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5 Rules for Writing that Should be Ignored

Discussion in 'Copywriting & Sales Persuasion' started by Madhat27, Nov 14, 2014.

  1. Madhat27

    Madhat27 Newbie

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    Rules Are Made for Breaking

    We're all familiar with the infamous maxims and mantras, telling us how we should and shouldn't write. Whether from a teacher, a colleague, or a user commenting on our content, we've all heard the so-called rules - but do any of them even hold water anymore?

    Language is constantly evolving, as is the way we use it. In the modern world, dominated by texting, tweeting, slogans and brand names, copywriters don't always have the luxury of concentrating on proper grammar. And it would be wasted if they did.

    Quibbling over the correct use of ‘who' or ‘whom' is redundant in a world numbers routinely replace letters and words. Language is a versatile tool, and these so-called rules are more like grammar guidelines to refer to when in doubt. If you know what you're doing you can use words any way you want.

    Does that mean you can use slang like ‘Wagwan'? Not likely. The reason content is so important is because it reflects on the company you are presenting, as does your choice of words. Most often, you want to appear professional, which means maintaining a professional standard of writing.

    But that doesn't mean you can't break a few grammar standards.

    5 Grammar ‘Rules' to Break

    Avoid the Passive Voice
    While often touted to be weak, boring and and disingenuous, passive voice actually has its uses. It's bad reputation comes, primarily, from politicians. The use of sentences like, "mistakes were made," instead of, "we made mistakes," have caused the viewpoint that the passive voice is a cowardly voice.

    On top of that, the term passive just sounds boring. Contrasted with active voice, it sounds like the passive aggressive girlfriend giving you the silent treatment, next to the action hero saving the day. The idea of actions being performed has given rise to the misconception that you can have an active or passive verb. e.g. ‘run' is thought to be active, while ‘sit' is considered passive.

    The other common misconception is that there is such a thing as a passive tense. In fact, passive voice can be used in any tense.

    Once you get past the misconceptions, you realize that passive voice is actually incredibly useful, and often natural. Consider the difference between the following:

    • I was robbed!
    • Someone robbed me!

    The first example, written in the passive voice, sounds more natural and more effective as a result. This is despite lacking the ‘agent' - the one performing the action. The passive construction is best to use when you don't want to name the acting agent - especially if that agent is one of your competitors!

    Always Write in Complete Sentences

    This is undoubtedly sound advice is you are writing an essay. Otherwise, it's redundant. Marketing slogans don't need to be full sentences. Product descriptions neither. Email headings, title tags, various other forms of copy.

    This mantra is a throwback to school days when bullet points on John Steinbeck's techniques weren't enough to make the grade. But we're grown-ups now - at least, some of us are. In the classroom we had to prove we fully understood the material; now we have to make sure our readers do.

    Sometimes, this means using sentence fragments or even bullet points to get across as much information as possible. We don't always have time to fully articulate every idea, and our readers often don't always have the time to read it.

    On a similar note, there are those who will condemn the one word sentence. For me, there's nothing punchier than a one-word sentence, especially if it comes on the heels of a whole chunk of long, detailed explanations.

    Sound effects, calls to action, or intense emphasis are all conveyed brilliantly by one-word sentences. As long as they are few and far between, there's no reason to hate on them. So, stop. Please.

    Never Verb a Noun

    Google it.

    No, that's not an instruction, it's an example. ‘Google', as we all know, is brand name. And yet, the company has become so successful that the name is synonymous with web search. The verb, ‘texting' came from a noun too.

    This isn't at all new. Years before Google even existed, ‘Hoover' replaced the word ‘vacuuming', ‘tape' became the preferred word for ‘record', and ‘microwave' became the verb form of warming up noodles.

    This is how language develops and evolves. It's one of the oldest and simplest techniques for creating new vocabulary, and doesn't only apply to new technology.



    • cut
    • sleep
    • drawing
    • face

    The examples are countless. Unsurprisingly, the opposite also occurs. Verbs are used as nouns. Most important, the much scoffed verb form of ‘impact' actually existed first. It was made a noun afterwards!

    Don't Start Sentences with ‘And' or ‘But'

    But what if it sounds better that way? Avoiding these words might necessitate an extra clause or phrase, which makes your sentence seem wordy and awkward. Stylistically - which, in content writing, matters far more than grammatically - the occasional sentence initiated with ‘and' can be incredibly emphatic, with a wide range of effective uses.

