Copywriting LanguageAugust 5th 2010 Sally Ormond copywriter, copywriter London, copywriting tips, freelance copywriter, Suffolk copywriter
Remember this guy?
Our old English teachers may have taught us a lot at school, but for many the ghost of English lessons past has curbed their ability to write compelling and powerful copy.
Usually it’s because as soon as their writing starts to flow, a little voice mutters in their heads. It’s the voice of their old English teacher – “No slang! No sentence fragments! No Contractions! No colloquialisms!”
Well I’ve got news for you Mr English Teacher, these are all perfectly acceptable in the copywriting world.
Here are a few examples to illustrate:
Apparently all proper sentences should have a subject-verb-object construction. But in my opinion, if they communicate complete thoughts, they are a perfectly acceptable tool for a writer.
“Get your copy of About the Home today. Full of tips and secrets. Why miss out? Buy yours today.”
Contractions and slang
Why can’t I use contractions? It’s perfectly acceptable in my book. As for slang – why not? If it helps communicate a particular message to your audience, go for it. Obviously, over doing it isn’t a great idea, but if you are writing to a particular market that readily uses slang, incorporating it within your copy will help you build rapport.
If you thought you couldn’t start a sentence with the conjunctions “and” or “but” – hogwash!!
I was interested to read in Fowler’s Modern English Usage that this particular prohibition had been ‘cheerfully ignored by standard authors from Anglo Saxon times onwards’ (Fowler’s Modern English Usage, Third Edition, p.52). Even Shakespeare used it in King John.
If it’s good enough for Shakespeare, it’s good enough for me.
Talking of Shakespeare, he also paved the way for splitting the infinitive:
Root pity in thy heart, that when it grows
Thu pity may deserve to pitied be
And of course, another famous example will be known by all the Trekkies out there:
To boldly go where no man has gone before
(Sounds a lot better than “To go boldly where no man has gone before”)
Ending a sentence with a preposition
If you still believe this, you don’t have a leg to stand on. If you did, you’d have to write “I you still believe this, you don’t have a leg on which to stand” – I prefer my version!
It is perfectly OK to end on a preposition provided it’s not redundant – so you can ask “Where are you going?” but not “Where are you going to?”
At the end of the day, if your aim is to write great copy that will get your readers’ attention and sells products – write conversationally. This will immediately build rapport with your audience, gain their trust and their cash.
One last thing, ditch your Thesaurus – over use could mean leaving behind good, clear English in favour of gratuitously overblown hyperbole.
Simple is the copywriter’s friend.