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#TipTuesday – Break This Rule in Advertising, Marketing & PR Copywriting

Provide Work Without With

Sometimes rules are made to be broken. That’s often the case when you’re talking about “proper” grammar vs. advertising, marketing and public relations copywriting. And it’s definitely the case when using “proper” will undermine “effective.”

Consider these two sentences:

  • I will provide Fredricks Communications with access to my Google drive.
  • I will provide Fredricks Communications access to my Google drive.

Get rid of that proposition, “with,” and nothing really changes. People still get it, and the sentence is shorter. And those who pay any attention to this blog know I push brevity as Rule #1 for clarity and keeping hold of readers’ short attention spans.

According to several “proper” grammar sources like the English learning website VOA, “with” is necessary:

With is a preposition, and the verb provide has two different subcategorization frames:

  • Provide somebody with something. – The recipient of the thing (Fredricks Communications) is the indirect object.
  • Provide something (to somebody). – The thing provided (access) is the indirect object.

Subcategorization frames? Recipients? Prepositions? Indirect objects?

Clear as mud in the eye to your average Joe.

Here’s the important point – nobody cares, except your former English teachers. And, with all due respect, they never had to sell a widget.

You and I and our bosses and clients care about selling that widget, and we know we need lively, engaging copy to do it. So keep your copy clear, keep it brief and work without with in your advertising, marketing and public relations copywriting.

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Tip Tuesday – Is Your PR Writing Overqualified?

 

Like using qualifiers? A lot of them, perhaps? As professional copywriters, we need to do a little better.

That’s the advice of Stunk & White, authors of the bibles on grammar and style.

In “The Elements of Style,” William Strunk and E.B. White put it eloquently: “Rather, very, little, pretty – these are the leeches that infest the pond of prose, sucking the blood of words.”

Harsh, even without the vampire imagery. Harsh, but right on.

Besides, copywriters should always cut unnecessary words. It’s the “Less-Is-More Principle.”

Which has more life?

  • “It’s rather important to be honest. vs. “It’s important to be honest.
  • “We’re very excited about this product.” vs. “We’re excited about this product.”
  • “I’m pretty sure I gave you the right medication.” vs. “I’m sure I gave you the right medication.”

This isn’t a life vs. death deal – except maybe in that last example – but for a prospective client, neither is hiring you. Take the advice of Strunk & White for your public relations writing:  be a life-giver, not a leech; throw the qualifiers back into the mucky slough.

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Screenshot of Martin Fredricks doing vlog post

Copywriting: To Split or Not to Split

It’s the second day of the work week, and you know what that means: It’s Tip Tuesday!

This Tuesday we’re talking about splitting infinitives and other verbs in marketing, advertising and public relations copywriting.

Screenshot of Martin Fredricks doing vlog post

youtube.com/fredcomm

Let me start out by saying I absolutely love The Grammar Girl and grammarist.com, two grammar sources that have given me some peace of mind lately.

You see, once upon a time I had a boss who had a hard-and-fast rule about split verbs and split infinitives. Split infinitives are verb phrases, like “to increase” that are split by a modifying word (usually an adverb).

<watch the video>

 

  • We plan to increase your blog traffic over the next 12 months incrementally.
  • We plan to incrementally increase your blog traffic over the next 12 months.

Split verbs are split by a modifying word (again, usually an adverb).

  • We will respond to any issues that might come up quickly.
  • We will respond quickly to any issues that might come up.

It wasn’t just a rule, either; splitting a verb was verboten. With extreme prejudice. I started having nightmares about a grammar monster with huge, sharp, teeth coming to viciously devour me and the sentences I’d written that day.

<See what I did there? “…to viciously devour…”>

Thing is – and The Grammar Girl, grammarist.com and several other sources back me up on this – there is no such rule in English grammar. Turns out the boss was being a grammatical snob. Which – hey – who am I to criticize? That would be the proverbial pot calling the kettle black.

Thing is – and I say this to aspiring advertising, marketing and public relations writers all the time – in our world, we need to write like people speak. We need to build a rapport, a comfort level with the people seeing, reading or hearing our copy. And we’re never going to connect our clients to their audiences – even retired English teachers – by copywriting like pompous professors.

Besides, people split verbs all the time in everyday conversation. Which sounds better? You tell me –

  • I’m going to run to the store for some milk quickly.
  • I’m going to quickly run to the store for some milk.

Get beyond the split verb issue, and the sentence becomes even less academic –

  • I’m gonna quick run to the store for some milk.

But that’s a subject for another Tip Tuesday….

In your advertising, marketing and public relations, your copywriting needs to sound like you speak. Have a conversation with your audience. And, by all means, split away.

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Tip Tuesday: You Might Be Fortunate to Read This Communication Tip on Writing…

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But It Is Not Fortuitous.

When writing copy, be careful with the words fortuitous and fortunate.

Fortuitous events happen by chance, randomly. While they need not be fortunate events, they often are, e.g., “It was purely fortuitous that the meter reader came along less than a minute after I returned to my car.”

Although fortunate events may be fortuitous, they might not be, e.g., “I was fortunate to return to my car just before the meter reader came around on his top-of-the-hour pass.”

When you mean random and unlucky, write random or one of its synonyms – accidental, haphazard, arbitrary, unplanned, unintentional. When you mean random and lucky, write fortuitous. When you mean lucky, write fortunate. Better yet, just use plain ol’ lucky to be sure everyone knows what you mean.

 

Adapted from “Common Errors in English Usage,” by Paul Brians.