'm talking about basic grammar and spelling, not some perfectionist OED shit. There's no point in even going there when people think it should be they're...

Second, I get it. Most brands don't have an in-house editor. Combine that with the fact that some people struggle with grammar and spelling (just like others struggle to make sense of calculating percentages) or that English may not be their first language, and it's not surprising to see errors crop up, especially on social media. Shit happens. Mistakes are made. And how many people really know whether it should be 'free reign' or 'free rein' without turning to Google?

Answer: the number of people who have already Googled it...

To be honest, I don't think all brands need to be concerned with perfect, spotless grammar. I don't necessarily believe we should be combing through Instagram captions, deriding people for not using a semi-colon when they should have. And as beautiful a thing as the Oxford comma is, the world isn't going to end if it's not used (this has taken me a really long time to accept...please be gentle about it).

But all brands should know how to pluralise, how to contract, and the bloody difference between your and you're. Why? Well, for one, because it really isn't that difficult, and two, because readers are starting to trust branded content. And when they trust something, they're more likely to believe that it's correct. "If My Fave Tequila says that 'Monday's are for extra margaritas!', then it must be true!" or "Hey this airline thinks 'Its time for a vacation', I think its time for a vacation, too!".

[Sidenote: it really hurt to write those two sentences, so much so that I added the comma in front of too because I couldn't deal with another error. I probably need to calm down, but one thing at a time, here...]

Image source:  Oxbridge Editing

Image source: Oxbridge Editing

Perhaps I do need to calm down. Perhaps this isn't a big deal. Lies, it is. Okay maybe not a big deal, but it warrants some attention.

[And, as an aside, I don't care what you do when you're posting on your personal social media accounts, grammatically or otherwise. That's all on you.]

Now that brands are publishers with content that's consumed faster than a cold beer on a hot day, I think brands have a responsibility to be more discerning with what they're putting out there (and yes, there are plenty of other conversations we could be having about the quality of brand-published content, but I'm trying really hard to stay focused here, so work with me). It's the bare minimum that comes with the territory of being a publisher and having your words read by an attentive audience: get your basic grammar and spelling sorted out.

And, also, sorry, but...brands who can't tell they're from their from there look unprofessional and sloppy, as though you couldn't be bothered to get it right or you just don't care. Some consumers don't care, but others do, and to them, that's the difference between a quality brand and one that doesn't concern themselves with details.

Marketers aren't perfect (sigh, it's true), and not everyone writing Facebook posts or ads is a grammar nerd. That's fine. But if you know that your forte is in punny one-liners instead of knowing the difference between it's and its or whether a plural requires an apostrophe or not, then set yourself up with some internal support. There's no shame in asking a co-worker to have a quick read over a draft post. We do it for longer pieces like newsletters and blog posts, so why not Instagram captions and Facebook ads?

There's also a great (free!) tool available called Grammarly. It's an extension for Chrome and will easily help you out of a jam when you need it.

And brand / marketing managers: I promise, you really do need to care about this, no matter how pedantic it may seem. Trust me when I say that it matters, because your reader's [HA!] are trusting you.

I can't do it. 

...your readers are trusting you.