4 Grammatical Mistakes That Can Enhance Your Copy

Jun 30, 2010   //   by Eric Brantner   //   blogging, SEO Blog  //  30 Comments

I spent 5 years as an elementary school teacher before I became a commercial freelance writer. Along the way, I think it’s safe to say that I became a bit of a grammar snob. Besides making me pretty annoying, this also made my transition into freelance writing more difficult.

Since getting into the business, I’ve learned to drop my grammar pride. It’s all fine and dandy for writing research papers, but when you’re writing marketing materials, the rules don’t always apply. Sure, you don’t want punctuation mistakes or misspellings, but there are some academic no-no’s that work great when writing sales materials. Here’s a few of them.

  1. Fragments
    While complex sentences impress the scholar, they only hurt your conversion rates. Fragments offer a way to cut down your average sentence length. Making your copy more readable by setting a rhythm. By the way, that was a fragment.
  2. Starting with conjunctions
    I remember getting points off on papers for beginning sentences with conjunctions. Well guess some what? Sometimes it just makes the transition flow more smoothly. And frankly, I like beginning sentences with “and.”
  3. One sentence paragraphs
    — Nothing draws attention to a key point like a one sentence paragraph. Here let me show you:

    Often people define a paragraph as a block of text with a minimum of three sentences. Anything less and you need either need to expound on the paragraphs main idea or combine it with another paragraph. You wouldn’t want to break sacred grammar rules, would we?

    If you’re a copywriter, you betcha!

    So the main idea is set aside in its own paragraph, ensuring that the reader doesn’t miss it. Typically in copy, this one sentence paragraph will highlight a main benefit of the product or service.

  4. Slang—You want a conversational tone for your copy. The reader needs to feel like they could sit down and exchange some words with you over a few beers. That said, now’s not the time to sound like a professor. So those rules about slang—throw them out the window. That includes contractions.
  5. As always, remember your audience. You aren’t going to say “rock and roll, dude!” to someone looking to hire a lawyer. On the other hand, you might to a group of, well… rockers. And also, if you don’t know the correct slang, don’t use it. “Rock and roll, dude!” probably went out of style with the ninja turtles, so I wouldn’t really use it. If you can’t talk the talk, keep it simple and straight forward.
    Remember, these “mistakes” don’t always work. Use your best judgment and use them as you see fit.

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    Eric Brantner

    Eric Brantner is a copywriter who is obsessed with getting conversions. His services are used by small and mid-sized businesses from a range of industries.

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  6. Kristi says:

    Definitely some great points, especially for blogging. Blog posts and copy in a more "informal" tone is usually more effective. I had the same issue when I started writing though, and even now when I'm editing guest posts – sometimes I have to step back and think about how the post sounds if you were reading it. If it sounds like it makes sense, then it is probably good.

  7. Kristi says:

    Definitely some great points, especially for blogging. Blog posts and copy in a more “informal” tone is usually more effective. I had the same issue when I started writing though, and even now when I’m editing guest posts – sometimes I have to step back and think about how the post sounds if you were reading it. If it sounds like it makes sense, then it is probably good.

  8. Very very few of us "speak" in proper grammar. It's not how the spoken form of our language works. It's important when blogging to be sure that our written word carries our true "voice" across and thus that means we're going to have to break some formality rules! Thanks for these great tips on which "mistakes" can be bonuses!

    Kimberly

  9. Very very few of us “speak” in proper grammar. It’s not how the spoken form of our language works. It’s important when blogging to be sure that our written word carries our true “voice” across and thus that means we’re going to have to break some formality rules! Thanks for these great tips on which “mistakes” can be bonuses!
    Kimberly

  10. Gera says:

    As English is my second language, these tips come very handy because I didn't have clear if I needed to write in a more formal way or with more slang & informal way for my blog posts.

    I've chosen the second option and I see it was a good decision, sound better for the readers.

    Still I struggle reading articles that are plenty of slang; I need going permanently to the Urban dictionary, but I know that they are important for copywriting.

    Cheers,

    Gera

  11. Gera says:

    As English is my second language, these tips come very handy because I didn’t have clear if I needed to write in a more formal way or with more slang & informal way for my blog posts.
    I’ve chosen the second option and I see it was a good decision, sound better for the readers.

    Still I struggle reading articles that are plenty of slang; I need going permanently to the Urban dictionary, but I know that they are important for copywriting.

    Cheers,

    Gera

  12. I really have a hard time calling these grammatical mistakes. I have debated the "And" and "But" one before.

    And whoever said a single sentence paragraph is wrong?

    As for fragments, I agree that is bad, bad grammar…but I use them a fair amount for effect, so again I agree.

    And as for clang, that one is a little dicey. There is a place for it, but there are places where it would also detract, so I suggest using it with caution.

  13. I really have a hard time calling these grammatical mistakes. I have debated the “And” and “But” one before.

    And whoever said a single sentence paragraph is wrong?

    As for fragments, I agree that is bad, bad grammar…but I use them a fair amount for effect, so again I agree.

    And as for clang, that one is a little dicey. There is a place for it, but there are places where it would also detract, so I suggest using it with caution.

  14. Gloson says:

    LOL! I agree! I really like informal writing rather than "very formal and professional" ones, because the formal sounds impersonal, and the informal sounds personal.

    @David: Last time, when I used "And" or "But" at the beginning of a sentence, she told me not to do it.

    But now I realized there's nothing really wrong with that. And writing like this is cool too!

  15. Gloson says:

    LOL! I agree! I really like informal writing rather than “very formal and professional” ones, because the formal sounds impersonal, and the informal sounds personal.

