Copywriting and copy editing

Grammar is not everything

I see you shake your head in disbelief. How can I – as a proof reader, editor and writer – make such a bold statement!?

Well, let me take the wind out of your sails right away as I don’t mean to suggest anything drastic such as ignoring grammar to an extent that it causes misunderstandings or misinterpretations.

Everybody writes

Before I explain though, let me make another plain statement, namely: “everybody writes.”

Ok, that was actually Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer of MarketingProfs and Author of ‘Everybody writes’ (a go-to-guide to creating ridiculously good content that attracts and retains customers), who said that.

The point she is making is that in today’s day and age of the internet and social media, everybody who owns a website or is active on social media, is a marketer, writer and publisher. And she goes on to say “that means that we are all relying on our words to carry our marketing messages.”

Looking at some current trends, I would also add that increasingly all those marketers and writers include start-up entrepreneurs, blogger-preneurs, and more and more also non-native speakers**.

If grammar ever was an elite or native speaker thing, it definitely isn’t anymore.

“Writing well is part habit, part knowledge of some fundamental rules, and part giving a damn. We are all capable of producing good writing. Or, at least, better writing!” ~Ann Handley

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts

So, here is my point. Good or even picture-perfect grammar does not equal good or perfect marketing and web content.

To make content work – that is to attract and retain customers – structure and consistency in the presentation and spelling and simplicity in the language are key to conveying clarity, focus, professionalism and ultimately trust. I truly believe that trust is one of THE most magic customer attracting ingredients or, as Rachel Botsman, author and global authority on the Collaborative Economy, puts it, “trust is the currency of the new economy.”

“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” ~Aristotle

I think that getting these basics right is like finding your voice, which is another must-have if you are to keep your readers’ attention and turn them into paying customers. And what’s more, a clear, neat and consistent presentation acts like a buffer as small grammatical errors could not just be forgiven but go entirely unnoticed. If, on the other hand, you try navigating through an unwieldy, inconsistent, yet grammatically correct word jungle you will soon find that flawless grammar, or for that matter native language, is indeed not everything.

“I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again.” ~Oscar Wilde

Of course, your content needs to be relevant and compelling and all that as well to work for your brand AND your audience, however that will be a conversation for a different post.

“Writing well is part habit, part knowledge of some fundamental rules, and part giving a damn.” ~No. 5 of Ann Handley’s 13 writing rules

What’s your take on this? I would love to hear from marketing and content specialists and from not so savvy marketers alike (perhaps, you just started up on your own)?

**Note that this is only my observation from living and attending business events here in London, hence with non-native I mean specifically non-native English speakers. This may not be applicable or relevant if your main business language and location is elsewhere. And before you ask, yes, I am a non-native English speaker. I love writing in English, but my accent still comes with some Austrian flair to it :)

Need help with your brand, marketing and website words?

I combine brand and content strategy, content writing and copy editing, and particular website expertise as well as a general passion for content quality – whether online or offline – to make brand propositions and stories, web pages and blogs, marketing and print materials, business documents and everything and anything that relies on words to connect, engage and win over an audience, more powerful. If your words need more power, please get in touch!

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