Does Grammar Matter?
A weird question coming from a person earning his money with writing, huh… I’ve been part of one of the greatest copywriting teams where we have our Quality Assurance (QA) magicians carefully revising each and every text we publish.
Great, so what about the grammar?
Well, I personally don’t like obeying the rules, and when I decide to get creative, I break those rules and, yes, I’m talking about grammar. This led to long discussions not only with the QAs but with my fellow co-workers as well.
Grammar kills creativity!
We have all seen the grammar “enthusiasts” over the Internet. And regardless of what I just said, I don’t like silly typos and I really find the “you’re” and “your” types of mistakes annoying. However, this is not what I’m talking about, there is nothing creative in the lack of knowledge.
Know the rules so you know when bending is okay..
I like to analyze how language is used by certain groups of people. There is a language study called descriptive linguistics that is specifically meant to do that. Descriptivist grammar users know the rules of grammar, but they also know how and when to play with them. If the target audience clearly understands your text and the text doesn’t seem like it was written by a first-grader, it’s perfectly good to go. See what I mean, below on this page..
Some well-known examples:
- Pink Floyd’s “We don’t need no education” — this is clearly sarcasm, and I have always admired both the band’s lyrics and musical ideas, but every grammar nazi that doesn’t have any sense would say “Yes, you do need education, you moron, this is a double negative!”
- Apple’s “Think Different” — this should have been “Think Differently,” but it doesn’t sound that catchy now, does it?
- McDonalds’ “I’m lovin’ it” — Try and write this in your essay, and you will be marked down, but McDonald’s can afford it.
Of course, these are just slogans and song lyrics. We, however, shouldn’t “afford” ourselves too much, especially in formal texts. The idea is to not let rules stifle creativity. A title or a slogan in-between the rest of the article to freshen up your text, without distracting your readers too much, is the perfect goal.
I hope I’ve made my point. Everyone has their preferred tone, and if you are trying to reach people through text and achieve that particular tone, bending some grammar rules might be necessary. It can be an extra comma, missing another punctuation mark like a period, for example, an intentional double negative, Unnecessary Capitalization, etc..
Me? I like subtitles and double ellipsis..
But I also understand when I can do that, and I would never allow this in a formal article request by a customer with high language standards. I know my limits..
Or.. do I?
In most of the cases, yes I do (HE SAID YES!). And I will keep on using the double ellipsis, I will start sentences with “and”, and I will talk to myself, making silly jokes, etc..
I got mouths to feed, which means I really need to do things the way people expect me to. “Expect” is the keyword here. Here’s my secret which doubles my work but satisfies me.
- I write just like the customer wants me to
- If I have an idea, I make another copy with extra notes
- Send both versions
Not only do I demonstrate my respect and dedication but I stand pretty good chances to be published the way I really want to. If not, I did my job and everyone knows that I really walked the extra mile.
But most importantly, I got paid!
It’s all about the money and don’t let anyone fool you. It’s only a question of time and self-awareness. The trick is not to mix the moneymaker writing with the creative blogs you want to share on your own platform. If you don’t have the time to write for yourself and still want to get creative, you should always have 2 versions of the copy — pros advise.
Fellow copywriters, if you are reading this, I hope you’ll agree with me or at least understand my point of view. As for people looking to buy web content, feel free to request creative slogans and catchy titles from your writers — they’ll appreciate it!