5 Grammar Rules that Ruin Your Copy
As a copywriter, I’m occasionally engaged in a battle with my clients over grammar rules. I’ve had clients send me edits from their assistants telling me I broke a certain grammar rule. I’ve had clients send me back edits that cause the copy to go from interesting and conversational to stiff and neutered.
Here’s the thing some people just don’t understand: Sales copy isn’t formal academic writing. Your website copy shouldn’t read like a senior thesis. Your brochures shouldn’t read like an art history textbook. Copywriting is all about engaging and interacting with the audience so you can get them excited enough to take action.
That’s why I’ve come up with a list of 5 grammar rules every copywriter should be okay with breaking.
Rule #1: Don’t use fragments—One of the first things students are taught in elementary school is how to identify and eliminate fragments from their writing. Fragments aren’t complete sentences because they don’t have both a subject and a verb. But in copywriting, a well-placed fragment can help create a conversational pace for your copy. They also help you emphasize a particular point. The key is not to go overboard with using fragments in your copy. Pull them out only when it makes sense to do so.
Rule #2: Don’t use contractions—Just last week, a client sent me back an edit with several contractions removed from the copy. The copy went from friendly and conversational to boring and wordy. Contractions are your friend. Whenever people talk in real life, they use contractions frequently. They play an integral role in giving your copy a conversational tone.
Rule #3: Don’t start a sentence with a conjunction—You’ve always heard that you can’t start a sentence with “and” or “but.” Again, I believe starting a sentence with a contraction can help you emphasize a point and create a certain pace in your copy. An “and” to start off a sentence can create a sense of anticipation. It emphasizes the fact that there are even more benefits to your product.
Rule #4: Remove all extra words—I’m all for keeping sales copy as tight and to the point as possible, but removing every unnecessary word can remove all personality from your copy. Again, it all goes back to trying to create a conversational tone in your copy. In real life, we use unnecessary words occasionally when we talk. It’s just how people talk. So, by all means, cut the fluff from your copy. But don’t get so extreme that you end up creating copy that sounds short and impersonal.
Rule #5: Eliminate slang—If your target audience uses slang, feel free to incorporate it into your copy. But be careful: Slang is always changing. You don’t want to use out of date slang that makes you look like a fake.
Which grammar rules do you feel should be broken? Share your thoughts in the replies.