Tag Archives: tone of voice

10 Grammar Rules It’s OK to Break

Whether or not you’re a professional copywriter, you’ve probably had to choose whether to follow the grammar rules we all learned in school or go a bit rogue. It’s something we get asked about a lot in the world of copywriting; so how do you decide?

With language constantly evolving, many grammar rules have fallen by the wayside or can at least be ignored to suit the context. That isn’t to say they don’t still have a place within copywriting, but sticking rigidly to them can actually harm website copy and other SEO content, such as blogs. So how can you change it up?


Good. Old. Evolution

The way we speak has evolved (how many people said ‘selfie’ in 1926?) and online content needs to reflect this. Look at the work of anyone offering content writing services – they try to engage and appeal to the audience by echoing how they speak, rather than using the dusty grammar manuals of bygone years.

As most of those rules were developed over a century ago, they tend to formalise language, so are a teensy bit outdated. This is especially true in the digital space, such as mobile apps, SEO website content and blogging, which tend to be more colloquial and informal.


Go on you rebel BREAK SOME RULES

So, let’s get our professional writer hats on, and look at some rules it’s OK to break.

1. Don’t start a sentence with ‘And’. One of the first grammar rules we all learn is not to start a sentence with a conjunction such as ‘and’. But (there’s another!) this is often ignored in good copywriting. You’ll see most copywriters using ‘and’ or ‘but’ at the beginning of the sentence, as it’s a good way to break a long sentence and can also add impact. Breaking this rule is a great way to make sure you’re writing effective website copy and making blogs easier to read.

2. Don’t us slang. With formal writing, it’s best to avoid colloquial language and slang terms wherever possible. But, good copywriting connects with the audience by ‘speaking’ as they do. Slang is one of the best ways to connect to readers in a friendly and natural way. A great example of this is Barlcays Bank renaming the ‘Cashpoint’ the ‘Hole in the wall’.

3. Avoid one-sentence paragraphs. When writing for a digital audience, you’ll want your SEO content to be easy to read. Audiences often skim-read for quick answers and important  information. One-sentence paragraphs are a useful way to make key points stand out in your copywriting, especially in SEO content.

4. Don’t miss out, ‘that’. Missing out words in your copywriting isn’t going to work if no one knows what you’re talking about. But sometimes it’s useful, especially in website content or blogging, where shorter sentences are better. It’s perfectly acceptable to miss out words if the meaning of the sentence remains the same. For example: ‘Ann was sure that she’d win…’ works just as well as, ‘Ann was sure she’d win…’.

5. Use commas ‘properly’. Most of us, freelance copywriters included, were taught to use commas sparingly and in specific circumstances, such as to create lists or join clauses. But it’s fine to break this rule by using commas more often. As a copywriter, using commas is a way to set the flow and interpretation of a sentence. Here’s an example, a comma can dictate a pause.

6. Never split infinitives. We all know not to split infinitives right? Wrong. This is another grammar ‘don’t’ freelance copywriters often ignore. But it’s not about making a hard and fast rule about whether it’s okay to make like a banana and split, especially in their website content or blogs. Most copywriters look at the sentence structure and decide based on what sounds best in each case.

7. Don’t swap ‘whom’ for ‘who’. Knowing whether to choose ‘whom’ or ‘who’ has baffled even some professional writers for years. These days it’s more common to swap ‘whom’ for ‘who’, though ‘whom’ is still used in formal writing. A lot of freelance copywriters use ‘who’ instead’, depending on the audience, the tone of voice and of course subject matter. A good copywriter is led by context, rather than pre-conceived rules and ideas.

8. Don’t finish with a preposition. Allowing yourself to end on a proposition will help avoid awkward, overlong sentence structure, so freelance copywriters often break this rule. Instead of focusing on whether or not a sentence ends with a preposition, think like a copywriter – about how the sentence reads. This is far more important when it comes to engaging readers and creating a tone of voice, key concerns for SEO website content and blogging.

9. Always use ‘correct’ personal pronouns. He. She. Him. Her. For a long time these were all you needed. But with more people identifying as neither male or female and a wider awareness of gender fluidity, we need another term. So, if you’re writing about someone who’d rather not be classified or who you’re unsure about, the best approach is to use ‘they’. For example, “Sam is a pilot, they’ve always loved flying.” See? Easy.

10. Do not use contractions. Though it’s best to avoid them in formal writing, it’s okay to use contractions with an informal audience. Generally, people want to read stuff that sounds like they speak. And most people don’t speak formally (lawyers, the Queen and her corgis aside). Most writing, including SEO content such as websites and blogging works best when it sounds natural and engaging, and contractions really help.


Breaking grammar rules, rather than landing you on the naughty step, can make a step change in the effectiveness of your copywriting. Using your judgement, based on context, will help make sure your tone of voice suits the brand and subject – as well as creating that all-important connection with your audience. So, whether you’re a freelance copywriter who wants to make their work more effective or another professional keen to write better, remember, some rules were made to be broken.

Squeak. Squeak. ROAR. That’s the sound of copywriter having an idea

Sometimes copywriting is about crafting the right words. Sometimes it’s about shuffling the old grey matter, to create ideas. Sometimes copywriting is about bring it all together, for the greater good – or search engine rankings.


Tiny = Enormous. Really.

