Quick Tips for a Professional Look Online
Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling
Basic Rules for Digital Copy
- Make text easy to consume; shorter sentences and paragraphs make more skimmable material.
- Avoid excessive use of commas. This leads to complex and run-on sentences and possible miscommunication.
- Watch out for rookie mistakes like homophones – e.g. there, their, and they’re. Spell check will not pick up these errors.
- Edit carefully for punctuation and spelling. Make several passes over the material or you will miss very simple mistakes.
- Try Grammarly.com or other grammar checking platforms. You won’t be able to rely on it for accuracy, but it will find errors that you didn’t see or consider.
Credibility and Professionalism
- Spelling mistakes are damaging to your credibility and professionalism. Conduct regular spell checks before posting your material.
- Remember that spell check will not catch all spelling mistakes since some involve incorrect usage, missing conjunctions, or poor word choices.
- Industry terminology means different things to your audience than it does to you. This includes acronyms. Clarify the definition and spell out acronyms.
- Consistently use verb tenses. Singular, plural. Past, present, future.
- Apostrophe’s show ownership or are used in contractions, please use them correctly.
Breaking Up Large Blocks of Text
- Use short paragraphs containing 3-5 simple but concise sentences. Break up long areas of text with lists, images, charts, graphs, or tables.
- Tables make easy comparisons of material possible.
- Charts and graphs make pleasing images out of otherwise boring statistical information.
- Images can be used from stock photography if it’s of good quality and able to be correctly sized. You must credit the source.
- Free stock images can be found on many sites like Pexels.com or Pixabay.com. Cite your free image source.
The first word in each sentence in the list should match: e.g. verb or noun, and punctuation needs to be consistent. You simply need to be sure that each point makes a full sentence when added to the introductory phrase. To create a list properly:
- Write the list of related items
- Apply the bullet format to the list
- Check that each point makes a full sentence when added to “To create a list properly:”
- Punctuation at the end of the sentence should be consistent (all or none)
- The first word after the bullet is consistently either a verb, noun, or adjective
Making Major Points Stand Out
Callouts are major points you want to make within the text that are critical to the material. For these sentences use bold, larger font, consider a color, and possibly center in the page for emphasis.
Text boxes provide further explanation to the current text, but information can be sized to the text box to fit a tight space or highlighted as a spotlight of information.
Research and Sourcing Examples
Harkinson, J., 2015. Mother Jones, Nov/Dec ed., The Scary New Science That Shows Milk Is Bad for You, Evidence Suggests Dairy Doesn’t Do a Body Good—Do why does the government still push three servings a day? https://www.motherjones.com/environment/2015/11/dairy-industry-milk-federal-dietary-guidelines/
The Scary New Science That Shows Milk Is Bad for You.  The footnote appears at the end of the page the endnote appears at the end of the document. View the endnote at the bottom of this document.
“Milk can cause digestive issues in both children and adults” – Stated at the The World Health Organization Physicians Medical Conference, July 2017.
Dr. Robert Thompson M.D. describes in his excellent book The Calcium Lie. Insert a link directly, its good for liking multiple articles and social media platforms to drive traffic.
NEVER use Wikipedia as a source!
Other Basic Rules
- Percent versus % – the word percent must be used if it begins a sentence. The % sign can be used consistently in all other instances since symbols are quicker to recognize while skimming.
- Numbers need to be spelled at the beginning of a sentence and then indicated by the symbol in parenthesis: Twelve (12). The actual number is used within a sentence if it is 10 or more. The numbers under 10 can be preferred over the spelling for a casual tone.
- Do not indent or tab the first line of text in a paragraph or double space after a period (typewriter style). Space between headings and the first line of text needs to be consistent.
- Proper nouns need to be capitalized, check the dictionary to find out if a word is a proper noun – a specific person, place, or thing.
Style Guides, Exceptions, Plagiarism
You may be familiar with certain styles or writing guidelines (APA, MLA, Chicago). You may also know that many decisions are at the discretion of the author. In this case, you are the author, you set the rules as long as they are consistent.
Use proper punctuation throughout text EXCEPT charts, graphs, tables, and lists where fragmented information may need to be used to provide space. Use your best judgment.
Plagiarism is a pitfall for those writers who like to copy and paste their research. Be sure that you have enough originality in the text or charts being used from other websites. Run a plagiarism checker like Copyscape.com if you are unsure.
When Writing Your Own Material, Consider an Editor
Writing your own material has its ups and downs. On one hand, you will have unique material that reflects your tone and voice accurately. On the other, you will have read through the material over and over until you no longer see the errors like missing words, misspellings due to word choice, missing punctuation, etc. Your brain will process what it needs or wants to see, not necessarily reality.
Even professional writers hire editors depending on the volume of text and simply to get an objective opinion on content.
Your business website and its content are your first impression. If you can’t get an editor, get a good night’s sleep before your final review of the copy. Take a fresh look in the morning before hitting “Publish.”
 Harkinson, J., 2015. Mother Jones, Nov/Dec ed., The Scary New Science That Shows Milk Is Bad for You, Evidence Suggests Dairy Doesn’t Do a Body Good—Do why does the government still push three servings a day? https://www.motherjones.com/environment/2015/11/dairy-industry-milk-federal-dietary-guidelines/