Most copywriting experts will suggest you write the way you speak when you’re writing marketing copy, that you should sound natural and use a conversational tone if you truly want to get your message across to an audience.
In a previous post, we highlighted some grammar rules that can and should be broken if you want your marketing copy to be effective. Here are a few more to add to that list.
Including a Possessive Noun or Pronoun for a Gerund
Rule: When you include a gerund in a sentence, the sentence must also include a possessive noun or pronoun to modify the gerund.
A gerund ends in “ing” and can be tricky to identify in a sentence. It’s a verb form, resembles an adjective or adverb, but acts like a noun. For instance, the gerund form of the verb "read" is "reading." In the following sentence, “reading” acts as a noun: “Reading helps you write better.” According to this grammar rule, because gerunds act like nouns do, any nouns that modify them should be in the possessive case.
- He objected to my driving the new car.
- I appreciate your filling in for me, Bob.
Usually, a person would say, “He objected to me driving the new car” and “I appreciate you filling in for me, Bob.” Instead of asking yourself whether your pronoun is possessive when you use a gerund, ask yourself, “What would a person in my intended audience most likely say in this scenario?” Ultimately, if breaking this grammar rule makes your marketing copy sound more conversational and natural, then break it.
Writing Sentence Fragments or One-Sentence Paragraphs
Rule: Every sentence should have a main clause in it that has an independent subject and a verb, and it should express a complete thought. Otherwise, it’s a fragment. Every paragraph should have at least three sentences, including a topic sentence and supporting or transition sentences. Otherwise, it’s not a complete paragraph.
- The few. The proud. The Marines.
- Preposterous! Utterly preposterous!
- Trouble sleeping? Try this.
People speak in sentence fragments like these all the time, regardless of their level of education. Why? Because when you’re in the middle of a conversation with someone, you don’t have to constantly reiterate what or whom you’re talking about and what is happening, in every sentence you utter.
Sentence fragments can be added for emphasis and are easier to read. And they stand out. Like this.
Like sentence fragments, one-sentence paragraphs also break up the monotony of a long body of text, are easier to read, and can create an unexpected and interesting rhythm or emphasize a point.
Discerning Who from Whom
Rule: Use “who” when you’re referring to the subject of a clause and “whom” when you’re referring to the object of a clause. In other words, “who” is a subject pronoun and “whom” is an object pronoun.
- Who is that?
- Whom are you going to call?
Does the second example sentence seem familiar? It might not because the technically ungrammatical slogan for Ghostbusters is, “Who you gonna call?”
The use of the word “whom” is simply dying out in speech. And if you wouldn’t say it, then you shouldn’t use it in your marketing copy. Using it often might make you sound stiff, elitist, or pompous. Unless you’re speaking to an audience that appreciates formality and proper grammar, don’t use “whom” in your marketing copy.
Rule: Avoid using slang in anything you write if you want to keep your credibility intact.
Slang, according to Dictionary.com, is “very informal usage in vocabulary and idiom that is characteristically more metaphorical, playful, elliptical, vivid, and ephemeral than ordinary language.” Another definition offered is, “the jargon of a particular class, profession, etc.”
- Don’t use clickbait.
- The company offers a freemium.
If you want your readers to relate to your message, then you literally need to speak their language or jargon. It’s important to not overuse slang words, and don’t use terminology you aren’t familiar with. And it’s even more important to match the slang you’re using to your audience’s knowledgebase and demographic. For instance, if you’re referring to the “back end” when speaking to an audience that builds houses (not websites), they might be confused. And if you’re speaking to an audience of millennials, don’t use a bunch of acronyms like “BAE” or “FOMO” if you have no clue what they mean. Additionally, even if you’re using slang to connect with your audience, you should still never swear or use offensive and derogatory terms in marketing copy.
Breaking grammar rules in your marketing copy can be very effective. However, you shouldn’t forgo grammar rules altogether. And you should still strive to be grammatically correct in your marketing copy if it sounds natural and conversational. Perhaps you won’t make your ninth-grade English teacher proud if you disregard a few grammar rules in your marketing copy. But you’ll get more prospects to read and relate to the material you’re writing. And that is the goal, after all. Right?