“Gee, that sales copy isn’t even grammatically correct . . .”
Good copy is written the way people speak. Most of us usually speak in simple language. And usually in relatively short sentences. That type of copywriting is very easy to get
get through for the average reader. However . . . our speech is not always grammatically correct — even though it may sound perfectly fine . . .
Many times, people will start sentences with the word “and” or “but” or “because” when speaking. Although those types of sentences aren’t grammatically correct, they make for much easier reading when used in copy. Starting sentences with “and” or “but” helps the copy to “flow”. And it makes the writing much “friendlier”.
(This is one reason why testimonials get such high readership. Most testimonials are written in simple, easy-to-get-through language — they’re written just the way the person would say it to you face-to-face.)
So before you get out your red pen (or accept your computer’s suggestions for grammar fixes), read the sentence out loud. If it reads exactly the way you’d likely say it out loud, leave the words as they are.
Effective sales copy should be friendly, but audience-appropriate
Herschell Gordon Lewis in the Art of Writing Copy advises “clarity but not illiteracy”. We want the copy to be clear and friendly, but not illiterate. He cites this example:
- Replace “This is the information you requested” with “This is the information you asked for”. Even though the sentence ends with a preposition (which isn’t grammatically correct), Lewis believes the second version is not only clearer, but also less condescending, less pompous, and much more positive. (When’s the last time you actually said the word “requested” in normal conversation?)
Too many marketing efforts (especially websites, brochures, and direct mail packages) sound like the copywriter was trying too hard to be “professional.” Lots of perfectly constructed, complete sentences. Unfortunately, that style of copy doesn’t SELL. And that’s one reason why a lot of sales copy generates very poor results.
If the words don’t read the way you’d ever say them out loud, revise, revise, revise . . . and don’t worry if you have to break some grammar rules in the process. Clear and friendly copy that gets read is always preferable to stuffy copy that will be ignored.
Have you run into a boss (or client) who disagrees with copy that includes sentences starting with “and” or “but” or “because”?