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.