I make mistakes in my writing.
Thing is, some of my mistakes, I don’t mind.
In fact, I sometimes make them on purpose. Or perhaps it’s more accurate to say that I let some of my mistakes remain.
I’m not talking about misspelling their as there, or your as you’re – they’re unfortunate mistakes that I try not to let slip through the net.
But many grammatical mistakes I don’t mind. Because the truth is, I don’t talk in proper English all the time and therefore, I don’t believe I should be writing in it either.
As much as possible in my copywriting, I try to write as the sentences form in my mind. Mostly that’s how I talk. But sometimes, it’s not even that.
It’s actually how the creative side of my brain talks.
What do I mean?
Well, I guess if you could put a microphone to the part of my brain that is thinking this stuff up and record what it says before it’s filtered through the more logical part that forms those thoughts into more coherent and grammatically correct sentences… it’s what would be recorded that I’m trying to write.
At least, I guess that’s what I’m trying to achieve.
(I say ‘trying’ as it’s far from an exact science. It’s more just a thing you have to get a feel for.)
But why do I write like this?
One; it’s faster. Easier even, once you get the hang of it.
But more importantly, I do it because it makes my writing more engaging for the reader.
I don’t believe our brains work ‘grammatically’. Or at least, subconsciously most regular people don’t give a crap if your writing would be highly commended by Strunk and White.
In fact, I think subconsciously we are more drawn to writing that is personal, or rather… writing that is more internal.
By avoiding strict grammatical (traditional?) rules, you’re also able to write with more freedom and more urgency and in turn, more of your personality will come through in your writing.
This is key. You see, it’s my belief that regular readers don’t engage with writing in itself – they engage with the writer through the writing. So if the writing is formal and has no personal flair, it is harder for the reader to connect with the writer.
Interestingly, this idea is echoed by David Byrne in his book How Music Works.
He explains how mistakes that a musical artist makes – ‘the lurches and hesitations’ – which depart from the expected form of a song eventually improve the performance of that song.
People better engage with the song because of the mistakes.
“When Willie Nelson or George Jones sing way off beat, it somehow increases the sense that they’re telling you the story, conveying it to you, one person to another. The lurches and hesitations are internalized through performance, and after a while everyone knows when they will happen. The performers don’t have to think about them, and at some point that becomes part of the band’s sound. Those agreed-upon imperfections are what give a performance character, and eventually the listener recognizes that it’s the very thing that makes a band or singer distinctive.”
This is something I’ve believed in for a long time.
It’s difficult to test in direct-response copywriting, but I have tried by split-testing more freely written passages versus passages that are much more formal from a grammatical point of view.
Invariably the nuanced writing wins.
Sadly, it’s an idea that many writers often snub. Instead they prefer to walk a much more pretentious line that mocks writing that isn’t necessarily correct from a grammatical stand-point.
I don’t know why. A campaign for more freedom in writing is surely a good thing? And, so what if someone splits an infinitive? It doesn’t matter.
It. Does. Not. Matter.
Worse than that: such old-fashioned grammatical errors don’t have ANYTHING to do with making a sale. So, as a direct-response copywriter writer, why the hell should you worry about it?
You write to sell.
Not to acquire a GCSE in English Language.
So, what I advise you to do…
In fact, what I hereby give you permission to do…
Is make more mistakes.
You’re allowed to. Trust me.
Indeed, not only are you allowed to – it could actually improve your copywriting.
If you start to write your copy in a more natural style and worry more about expressing your ideas clearly, as opposed to dealing with grammar correctly, you’ll see that your copywriting becomes much more personal and eventually readers will not only forgive you your grammatical nuances…
They’ll recognise and respect you for them.