Are You Breaking the Rules of Grammar?

Breaking the Rules of GrammarWhen is it acceptable to break the rules of grammar? When you’re writing direct response copy. That covers anything from catalogs and direct mail packages to e-mail messages and websites.

As most of us who specialize in this field of writing will agree, our job is to entice prospects to make a purchase . . . click on the “buy now” button . . . pick up the phone . . . mail in an order form. Sometimes that involves breaking the rules of grammar, using sentence fragments or content that’s more conversational than prose.

If we accomplish this goal but saying “you’ll” instead of “you will,” or by starting a sentence with “Because,” I think you’ll forgive us if it means you see an increase in sales.

Clayton Makepeace put it this way, “ Remember those rules you learned in elementary school about proper grammar and punctuation? Well I’ve got good news for you . . . . Just throw the rules away.”

“When you’re writing sales copy, you need to speak to prospects in a way that they’re used to being spoken to and in the same way that they speak to other people.”

Herschell Gordon Lewis explained it as “increasing informality” – one of the copywriting trends for the 21st century. He said “We write the way people talk. It’s not “I shall,” it’s “I’ll.” It’s not “We will,” it’s “We’ll.” This is the way people talk. That establishes that magical word, “rapport.”

As fellow writer Bob Bly said, “The goal of direct response copywriting is not to produce perfect prose. It is to persuade the consumer to buy your product, and a copywriter should do whatever it takes to achieve that goal.”

According to Connect Direct, “Lines that begin with “and” or “but” create a sure-fire recipe for sentence fragments. But they play a frequent role in direct marketing copy by a) compelling the reader to proceed to the next thought, and b) adding emphasis to an important thought or idea.”

“The goal of direct response copywriting is not to produce perfect prose. It is to persuade the consumer to buy your product…” – Bob Bly“

“Think about the voice of a direct mail piece that successfully sold something to you. I’m talking about the one that made you feel you had to have that new kitchen tool, health supplement or book that would change your life. What was so special about the writing? Was the grammar perfect? Was it formal English? Was it enjoyable to read?” wrote Massachusetts-based Albert Saxon.

“….it’s time to start writing to your prospect. Don’t worry about grammar or the rules, just carry on a conversation,” he continued. “…. be as convincing as possible and write until you are certain that you have them sold.”

Of course, as copywriters we don’t throw absolute caution to the wind and forget about spelling or using words properly (such as “affect” vs. “effect”). After all, we are professionals. How we get the job done may be different than what our grammar teachers taught us in school. BUT, we get the job done.

How about you? Do you get the job done and did you break the rules by doing so? Let me know in the comment section below because I’d love to hear from you. Thanks a million!