    This guideline seems like it was perfect for literacy lessons when the teacher wanted to prevent a listed narrative (and then this happened, and then, and then...). In general, however, it seems to assume that sentences exist in a vacuum.

    Sentences take meaning from their context, whether it's the sentence before or the paragraph before, or even the text that follows. As with incomplete sentences, the effect can be fuller and more abrupt when the traditional form is eschewed. Critically acclaimed novelists have being doing it for generations.

    Lastly, why just those two? Any other connective is permitted from the outset, except these two. However, nevertheless, while, yet, so, then, also, by, also, unless and all the others you can think of are absolutely fine. What's that all about?

    Don't End Sentences With Prepositions

    Then what do we end sentences with?

    This is most definitely just a guideline. The logic behind it is archaic and following this advice, in most cases, will make your writing sound archaic. The above question, formulated ‘properly', would read: With what do we end sentences?

    Grammatically correct or not, prepositions naturally float to the end of some phrases, and that's okay. Especially in content. We don't want to appear snooty or aloft; we want to appeal to the masses. The voice we use in our content should be one our readers can relate to, so it's important to write (to some extent) the way we would speak.

    Not the way grammar purists insist.
     
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  2. Loadzz

    Loadzz Regular Member

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    Thanks for this. I have a UK entertainment website, so i need writing tips. :)
     
  3. CoriZiD

    CoriZiD Newbie

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    Thank you for the tips here. This will be useful starting up my branding campaign. :D
     
  4. ledux

    ledux Newbie

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    Great tips, thanks for sharing :)
     
  5. TAHA95

    TAHA95 Registered Member

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    Nice tips mate. I wouldn't say i follow all those, because that can be hard :p
     
  6. goosefrabah

    goosefrabah Jr. VIP Jr. VIP Premium Member

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    Great tips! I break most of these rules every day when I write (with the exception of business and academic writing). My two favorites - punchy, one-line sentences and starting sentences with "and" or "but". Both of these things can be highly effective when writing copy.
     
  7. phil7346

    phil7346 Registered Member

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    Thanks! My daughter is an English teacher, taken a lot of talking to convince her that language evolves.
     
  8. EduAffiliates

    EduAffiliates Newbie

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    Very interesting. Actually, I have never paid attention to these little tricks.
     
  9. davids355

    davids355 Jr. VIP Jr. VIP Premium Member

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    Its ironic that your post is really hard to read OP.

    My Suggestions

    Lots of short paragraphs, headings and Bold keywords to break up the text and make it easy to read.
     
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  10. thezeebase

    thezeebase Junior Member

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    Thanks for your tips pal ... It helps :)
     
  11. Madhat27

    Madhat27 Newbie

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    Actually, it's not all that ironic. This thread is about style and technique, not presentation.

    But I see your point. This was my first post to a forum and I didn't realize how much the format would change when I pasted it in. Oops.

    Lesson learned. I'll be sure to sort it out in subsequent posts.

    Thanks for the tips, particularly about bolding keywords. I'll keep it in mind.
     
  12. AceOfDreams

    AceOfDreams Junior Member

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    Great tips! This is very useful. However, what if you are writing content and it is getting repetitive?
     
  13. Madhat27

    Madhat27 Newbie

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    If it's getting repetitive, I would suggest a change of pace. Try a different format, a different tone of voice or a different perspective.

    Hope that helps.
     
  14. JoeMongan

    JoeMongan Jr. VIP Jr. VIP Premium Member

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    Welcome to BHW!

    The format on forums do vary from your typical layout I have noticed. Bolding keywords has
    more value that just for the readers. I normally do this to a certain degree on my websites for
    on-site optimization value. Heh not everyone would agree but I have had great results.

    -RK
     
  15. seokiddo

    seokiddo Jr. VIP Jr. VIP Premium Member

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  16. netcelal

    netcelal Senior Member

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    Thank you for the tips
     
  17. mh591

    mh591 Newbie

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    Thanks. You need to write in plain language if you hope to communicate
     
  18. polotrav

    polotrav Newbie

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    Good tips I think many will find this very useful.
     
  19. vandalais

    vandalais Newbie

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    Some really great tips. Modern writing is more like a conversation. This is exactly how it should be.

    I'm reading Joanna Wiebe's book The Dark Art of Writing Long-Form Sales Pages. It's a really great book and goes into some of the psychology of copy.

    Your post pretty much sums up the book in a quick 2 minute read. Thanks for taking the time to write it.
     
  20. rolanduc

    rolanduc Junior Member

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    Really useful tips. I will use it for my next work.

    Cheers!