Updated: Jun 22, 2019
Not anybody can be a copywriter.
A good copywriter should be good with their grandma (Malapropism intended)
Language changes every year and so does grammar. My parents play scrabble, so I have learnt that there are frequently two spellings of some words. There can also be three types of executions of a punctuation rule. The rules change depending on the rest of the words in the sentence, the style it’s written in, the context and even the medium.
Social media is a medium where a copywriter needs to write in a style that is easy to relate to and personalised. A copywriter still needs to write in the required brand voice, even if that means using language that’s more formal than what is typically used on the medium.
Then you also have the American English and the British English spelling where there are a number of grammar differences.
In American English, collective nouns are usually singular (e.g. The band is playing). In contrast, collective nouns can be either singular or plural in British English, although the plural form is the most popular (e.g. The band are playing).
It's all about consistency.
There are two types of grammar users
Descriptivist grammar users are usually the creative kind of people. They know the rules of grammar, but also how and when to play with them. They often break rules, but it is acceptable as long as the writing can be understood and the message is communicated clearly.
Sometimes they abandon grammar altogether for the sake of a catchy line.
ie: The McDonald’s slogan ‘I’m lovin’ it”
Prescriptivist grammar users are mainly found in government, legal and medical professions. The sentences can be complicated and all the grammar rules are obeyed to the very letter, such as:
Don’t finish the sentence with a preposition
Don’t split infinitives
Don’t use the passive voice
Don’t use the pronoun ‘I’ in object position
It's easy to tell when a descriptivist is stretching too many rules. Equally, a prescriptivist that is using language that hasn’t been relevant for the last sixty years is equally bad form.
Let’s look at tone
Everyone has a tone of voice, whether they know it or not. The tone is not just the spoken word. The written word needs to sound like a conversation that fits with your brand. Exclamation marks, words in bold and italics and at times, the extra semi-colon, can all have their place.
It’s important for a copywriter to understand the general tone, etiquette and brand voice and write accordingly. In some cases, this may mean using acronyms, slang, and other types of language that fit the style of the platform. As long as your writing is consistent!
That irritable feeling
You can tell copy isn’t quite right when you are reading and you get that feeling of discomfort.
It’s the knowing that something isn’t ‘quite right’, like:
The tastiest lasagne you’ve ever had
The tastiest lasagne ever.
The tastiest lasagne. Ever.
The tastiest lasagne you’ve EVER had!
TASTIEST. LASAGNE. EVER.
A full stop that is out-of-place can jolt the reader right off the page.
The art of proofreading
Our brain can be an incredible device. However, when we read over words that we have just written, our brains subconsciously scan and skip text. This is because our memory bank knows what is supposed to come next, and fills it in the gaps.
Therefore, it's best to proofread writing at least 24 hours after you wrote it.
Proofreading is a time-consuming process. If you can't find and correct all errors within one sitting. Sometimes it’s helpful to check for spelling mistakes in one time slot and then punctuation errors at a later time. This will make it easier to keep focused and spot problems.
Don't rely on automated spelling and grammar checkers either. Software like Grammarly has limitations and no human understanding of using keywords and SEO writing.
Nothing beats a pair of human eyes and not anybody can be a copywriter.