Most of us first learned writing skills and grammar principles in school. Unfortunately, academic environments are not the best places to learn copywriting.
Copywriting hovers somewhere between journalism and creative writing, in which you have to deliver facts in a way that attracts the audience while convincing them to take a certain action. Sometimes, this means breaking grammar rules that teachers and professors spent years hammering into your head.
Here are 3 writing and grammar rules that you can throw out the window when it comes to marketing.
1. Avoid informal voice.
The days of stiff, formal business letters are over. With copywriting, you want to be approachable and attractive. This starts by writing the way you speak to the average person.
Feel free to use contractions. Adopt a friendly style, as if you were making chit-chat with a stranger in line to get baseball tickets. Throw in some slang or jargon—but only sparingly, and only if you are 100% sure that your audience understands it.
2. Avoid sentence fragments.
Traditionally, a sentence requires a subject (what the sentence is about) and a predicate (what the subject does, or how it connects to another noun) to be considered “complete.”
Do you always speak in complete sentences? No. In copywriting, you want the tone and style to be more conversational. Sometimes, this means sentence fragments.
Besides that, fragments can be used for to emphasize a point or draw attention to a particular detail. Like this.
3. Don’t split infinitives.
Like a lot of writers, I have certain grammar soapboxes that I climb on sometimes. One is the Oxford comma (I am pro-Oxford). Another is being in favor of split infinitives.
One famous example of a split infinitive is the Star Trek line, “…to boldly go where no one has gone before.” According to the strictest grammar Nazis, it should be “to go boldly” instead, because the phrase “to go” is considered a full verb that should not be split.
In fact, the split infinitive prohibition is not a strict “rule,” but rather a recommendation made in the 1800s. Some sources also say that the rule against splitting an infinitive is an attempt to make English imitate Latin, in which you really can’t split infinitives. “To go” in Latin is ire. Where would you split that?
Fortunately, in the casual environment of copywriting, split infinitives are no problem.
So what’s the one rule you should never break?
Show, don’t tell.
Although often misinterpreted and occasionally criticized as being overused, the common rule of “Show, don’t tell” is still valuable in marketing writing.
No matter how much compelling data you share with future customers, no matter how many facts you provide about your product or service, it’s a psychological truth that decisions are based on emotion more than logic.
Show the benefits of your product–don’t just tell about it. Write in a way that generates the emotions that bring the reader closer to a sale.
“Show, don’t tell” allows the reader to experience the story him/herself and draw their own conclusions about a product or service.
How do you do this? Create hypothetical situations in which someone might use your product. Describe a problem that your service could solve. Compare a life without your solution to one with your solution. Provide testimonials or case studies of real successes that your company has helped clients achieve.
When it comes to grammar, marketing has its own rules. Follow them (or don’t) for better results!
As always, thanks for reading. if you’ve found this blog post to be helpful, or know someone who could benefit from it, share away!