How Breaking the Rules Helps You Sell More

Good copywriting breaks the rules

I know I bitch and whine frequently about proper grammar and spelling and all that adorably irritating stuff, so what I’m about to say may come as a surprise to you: good copywriting involves breaking rules. And by rules, I mean things like ‘don’t ever begin a sentence with the word ‘and’’.

In fact, I often break a ton of traditional writing rules in my copy, including such no-nos as beginning sentences with the words ‘and’ and ‘but’ and writing incomplete sentences–sometimes just one word!

Why does this work?

Copywriting is like poetry. You’re trying to create an appealing flow with your word structure. It has rhythm. It’s moving. It’s persuasive. And it must be all of these things in a short period of time. It’s a wonderful, creative art that I truly enjoy doing everyday.

Good writing in the literary or academic sense is actually quite different than good copywriting. Copywriting is most effective when you approach it as though you’re casually telling a friend about the amazing benefits of something you’ve just discovered.

By studying copywriting, I’ve learned how to cut out the extraneous, get to the meat and bones of the message, and find the most approachable and appealing way to deliver it. And, to be honest, I was extremely stoked to get away from the nauseatingly verbose style of academic writing I came to know and loathe in university. I mean, really, they could easily save tons of trees and student study time by editing all those pretentious adjectives from academic textbooks.

This goes for your social media posts, too. Often, I see business owners taking their social media into their own hands, thinking that they have to uphold the tenets of high school English class, and having a terrible time conveying their message in an appealing way.

For example “Be sure to come down and see what we have in store for you this evening at our restaurant–we promise you will not be disappointed.” makes it sound like the restaurant is run by a bunch of uptight nerdlingers who don’t really know how to have a good time.

Change it to “Tonight! Amazing beer specials! 2-for-1 appies! A double-jointed bartender! Get here early for a front row seat!” sounds like it might be a pretty good time.

How to Make Your Copy More Conversational

  • Use contractions, such as ‘we’re’ instead of ‘we are’
  • Don’t be afraid to break formal writing rules if it makes your message stronger
  • Write as though you’re having a conversation with an acquaintance (I don’t say close friend because I don’t want you telling fart jokes or using that silly language you made up in Grade 8)
  • Resist the urge to flaunt your expensive university vocabulary
  • Let me read it and I’d be happy to provide some quick tips for improvement


photo credit: chickspirit

About the author: JessicaGrey

I'm a copywriter for web, print, radio and video. Contact me to get content that effectively communicates the benefits of your product or service.

3 comments to “How Breaking the Rules Helps You Sell More”

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  1. Bernice - June 26, 2013 at 11:54 am

    Good stuff, Jessica.
    It’s an art form all on its own, and should be treated as such.
    There’s an “on stage” feel to promotion, as opposed to hunkering down with a good book. They are 2 completely different ways of communication.

  2. JessicaGrey - June 26, 2013 at 2:52 pm

    I totally agree! Thanks for the comment, Bernice!

  3. Gabrielle - June 26, 2013 at 3:09 pm

    Agreed! I’m sick of copy editing stuff at work, especially content for social media, that sounds like something out of a 19th Century textbook. Make it snappy, interesting and try to always include a call to action.

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