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Google, grammar, and the serial comma

     

Weblamer

1:44 pm on May 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



A bit of a debate going on at my work over a small thing. One of the things I have been reading about the panda update is that google is paying more attention to grammar. This brought up the topic of the serial comma, and which use google now prefers, if it likes it at all. An example:

Blue, red, green, or brown.

or

Blue, red, green or brown.

According to wikipedia there are several schools of thought on the serial comma, 'the chicago manual of style' vs the 'AP stylebook'

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serial_comma [en.wikipedia.org]

    I was wondering if google said they are looking more at grammar, then which grammar style are they choosing to follow? I am mainly thinking of the title tag here, and how I should properly place my keywords in.

    [edited by: tedster at 2:42 pm (utc) on May 26, 2011]
    [edit reason] make link clickable [/edit]

  • goodroi

    3:43 pm on May 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

    WebmasterWorld Administrator goodroi is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



    I don't believe Google has said proper grammar directly leads to better rankings. There is alot of speculation with very little proof about what exactly is Panda.

    Does Panda penalize for poor grammar? Or does poor grammar impact your readability score which might be what Panda is looking at? Or maybe pages with poor grammar are linked to less often which leads to lower link popularity and that might be what Panda is measuring.

    I would not worry about the small details for a big reason or should I say over 1 billion reasons. Google is indexing billions of web pages. Those billions of pages are not following just one grammar style. As long as you follow a common grammar style and keep your typos to a minimum you will look professional. That will lead to users thinking you are quality source which should be linked to and/or mentioned on social sites and you'll score well in any grammar/spelling test Google may or may not be using now or tomorrow.

    Besides the vast majority of sites I have seen would would not benefit from working on commas. Not because it isn't a problem but because fixing the commas will not help their horrible link popularity, lack of significant relevant & unique content or their poor usability.

    ps I would personally avoid the extra comma since it reminds me of the long, long time ago when keyword stuffing was a good spam technique.

    HuskyPup

    4:08 pm on May 26, 2011 (gmt 0)



    Blue, red, green, or brown.


    Which nation teaches English like this?

    tedster

    4:19 pm on May 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

    WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



    It's not nations, but style preferences. I work with one client who requires that extra comma because it avoids ambiguity. "Blue, red, green or brown" can be read as either three options or four. "Blue, red, green, or brown" is clearly only four.

    Often the specific context makes it clear, but not always. Things get particularly ambiguous when the items being separated use more than a word or two.

    Samizdata

    4:22 pm on May 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

    WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



    In the case of the serial comma, Google cannot tell whether it is correct grammar or not.

    Style guides differ over generalisations, but agree that one should avoid ambiguity.

    The sentence

    "This post is dedicated to my parents, Brett Tabke, and Lady Gaga."

    means something rather different to

    "This post is dedicated to my parents, Brett Tabke and Lady Gaga."

    (For the avoidance of doubt, neither statement is actually true).

    ...

    tedster

    4:33 pm on May 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

    WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



    That's a funny example - and a perfect one, too.

    I wonder how Google will index this thread. Will there be a whole new rumor about Brett starting to circulate?

    Samizdata

    7:10 pm on May 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

    WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



    I wonder how Google will index this thread

    Within a couple of hours it is top result for a search on "tabke gaga" (without quotes).

    Presumably it will be overtaken by Wikipedia, Twitter and sundry scrapers eventually.

    ...

    Lame_Wolf

    8:25 pm on May 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

    WebmasterWorld Senior Member lame_wolf is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



    Which nation teaches English like this?


    S/E England did in the 70's.

    lorax

    8:56 pm on May 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

    WebmasterWorld Senior Member lorax is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



    >> avoidance of doubt

    [bombastic=on]
    You're not avoiding doubt. You're minimizing the chances the reader will develop a thought in their cerebral matter that instills belief that one or both statements may be true.
    [/bombastic=off]

    nickreynolds

    10:08 pm on May 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

    10+ Year Member



    Considering the quantity of Twitter-junk that gets in the index I'm not convinced that Google places a lot of emphasis on grammar!

