Grammar Rules Can (And Should) Be Broken

The world descends into chaos. The police are running rampant through the streets. Memes are more powerful than bullets. Snide comments on Facebook remind you to add an ‘e’ at the end of ‘your.’

While the grammar police may have a long battle ahead of them, they will not stop. Not until every i comes before every e; not before every person on the planet understands the difference and meaning of their/there/they’re.

Screw them. Writing is a language. Writing is also art. You can’t be afraid to break the rules. After all, as the saying (somewhat) goes, “History doesn’t remember the average.”

Break the Chains and Stand Out

The entire point of writing copy is to garner attention. Your website copy, your emails and even your pop up ads. Every word you write (or hire a copywriter for) is meant to attract. You want to make the reader stop what they are doing and Pay. Attention. To. You.

It’s not always easy though, is it?

Writing great copy means you write for two distinct audiences: Humans and Robots. Using the same words, the same format and the same attitude. Good copywriters make it look easy. How? They break the rules.

Writing for Humans

This is actually the easy part. Let’s play a game:

Look down and tell me what you are wearing. No. Don’t do that. Just take a note of it. Dollars to Pesos, you are not wearing a 3-piece-suit, or a tuxedo complete with a cumberbund.

You aren’t wearing a fancy dress with high heels on. (unless of course you are at work and that is the dress code, in which case… get back to work slack ass!)

Instead, you are in normal human clothes. Jeans and a T-shirt, sweat pants and a pint of Ben and Jerry’s. Your pajamas. Whatever the case, you are in your comfort zone. Sitting at home, or on the bus or in the car waiting for mom to come back with more ice cream…

A copywriter understands this. Unless we are writing a highly technical paper, we write to your comfort zone. Using language and voice and tone that you resonate with. Word and verbiage usage you hear and use yourself every day. Because it is comfortable.

Even if we are writing a white paper or a technical press release, we are allowed and (usually) forgiven for breaking cardinal rules of grammar. Why?

Because, it seriously fucking works.

Writing for Robots

Write grammar for humans and robots
Write for the computer as well as the human using it.

While staying in the human comfort zone, copy experts must also write for a less forgiving crowd: Google and it’s army of web crawlers.

We are allowed to break their rules too, as long as it is done properly. Google only cares about certain aspects of your writing. This, to index it to show to mere humans, so they know where to go to get their information fix.

Making the copy search friendly, as well as entertaining, attention grabbing and useful is a delicate balance. The best copywriters do this naturally.

What Grammar Rules To Break

A world without rules would be a disaster. Likewise, a web page full of copy without rules would be a nightmare. So how do we know which to follow and which to break? Let’s find out:

  • You can forget about sentence fragments. They are fine. Really.
  • But what about beginning conjunctions? So? They too, are fine.
  • We simply aren’t writing a novel. Be as wildly abstract with adverbs as you want.
  • Sentences without a verb are delightful. No way! Yes, way.
  • To gently nudge the reader, use split infinitives. No better way to sneakily grab their attention.
  • Commas, commas, commas, commas and more commas; except for the Oxford comma.
  • Keep going. If it feels natural to you or it flows well… do it. It’s all about readability.

Now you know. The secrets to great copywriting are in breaking the grammar rules of what is and what should be.

The secrets to great copywriting are in breaking the rules.

If you feel it is still beyond your grasp, writing for both humans and machines, all while sounding natural and conversational while eating a tub of ice cream… perhaps you need to hire a great copywriter.

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