    @David: Last time, when I used “And” or “But” at the beginning of a sentence, she told me not to do it.

    But now I realized there’s nothing really wrong with that. And writing like this is cool too!

  16. Dennis Edell says:

    WOOT! FINALLY! I've been saying and debating this since I started blogging moons ago. I write as I talk and readers do seem to eat it up…with one or two detractors of course.

    I love the one sentence paragraphs as well.

    If I wanna do it, I'm gonna do it. ;)

  17. Dennis Edell says:

    WOOT! FINALLY! I’ve been saying and debating this since I started blogging moons ago. I write as I talk and readers do seem to eat it up…with one or two detractors of course.

    I love the one sentence paragraphs as well.

    If I wanna do it, I’m gonna do it. ;)

  18. Dennis Edell says:

    Btw Gerald, somehow I got unsubscribed; dunno how but here I am again. :)

  19. Dennis Edell says:

    Btw Gerald, somehow I got unsubscribed; dunno how but here I am again. :)

  20. Gerald Weber says:

    Hmmm that sure is odd.

    In any case good to have you back Dennis. :-)

  21. Gerald Weber says:

    Hmmm that sure is odd.

    In any case good to have you back Dennis. :-)

  22. Great post, Eric. Thanks for legitimizing my informal, slang-filled writing style! ;) I am guilty of run-on sentences…in a BIG way. Thanks for permission to carve them into more digestible bites :D Cheers! Gina

  23. Great post, Eric. Thanks for legitimizing my informal, slang-filled writing style! ;) I am guilty of run-on sentences…in a BIG way. Thanks for permission to carve them into more digestible bites :D Cheers! Gina

  24. Chris says:

    I agree– slang is tricky. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. But when used preoperly, it can be effective.

  25. Chris says:

    I agree– slang is tricky. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But when used preoperly, it can be effective.

  26. So Eric, I really like this post. I do. One time I had a client ask his school-teacher mother to review my website copy. She injected it full of gobbledygook phrases like "proven track record", "winning differences" and "innovative and unique". She also corrected my grammar.

    I wish I'd had this post to show them both.

  27. So Eric, I really like this post. I do. One time I had a client ask his school-teacher mother to review my website copy. She injected it full of gobbledygook phrases like “proven track record”, “winning differences” and “innovative and unique”. She also corrected my grammar.

    I wish I’d had this post to show them both.

  28. In the first example, you could have had just as effective a sentence by dropping the "ing" on Making in favor of "Make." (BTW, that was the only one that was actually a grammatical error.)

    If you're willing to put a bit more effort into your writing, you can often make it punchy _and_ grammatically correct. When I was doing technical writing, we had a constraint of making the writing no higher than 9th grade level, but we aimed for 7th.

    You know what? We really had to know what we were talking about in order to create short, simple sentences in the active voice–7th grade level writing does not allow you to obfuscate behind passive voice. But we would spend up to an hour on a page (about 2 paragraphs), rewriting it over and over until it met our standards.

    The one that really gets my goat is that network television can't seem to afford writers who know what a dangling participle is and how to avoid it. Not only does this make for a lot of completely nonsensical sentences, it also is creating an entire generation for whom they "sound right."

  29. In the first example, you could have had just as effective a sentence by dropping the “ing” on Making in favor of “Make.” (BTW, that was the only one that was actually a grammatical error.)

    If you’re willing to put a bit more effort into your writing, you can often make it punchy _and_ grammatically correct. When I was doing technical writing, we had a constraint of making the writing no higher than 9th grade level, but we aimed for 7th.

    You know what? We really had to know what we were talking about in order to create short, simple sentences in the active voice–7th grade level writing does not allow you to obfuscate behind passive voice. But we would spend up to an hour on a page (about 2 paragraphs), rewriting it over and over until it met our standards.

    The one that really gets my goat is that network television can’t seem to afford writers who know what a dangling participle is and how to avoid it. Not only does this make for a lot of completely nonsensical sentences, it also is creating an entire generation for whom they “sound right.”

  30. Ana says:

    Glad to have an authority figure's opinion, like a (former) elementary school teacher, on that one. :)

    Gotta say that I absolutely love how free-form blogging has become; it definitely gives it quite a unique voice!

    Thanks for the tips, Eric!

    Ana Hoffman

    202 Bite-Sized Tips To Insanely Increase Your Blog Traffic

  31. Ana says:

    Glad to have an authority figure's opinion, like a (former) elementary school teacher, on that one. :)

    Gotta say that I absolutely love how free-form blogging has become; it definitely gives it quite a unique voice!

    Thanks for the tips, Eric!

    Ana Hoffman

    202 Bite-Sized Tips To Insanely Increase Your Blog Traffic

  32. Totally agree with you Eric! I think this falls into the category of “you have to know the rules to break the rules,” yes? A note on #2: But that whole thing about not starting a sentence with a conjunction was always a myth, anyway, although one that was totally bought into by grade school teachers (at least according to my mother-in-law). Thanks for your post.

    • Carmen Hill says:

      Ah, the perils of logging in via Twitter… this comment above appeared under the wrong Twitter account. It should be signed @carmenhill.

  33. rentacar says:

    I love Slang..

  34. roberta says:

    How would you properly word this –

    Throughout the years, I have been so proud and impressed with all the effort you put into doing your best.

    Throughout the years, I have been so proud and impressed with the all effort you into everything you do.

    - would you omit all before effort?
    - would you use you've before into?
    – something just doesn't make sense when i read both sentences.