    Oh and as for the Brett/Lady Gaga thing I think the way of expressing the two different meanings would be

    This thread is dedicated to my parents, Brett Tabke and Lady Gaga or

    This thread is dedicated to my parents and Brett Tabke and Lady Gaga

    <pedantry filter off>

    [edited by: nickreynolds at 10:12 pm (utc) on May 26, 2011]

    LifeinAsia

    10:11 pm on May 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

    WebmasterWorld Administrator lifeinasia is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



    Which nation teaches English like this?

    The U.S. (at least the parts where I learned it).

    tedster

    10:32 pm on May 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

    WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



    to my parents and Brett Tabke and Lady Gaga

    That's not very effective writing however, even if it is unambiguous.

    Samizdata

    12:26 am on May 27, 2011 (gmt 0)

    WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



    You're not avoiding doubt

    The phrase "for the avoidance of doubt" is a cliche popular with English lawyers, and as such has an accepted meaning in the English language, one which does not necessarily lend itself to bombastic logical deconstruction of the mere words.

    It emphasises a position, and I am sticking to mine, conspiracy theories notwithstanding.

    ...

    Leosghost

    1:04 am on May 27, 2011 (gmt 0)

    WebmasterWorld Senior Member leosghost is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



    I'm amazed, that in a thread about the preferences of pandas with regards to commas, no one has mentioned the definition of pandas.

    Panda,eats shoots and leaves.

    I knew that I, in particular, should stay away from threads on punctuation, and the use or misuse of commas and ellipses, but, like a moth to a flame ...

    lucy24

    2:21 am on May 27, 2011 (gmt 0)

    WebmasterWorld Senior Member lucy24 is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time Top Contributors Of The Month



    <OT>
    Pikers, the lot of you. I'm on a forum where a thread on ellipses is now on its twelfth page, at 15 posts per.
    </OT>

    Here is the serious question that intrigues me. When you do a google search, it strips all punctuation-- including, I think, internal hyphens. But it isn't just gone as if it had never existed. So what role does the punctuation play?

    * * *

    A recent, beyond-the-shadow-of-a-doubt example from my logs (the + are google's, the spaces are auto-added):

    http://www.google.com/ search &q = “The + calla + lilies + are + in + bloom + again. + Such + a + strange + flower—suitable + for + every + occasion. + I + carried + them + on + my + wedding + day, + and + now + I + place + them + here + in + memory + of + something + that + has + died.”


    Evidently someone had seen Stage Door on late-night TV, looked up a line, and e-mailed the full quotation-- complete with utf-8-encoded punctuation which this Forum did not like-- to a friend in another state, who wouldn't take friend's word for it but did their own search.

    If you feed the whole thing into google the punctuation disappears-- along with part of the text, due to 32-word limit. But the whole thing as originally typed is dutifully sent to the searched site.

    Leosghost

    2:49 am on May 27, 2011 (gmt 0)

    WebmasterWorld Senior Member leosghost is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



    And the plural of + is ?
    :)

    tedster

    3:04 am on May 27, 2011 (gmt 0)

    WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



    So what role does the punctuation play?

    Some of the Google patents mention special scoring for terms that have some kind of grammatical emphasis, including being enclosed in quotes.

    walkman

    5:41 am on May 27, 2011 (gmt 0)



    @all gramah iz guud but majbe no apply Google sejm rulz for all sajtz. Theory vs practice

    Vimes

    7:25 am on May 27, 2011 (gmt 0)

    10+ Year Member



    hehe,

    I've just linked to this thread using "tabke gaga" as the anchor, come on lets get those rumours flying. :)


    Vimes

    anallawalla

    2:25 am on May 31, 2011 (gmt 0)

    WebmasterWorld Administrator anallawalla is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



    Which nation teaches English like this?

    In a previous life as a senior editor at Unisys (i.e. U.S. English), I had to use serial commas, although that is not the practice in Australian English.
     

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