See, copywriting rules aren’t like legal rules. While it can feel cheeky, and even criminal to use square brackets instead of parentheses, or make up your own words, injecting a ‘lil of your own personality can make your brand or voice more memorable in your readers mind, and keep them coming back for more, yes even when you use run on sentences like this one.
Like many of us, my conscience doesn’t bode well with breaking the rules.
Once, when I was 17, I shoplifted for the first time. I was out shopping with a girlfriend, and a voice popped into my head.
“Bet you can’t steal that nail file.”
Mind you, at this time I was a chronic nail biter [which I later found out was an anxious habit] and had no nails to file.
But, I caved and slipped the rainbow nail file into my bag and discreetly walked out of the store, adrenaline pumping through my veins.
Maybe you’re thinking I lived the rest of my life on the edge, having made my first gateway robbery.
Nope. I kept the nail file in its packaging, untouched.
It sat on my desk everyday and I looked at it and felt guilt wash over me until eventually, two years later, I walked back into the store and told them I had forgotten to pay for it the week earlier and would like to pay for it now.
The sales assistant showered me with praise for my nobility and integrity, and needless to say I never stole again.
Here are some of the reasons to try breaking some copy rules.
Find your own voice
Like Pablo Picasso once said “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.” There’s something to be said for paying attention in English class and having a good handle over the mechanics of writing, like grammar and spelling, but if you feel confident with your writing, why not tap a toe out of line once in a while?
Look, I’m not saying use “their”, “there” and “they’re” improperly [lest you feel the wrath of the internet]. But I am saying, it’s okay to spend some time stretching out your writing and experimenting with different styles.
A great way to do this is to pretend you’re writing as someone else [temporarily, until you find you find yours in this infinite game of hide and seek]. Find a few literary heroes and examine why you love their writing style. Does their choice of language paint a visual picture for you every time you read their words? Or do they write in such an engaging way that you can literally hear their voice with every paragraph? Do they use CAPITALS IN THEIR TOPIC SENTENCES, or are they a little too gleeful in their use/of/slants?
Whatever you admire in other writers, roll up those sleeves, and take a gulp of that coffee/tea/wine and give it a go! Accept that you won’t always get it right, but every piece of writing you produce gets you closer to the writer you want to be.
Don’t get me wrong. I love a good run on sentence.
But short, sharp sentences tend to catch attention.
Using shorter sentences creates a sense of urgency, and is also easier for your brain to encode than a longer one.
It can also express different nuances, for example the following sentence means different things depending on where you put your emphasis:
I didn’t say Elaine told her readers to break rules.
Go on, try it.
That’s why you’ll frequently see our socials make use of asterisks to draw attention to the *word* we want you to *hear*.
Because why not highlight the words you want to emphasise with one of *these*. Or #these. or >these<.
Remember: your readers are consuming so much content at once. By adding little elements that help your reader digest your content faster, you’re setting yourself apart and also showing them that you’re different, staying in their minds that little bit longer.
It’s not that serious. Seriously.
Note: If you’re writing legal tenders or contracts, this section is maybe not for you and please do not quote me [I can’t go back to jail], but writing is meant to be fun.
Especially when you’re writing for socials or your website.
At the end of the day, we’re hardwired to look for emotional, human connection, and by expressing this through your copywriting this helps your reader feel a little more connected to you as your words dance off the screen.
Write as you sound, and take the time to perfect your voice so your audience can really hear you when they read your words and scroll through your content.
Tell them Aunty Elaine said it was okay.
But don’t tell them where to find me.
[I *also* do not bode well with internet wrath.]