Don’t you just hate it when someone gets all uptight about grammar? Especially, YOUR grammar?
(My sister will roll her eyes if she sees this, she considers my grammar nerdism a…character flaw.)
Yes, I’m a grammar enthusiast, but I try to keep my grammatical opinions to myself (despite my sister’s belief to the contrary).
But (see that? I can be grammar-relaxed. I can start a sentence with “but”)…but we all know people who feel it’s their life’s calling to point out our typos and slips of standard grammar usage.
Just the other day
Frank showed me a message sent through the form on our new website. It was from someone pointing out that a client’s website we did over two years ago contained a word that was missing an “s”.
In this case, we weren’t the responsible party, we’ve long since handed over the keys to that site.
But imagine, someone saw that minor typo and felt the need to track down the company who did that website, and figure out how to contact us.
And they managed to find us even though we’ve since rebranded and built a new website for ourselves.
When it comes to writing content for your customers, I’m inclined to think that as long as your message is clear, it’s okay to be grammar-flexible.
Grammar-flexible means you understand you’re engaging in casual communication, so you don’t sweat over having a comma or two out of place.
You’re not writing a dissertation. You’re not going for a Pulitzer. This won’t mark you for life.
This is social media, emphasis on the “social”.
And when we’re social in-person, we’re relaxed, and we don’t worry if our sentence structures are flawless and grammatically impressive (or if we use “and” twice in one sentence, one of them rebelliously at the opening).
Our goal in face-to-face life is to speak in a way that gets our meaning across. Most of us try to do this in a way that keeps the listener’s interest, so they don’t go away thinking of us as boring.
This is the place where we want to get you to in your marketing.
We want to help you write to your customers in a way that makes them feel like you’re talking to them in person, and they’re enjoying it.
We want to help you craft marketing content that sounds like you.
So, as your business writing coach, I do have something to warn you about.
A lot of brands publish social media updates that start like this:
“Read my blog post about…”
“Listen to my podcast with…”
Or, even worse:
“READ/HEAR/SEE/WATCH my newest (insert thing they’ve done here)”
I suggest you don’t write posts that start like that.
But it’s not because they’re asking the reader to do something specific. In fact, stating a clear call to action in every update is a habit we encourage all of our clients to form.
What makes me uncomfortable is where these calls to action are located. When they’re located at the beginning of the post, they come across as…bossy.
An exercise we take all our clients through is to ask them to identify a location that would suit the tone they want to convey to their dream customer, if they were to meet their dream customer in real life.
Think for a moment that you described a cozy cafe as the setting that would suit the way you want to talk to your dream customer.
Would you walk into the cafe, sit down at a table with your dream customer, and immediately command them to “READ my new blog post I wrote about blah blah blah”?
See why I chose the word “bossy”?
I’m going to guess that in person, you would first tell your dream customer what’s in the blog post and why you think it would interest them, then you’d tell them where they can find it if they’d like to read it.
Say this were a blog post I wanted you to read (wink, wink), I might write a post like this about it:
“It can be hard to relax about writing for your customers when there are so many people out there waiting to pounce on any typo or (what they perceive as a) deviant use of grammar. But writing for your dream customers shouldn’t be something that makes you uptight. Visit the blog to see why you shouldn’t be afraid to be grammatically relaxed with your dream customers, and find out one common writing structure you’ll want to avoid.”
This is a much more inviting, engaging, and personable way to go about things.
It’s a simple outline that works for lots of different formats including social media posts, blog posts, videos, newsletters…
In outline form:
1. Tell your dream customer about the thing you’re offering
2. Tell them why they should be interested
3. Tell them where they can read it/see it/hear it/buy it…
If you start using this outline for all of the content you write for your marketing, your dream customers will start seeing the person behind the words.
They’ll start feeling like you’re speaking just to them.
They’ll start listening, really listening, to what you have to say.