The Best-You’ve-Had-Yet Grammar Guide.

May 5, 2022

Whether you are a seasoned website copywriter, an avid content creator or a writing novice, paying close attention to grammar and punctuation is critical for readability and comprehension. The official definition of “grammar” is sticky. Think along the lines of syntaxes, morphology and word structure… Have I lost you yet?

Looking at grammar in its’ most basic form, it refers to the sounds, words, sentences and other elements of writing. Think of it like the rule book (or perhaps the entire encyclopaedia) of language. When we follow these rules, it allows us to write in a way that creates understanding, evokes emotion, provokes thought and so forth.

Over the past month, I have been wearing the hat of a ‘website copywriter’ (mainly due to the large volume of website content writing and copyediting projects I have been doing!). I have quickly discovered that people will prioritise grammar and editing in print mediums, but are quick to neglect digital content.

With Google users 70% less likely to click on a Google Ad with a spelling or grammar mistake and bounce rates exceeding 85% in web pages with spelling errors and poor grammar, it pays to invest time into editing and proofreading content. Just because it is easy to edit and fix mistakes in digital content, does not mean we should neglect proofreading!

Specific or General.

We refer to “the” and “a/an” as articles, in the English language. They are the difference between being specific and writing generally. If you are wanting to sound professional and polished, it is best to prioritise using “the”.

E.g. 🦋 Thoughtful copywriting for the bespoke storytellers. Vs. Thoughtful copywriting for a bespoke storyteller.

The former sounds much more personal and compelling.

Experiment with Appositives.

An appositive is a noun (or a noun phrase – remember a noun is a person, place or thing) that describes the noun right next to it. Think of using appositives as adding a sprinkle to your writing: it is critical to storytelling and connecting with your audience.

E.g. 🍀 I balance articulate storytelling with a copywriting strategy tailored to your brand. Vs. I balance storytelling with a strategy tailored to your brand.

The first example is embellished and paints a picture for the reader.

The that, who and which Rule.

In most cases, you will have to use a comma when you are including more information with the use of that, who or which. This means the comma is only necessary if you can remove this extra information and the sentence still makes sense.

E.g. ✨ My clients, who are often photographers and fellow creatives, enjoy the workshop stage of strategy projects. Vs. My clients enjoy the workshop stage of strategy projects.

We know the comma is necessary because if you take “who are often photographers and fellow creatives” out, the sentence makes sense.

Semicolons are Connectors

If you have a long or complex sentence, a semicolon can be used as an “extended pause”. They are most common in fiction writing, or in writing where sentences are longer thanks to the ‘show not tell’ approach to storytelling.

E.g. 🌞 Tailored quotes, every time; don’t pay for extra work carried across from the last client.

Below is an example of where a semicolon isn’t appropriate.

This is the longest ‘wait’; as I prefer to perfect the project before submitting a draft.

This is the longest ‘wait’. As I prefer to perfect the project before submitting a draft.

Why? Starting a sentence with “as” is the incorrect choice of conjecture. You would need to rewrite the sentence as one, using because as the joiner.

Remember that the two clauses must be able to stand alone.

Final Notes

If you are genuinely looking to improve your writing, I also recommend,

  • Reading lots to expand your vocabulary. This does not have to be physical books. Reading blogs, Instagram captions, Facebook thread, forums, apps, it honestly does not matter the medium.
  • Always writing your content into a Word or Google Doc (or have your browser spell check turned on) to catch any little spelling errors. Make sure your settings are UK or EU English, not US English (for my Australian audience!).
  • Checking your homophones. These are the little variations of words that sound similar. For example, they’re, their, there and too, two, to. A quick Google search will tell you which one is correct – or drop me a DM and I’ll be happy to answer for you!