RAR+ Recommended | CIPR | Fresh Awards

The Copywriting ‘Rules’ You No Longer Need to Follow

18.08.16

dictionary grammar

Unless you’ve been living inside a Shakespearean play for the past 15 years, you’ll know that the English language has been changing rapidly, especially since social media exploded into our lives back in the mid 2000’s. 

Social media channels have given rise to an entirely new branch of language, one that has irreversibly become part of our everyday speech. New words like ‘unfriend’ and ‘selfie’ are now accepted as everyday vocabulary, and pre-existing words such as ‘timeline’, ‘status’ and ‘profile’ have taken on additional meanings and associations. Oh, and let’s not forget the rise of the slang acronym, LOL.

So if language is changing so drastically and words like ‘Bromance’, ‘Grrrl’ and ‘OMG’ are finding their way into the dictionary (sigh), why are we still slaves to the ancient linguistic and grammatical conventions in our everyday language that are still masquerading as rules?

If you’re like me and spend most of your working life writing, then you can ditch these three ‘false commandments’ of grammar from your life for good:

The False Commandments:

Thou shalt never begin a sentence with a conjunction

I don’t know about you, but this false rule was drilled into me at school. I was taught never to start a sentence with a conjunction such as ‘and’, ‘but’ or ‘so’.

But, why is that?

Ah-hah! See, you can start sentences naturally this way, and even the authority style guides – including the Chicago Manual of Style and the Merriam-Webster Dictionary of English Usage – say that using conjunctions at the beginning of sentences is perfectly acceptable.

“There is a widespread belief – one with no historical or grammatical foundation – that it is an error to begin a sentence with a conjunction such as ‘and’, ‘but’ or ‘so’.” – Chicago Manual of Style

Thou shalt never end a sentence with a preposition

Yet another grammar myth we were taught at school is that ending sentences with prepositions is an absolute no-no. To refresh your no doubt fading memories of school grammar lessons, prepositions are words like ‘with’, ‘to’, ‘in’, ‘at’ and ‘on’, used to explain the relationship between the elements of a sentence. Ending sentences with such words is often discouraged, but take a look at these two sentences; which sounds the most natural?

‘The child had no-one to play with’

‘The child had no-one with which to play’

The second sentence is over-formal and awkward, and the Oxford Dictionaries blog agrees, so let’s stop paying this ‘rule’ any attention.

“The deferring of prepositions sounds perfectly natural and is part of standard English.” – Oxford Dictionaries Blog

Thou shalt always use ‘I’ instead of ‘me’

How many of you were told as children that using ‘me’ instead of ‘I’ is either incorrect or impolite? I know I was. “Me and Kim are going to the shops tomorrow”, would always need replacing with “Kim and I are going to the shops tomorrow”, which, according to the Guardian Style Guide, is over-correcting. There’s just no need for it, so let’s relax.

“Grammatically, “me” is always the right choice when you need an objective pronoun. You wouldn’t say, “Hey, Tim, want to come to the milk bar with I?”” – The Guardian

At JAM, writing is a huge part of our daily lives and we’re very proud of our collective skills. If you need our help with content, drop us an email or give us a call and we’ll dot the I’s and cross the T’s.

Share

Like to know more?

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Want to see our stuff?

Have a nosey at all of our latest PR and creative
projects to see what we’ve been working on lately

see case studies