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Textbook Grammar Could Steal Good Marketing’s Oxygen

As a copywriter, I am a true fan of grammar, spelling and all the technical aspects of writing. With that said, let me clarify that I did not write the above headline because I am against well-structured writing — truth be told, it is one of my favorite things in the world. I wrote it because I am convinced that creative quality sometimes requires us to give up the impulse to treat texts as if we were academic proofreaders. Let me explain why:

Grammar is old

Like all seniors, grammar deserves respect. But, also like some seniors, it understands little about how to communicate with young people. Many things have happened since those times when the ancient Greeks began to develop this discipline -and many things will continue happening. If we want our message to be well-received today, maybe it makes sense that we agree to leave the past in the past when we need to.

Grammar is based on written texts

It does not consider the way people speak. And let’s face it: no matter how proper we are, we all break the rules when we talk! We make pauses where they don’t fit, alter words, cut phrases, or use jargon that we wouldn’t normally use when writing.

But then there’s creativity — that one place where we want the audience to feel close to our brand. We want them to perceive each interaction as if they were holding a conversation. How far do you think we could go if we interrupt their reading with commas or structures that don’t fit this goal?

Grammar is exclusive

Being good with grammar has become something to be proud of. And it should be that way. It’s an achievement, maybe even a talent. So it’s fine by me if we strive to structure every single paragraph right.

But, remember: creativity must be inclusive. We are not looking to give academic talks or win journalistic awards. Moreover, the only valid evaluation of an advertising text is whether it connects with the public or not. And no one will connect with a distant message.

Grammar seeks an ideal language

The primary objective of grammar is to regulate the texts, to make sure we know how to make them perfect, based on what the great authors of antiquity did. It is clear that they update it from time to time and new rules keep emerging, but it still is always based on rules. Rules that are nothing but limits — the great enemies of a creative mind.

Being ideal when writing would excite only our elementary school teachers but not necessarily our audience. In creativity, we do not want perfection. Once again, we are looking for connection. Perhaps then, it’s okay to ignore rules and dare to use only capital letters, make puns, leverage spelling mistakes to highlight our headline among the advertising sea… or do whatever it takes to achieve what we set out to do.

Okay, but am I proposing that we should completely forget about correct grammar and writing? Of course not! I would be the first to suffer in a world like that. I’m just saying we have to learn to be flexible for the sake of creativity. Here is my proposal:

1. Master grammar:

Familiarize yourself with all aspects and rules of this discipline. It exists for something, and you will do better as a marketer if you know how to handle it well.

2. Know your brand:

Make sure you are clear about the goals and tone of the brand you’re writing for.

3. Understand your audience:

Find out what amuses them, what they want, what they hate, what they are excited about, and -especially- how they speak and how they like to be spoken to.

4. Now, break the rules!

If you’re going to break them (and I invite you to do so), you have to know you are doing it for a reason. Not because it’s fun, not because you’re rebellious, not because you want to look cool. Break them because it builds something for your brand. Balance will always be the key ;)

btw: these lines were originally written in Spanish and then translated to English, so this is an excellent opportunity to practice not being too strict with our grammar ;)

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