The Few Grammar Rules Marketers Must Not Ignore

Marketing isn’t like writing an academic thesis – instead of “proper” language you need to use a conversational tone. Everyone tells you that, don’t they? 

They tell you to pretty much ignore the rules of grammar that you learned in school, and just write the way you talk. 

And that’s the truth. If you sound too proper, no one (except perhaps a fellow academic who is intensely interested in your subject matter) will read your message. If you learned your lessons well in school, you may even have to force yourself to learn to relax your standards.                                                        

But like all rules, the “don’t be too grammatically correct” rule needs to be broken just a bit. You really do need to follow a couple little basics. 

Not because there’s a grammar police who will come and get you and slap you with a fine, but because when you ignore these small rules, your message is ruined. When broken, they’re like mammoth stop signs stuck in the middle of your copy. 

What rules are these? First, the one about choosing the correct word between 2 words that sound alike. I know – this is difficult for thousands and thousands of well-read, literate individuals. But difficult is not an excuse when it could affect response to your sales letter. 

The worst offenders are here/hear and there/their. 

Just last night I was reading well thought out, interesting posts on Active Rain, and I saw these errors repeated several times.  So if you’ve been breaking them, you’re in good company.

Here’s how to remember: Please come over here because I can’t hear you when you speak from over there. *Hint: Hear relates to your ear. Here is the opposite of there. 

And – Please tell them they can hang their coats over there on the rack. 

Your and you’re is another common mix up. Remember: You’re (you are) going to be late for your appointment if you don’t get moving. 

If you, like so many others, have struggled for years to keep these straight, get someone else to proof your copy before you send it. But make sure it’s someone who doesn’t face the same struggle! 

Next is misplaced modifiers. When you read a sentence with scrambled modifiers your mind is no longer on the overall message – it’s on figuring out what the writer meant. 

Take this sentence: “The girl galloped up on a Quarter Horse in a red hat.” So who was wearing the red hat?  You have to stop and think about it, and that’s not good.

I just heard on TV that Survivorman was “…hunting for grubs in a tree that he could eat.” Now, we all know that he intended to eat the grubs (yich!) and not the tree – but when I heard the sentence, it stopped me from hearing what he said next because I had to replay that one in my head.

Our local newspaper inserts modifiers in goofy places all the time – sometimes so often that reading the news becomes like reading the comic section.  

So after you write your copy, read it aloud and listen. Are your modifiers placed so they describe what you intend them to describe? If not, they’ll either confuse your reader or make him stop and think about the sentences rather than your message. 

Getting someone else to read your copy before you send it out into the world is always best – because when we read our own copy, we know what we meant and we “see” what we meant. The result is that most of us are very poor proof-readers when it comes to our own copy. We can miss everything from a repeated word to the wrong choice of here or hear.

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