Punctuation Etiquette Online

It's important to strike the right tone online, but how strictly do you need to stick to the rules?

Punctuation on Your Website

For any business looking to create a website that projects a sense of professionalism, keeping a tight stranglehold on the punctuation within your content is often an overlooked concern. As always, the devil is in the detail.

That means, all the commas in their right and natural place; knowing where to put your em-dashes and your en-dashes—and being sure not to bombard your site with too many exclamation marks and unnecessary capitalization. 

Remember, THERE’S NO NEED TO SHOUT.

Loose punctuation can stick out like a rhino in a leotard. Essentially, your website is the shop window of your entire operation, so why would you want the display to look like it’d been thrown together in a hurry?

This is especially important on your key landing pages, some visitors may overlook the odd mistake but a glaring error to a new potential customer is a sure fire way to lose them.

While poor grammar and spelling is an absolute no-no—a 2013 study suggested that 59% of Britons would not use a company that had clear grammatical or spelling mistakes on its website—imprecise punctuation can be just as off-putting.

Punctuation on Social Media

Of course, in the new age of social media, there are some instances where the rules of punctuation can be a little more relaxed. No one is going to turn up at your offices with burning torches if you miss an Oxford comma in your latest tweet. Equally, the addition of a second (or even third) exclamation mark in an excited product launch on Facebook isn’t going to drive down sales.

In fact, in social media circles, particularly if your target demographic is young adults and teens, a more relaxed style of expressing yourself online can be used to your benefit. Perhaps it shows a more relatable, human side that a certain customer base might find appealing.

I mean, if the Royal Mail can throw in a winking emoji and double exclamation point, then so can you. 

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The advice, then, in the world of punctuation etiquette: remember who your audience is. Keep it tight when you need to; kick off the shoes and loosen up if the occasion calls for it.

Posted by Becky Cockman on December 28th 2020

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