5 Times You Can Actually Do What You Want When You’re Writing to Sell
Writing to Sell?
What is copywriting?
Copywriting is the act of using words, whether written or spoken, to try to get people to take an action after reading or hearing them. It is one of the most critical parts of marketing and advertising. People who write copy are aptly called “copywriters.”
Copywriting vs. Technical Writing
Copywriting is essentially the practice of writing to sell, so the goal of copywriting is to connect with an intended audience in order to entice them into taking action.
Technical writing, on the other hand, is writing with the goal of informing an audience. Technical writing includes research articles, manuscripts, grants and proposals, and instruction manuals.
Copywriting and technical writing differ in many ways, but one of the biggest ways they differ is in their grammar rules. Technical writing tends to follow allllllll the grammar rules even if that results in writing that sounds stilted and not at all the way that people normally talk. But with copywriting, since the goal is to connect with an audience, copywriters will often break grammar rules to make writing sound more like the way people talk.
Do you even need grammar?
So do we really even need grammar? In short, yes. Even as a copywriter, it’s important to know the proper grammar rules so that you know the correct ways to break the rules. And there are some rules that are hard and fast and should never be broken.
How do you know when you can break the rules then? Lucky for you, reader, I’m here to help! Here are five times you can break the grammar rules when you’re writing killer copy that makes killer sales.
1. When you want to start a sentence with a coordinating conjunction
The English language has seven coordinating conjunctions: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so. Technically, the only use for coordinating conjunctions is to join two parts of a sentence together whether it’s two independent clauses, two subjects, or two predicates. It’s not technically “correct” to start a sentence with a coordinating conjunction.
But that’s not how people actually talk (see what I did there?). Think about it: how many times have you heard someone start a sentence with “but,” “and,” or “so?” Probably a lot. When you’re writing to sell, your goal is to write in a way that connects you with your audience. That means that you’re “allowed” to start sentences with coordinating conjunctions because as long as you’re connecting with your target audience, you’re allowed to do whatever you want to do!
2. When you want to end a sentence with a preposition
Traditionally, grammar rules dictate that you shouldn’t end a sentence with a preposition. When you do, you have what is called a “dangling preposition.” A dangling preposition occurs when the object of the preposition is either used before the preposition itself or when there is no object of the preposition at all. Not having the object after the preposition leaves the preposition “dangling” and forms an incomplete prepositional phrase.
How do you identify a preposition? You can remember the moniker “anywhere a mouse can go.” Examples include to, from, up, down, over, under, around, in, and out. There are also some exceptions to the “anywhere a mouse can go” rule including of, at, and with. To construct a proper sentence, these words should be followed by a noun which is known as the object of the preposition.
But what if you want to end your paragraph with a quippy, “Well, I’m going to!”? Or what if you’re trying to tell your client that there is a situation they shouldn’t put up with?
Well, then you get to break the rules! Because, you see, when we speak, we often end sentences with prepositions. It just feels natural. And your job as a copywriter is to write what feels natural.
3. When you want to write a one-word sentence
You may use these one word “sentences” when conveying feelings of agreement or disagreement when you’re writing your copy. But did you know that they’re technically not grammatically correct?
To be considered complete, a sentence must have at least one subject and one verb. That means that, technically, two-word sentences like “He goes.” and “I am.” are complete sentences. But most sentences have more than just two words. Often, they have introductory phrases or clauses, adjectives, adverbs, and prepositional phrases. A lot of times, sentences are compound meaning that they are two complete sentences joined together by a semi-colon or a comma and coordinating conjunction.
Unfortunately, one-word reply phrases like “Sure!”, “Yep!”, and “Nope!” are not technically sentences. Fortunately, this does not matter too much in the world of copywriting. You’re probably seeing a common theme here, but the goal of copywriting is to write the way that humans naturally speak. And humans often naturally use one-word “sentences” to convey agreement or disagreement. That means that, as a copywriter, you’re free to use these one-word “sentences” to get your point across.
Yep! You get to break the rules!
4. When you want to use first- and second-person language
If you know anything about technical writing, you know that one of the cardinal rules is to never use the pronouns “I” or “you.” Everything is abstract. One may draw this conclusion or reach that point, but you may never. Experiments were performed and data were analyzed, but I never did anything.
How boring, disjointed, and disconnected!
When you write to sell, you’re writing to engage with your audience. You want to put them in the experience, and you want to let them know that you’ve been where they’re at right now. That means you’ll likely need to use a lot of first- and second-person language like I, me, my, you, and your.
Good copy connects with readers on a level that technical writing just can’t, and one key to that connection is using first- and second-person language.
5. When you want to use slang and other informal language
Can you imagine reading a technical writing piece and seeing a contraction? What about a word like y’all? What about a figure of speech like “break the bank”?
I can’t even imagine! The outrage that would produce would be otherworldly.
Thankfully, when you’re writing copy, you can (and should) use words and phrases that captivate your audience. Do you want your readers to know that your services aren’t expensive? Let them know that they won’t break the bank when they hire you! Are you from the south and looking to address a group of people? Feel free to use the word y’all! Are you trying to keep your copy short and sweet? Contractions can help!
The goal of copywriting is to write in a way that connects with your audience and makes them feel something. And writing with 100% perfect grammar “according to the rules” is not the way to make that happen.
So I hope you go out there and break the rules in all the right ways!