Everyone keeps telling you to make an impact on social media. But who has something interesting to say, week-in-week-out? Something that doesn’t make you sound desperate? That’s where a good copywriter can help, with some awesome ideas. Ideas are great. They’re small. But powerful. Tiny little things with enormous consequences, especially on social media.


It’s easy to be hard to ignore

A good copywriter can create a content calendar of ideas for industry/area-specific subjects write about on social media. And of course a good freelance copywriter will be able to write those smart Facebook posts and super-snappy tweets, which pique interest and get you the shares you need.


Look left. Look right. What’s coming?

But when you’re looking for copywriting services, you want to make sure your copywriter or copywriting team is the full package, and can give you everything you need. That’s why Alex Genn Copywriting isn’t just about ideas. We know social must drive web traffic, and that’s our focus. Our content calendars are also blog calendars. And our copywriting team is expert in writing original, search engine optimised (SEO) blogs that help push your site up the search page rankings. This turns the copywriting we do for social posts into perky little teasers that link to the blogs. Original, interesting and fully SEO blogs that people love to read – and share.


Beyond blogs

Of course once you get people onto your site, through your blog, you’ll want to direct them through your sales journey. And a good copywriter will have you covered there too. Not in a gun fight sort of way though. More in a, making the language work to move people through, with clever, short sentences, snappy little paragraphs headings, and punchy calls to action, sort of a way. A good copywriter can review the whole site, from content strategy to tone of voice, to terminology and even images. Clever huh?

We’re not all superheroes with odd backstories. And that’s good. Obviously.

Usually, copywriting and tone of voice are things entrepreneurs don’t think about until after the company is established. That makes sense, you’re far too busy making the business work. But talking to a freelance copywriter sooner can help you establish who your brand is early, so all your marketing is consistent. Which means you won’t be spending money re-writing your website, mobile app or offline communications later. It might not seem like it, but when it comes to starting up your company there’s little more important than getting your copywriting right; your website, social or blog are the first place most customers will meet your company and your words are their first experience of your brand.

Consistency counts; BIGTIME

A good freelance copywriter can take the content and copy of your blogs, website or social and make it really connect with your audience. It’s not just finding the right words or getting the grammar right. It’s about creating a consistent tone of voice that establishes the brand as something the reader can trust. It’s that word ‘consistent’; that’s what counts. By making sure the language (or tone of voice as your clever-clogs copywriter will call it) is consistent all over the website and your other communications, your customers will always recognise your brand.

So who are we?

It can be great fun working out who your business is and how it talks (and so how it writes). Authoritarian expert? A chatty mate in the pub? Or a superhero with an odd back story? All companies have a different brand personality and need a different tone of voice. Of course, no one knows your company better than you. So our copywriters work with you to help define the brand personality of the business.

How do we decide?

We can help through onsite sessions or remote surveys, whatever’s easiest for you but you’re a key part of the process. And of course once it’s all locked down, expert copywriting brings it all together in consistent collateral. From the words you use, to the length or your sentences, to the frequency of your communications, a good freelance copywriter will help make sure your brand is ‘someone’ your customers really relate to, who’s always reliable and consistent, just like your products.

Whether you’re writing web content to push yourself up the search page rankings, creating fascinating blogs that give you something interesting to talk about on social media or developing a killer app, your copywriter will make sure that what you say is made even more powerful by how you say it.


5 Ways to Create Captivating Internal Comms Content

Once upon a time internal communications was the lesser known (and lesser loved) cousin of HR and PR. Today, forward-thinking companies big and small know that great employee engagement can inspire, motivate and unite. But it’s not enough just to churn out any old content and cross your fingers for results.

It requires time, effort and expertise.

To help, here are five short cuts to creating internal communications content that will inspire your people – and make them want to share it.

1. Tell a story
Never underestimate the importance of including a human interest angle in your content. An anecdote or personal case study creates instant engagement and can help with understanding – but make sure it’s concise and relevant. If you go overboard it quickly gets boring.

2. Invite comments
So your content has created employee engagement. Hooray! Now what? Extend the value of your internal comms by inviting discussion and ideas with a comments box feature, an intranet forum or a group get-together. Include questions to spark further engagement and ask employees to share their ideas on how they can implement what they’ve learned.

3. Use the right tone of voice
Whatever kind of internal comms project you are working on, tone of voice should never be far from your mind. Of course, it depends on the type of business you work for. But it also depends on the type of content. Announcing serious changes or even redundancies requires a carefully considered tone of voice that will differ from the one you might use to share plans for the office Christmas party. It’s worth having tone of voice guidelines in place to help with this.

4. Try something new
Tried and tested approaches to internal comms and employee engagement, like newsletters are all well and good. But don’t be afraid to think of alternative ways to get through to your employees. Holding a corporate event? Capture some of the highlights and turn it into an internal blog post. Has one of your team just been on a course? Share their top five insights in an easy-to-understand ‘listicle’.

5. Write like a pro
Good internal comms content should flow easily and grab attention, deftly moving readers along. Use short, enticing headlines, snappy quotes, questions and calls to action. Take your time and read it out loud when you’re done – how does it sound? Make sure you have time to edit, at least twice. There’s no short cut to creating copy that generates that all important employee engagement. And if your internal comms content isn’t hitting the mark, it’s worth investing in the expertise of a professional freelance copywriter, who’ll be able to help with internal communications that really work for you.