I know I am an irresistible target.
After all, I am a writer. Fewer things make you go bonkers than reading a poorly written sentence and especially, a poorly written sentence by someone who calls herself a writer.
I know. It is painful.
However, I would like to bring up a several points about your dogged efforts to right all the grammatical wrongs in the world. Perhaps by the end of this earnest letter, you will understand why I have no desire whatsoever to sound like Jessica Fletcher from “Murder, She Wrote” and instead, am more interested in getting people to do what I want them to do.
Let us begin, shall we?
Microsoft Word (my own personal Grammar Nazi), loves to nab me every chance it gets on these suckers.
I don’t care.
The main reason I love contractions so much is that this is how people talk when you’re face to face with them.
I have never, ever heard one of my friends say, “Let us meet for lunch if you are free next week. I am not busy on Wednesday.”
Sounds a little overly formal, doesn’t it?
Every time I hear someone speak without using a contraction, I half-expect her to sniff and bring a dainty teacup to her lips. With the pinky finger standing out from the cup, of course.
Ah, fragments. Love them. Big fan.
I also get nailed by Microsoft Word on these, too.
Many people also use fragments during normal, everyday conversations.
Maybe it’s because we’re living life at warp speed. But here’s how many of my conversations go when I’m at a social gathering with friends:
Did you see? Boycott… yeah. Sheesh. What is the big deal? Just sayin’… No. Way! Hey! How are you? Great. Fine. Really! Wow. You bet! Maybe. Got it! About time! See ya!
I consider such conversations as relationship shorthand. When you’re friends with someone (and even better, married to the same person for decades), you really do know what the other person is about to say most of the time. You finish each other’s sentences. You anticipate what the other person is thinking.
It’s great comedy for those watching but it works. And sometimes, it can work in writing, too.
On to the next quirk.
Beginning sentences with a conjunction
I love sentences that start with a Big But, I cannot lie…
English teachers told us to never start a sentence with “and” or “but.”
But, it’s now become commonplace. I can hear a grammarian sputter, “Just because everyone is using it does not mean it is proper grammar!”
Correct-a-mundo, my dear. But the fact remains it has increased in usage and often underscores a writer’s point.
I do, however, believe in a certain level of restraint. If I started every other sentence with a conjunction, I think it would be jarring and distract from my message.
And I’m all about clearly communicating my message.
Grammatically incorrect ads
Here are some famous slogans that drive Grammar Nazis nuts:
“Leggo my Eggo”
Apple’s “Think Different”
McDonald’s “I’m lovin’ it”
Staples’ “We got that.”
Target’s “Make Summer Funner”
“The Few. The Proud. The Marines”
All of them use incorrect grammar.
Here’s the thing about Apple’s slogan, “Think Different.” At the time, their biggest competitor was IBM and IBM had a motto: “Think.”
Apple’s ad agency, TBWA\Chiat\Day, turned that motto into a rallying cry for Apple. It was brilliant.
Those are just a few, but obviously, the brief question caught attention along with the iconic milk mustache sported by the “Got Milk?” models.
One of my favorite copywriters, Clayton Makepeace, said he’d rather work with a copywriter who was a former salesman than one who had an English degree. In fact, many seasoned copywriters say that trying to be grammatically correct at all times can make your copy sound stiff and unnatural.
Copywriters are trained to write to a specific target audience. When doing so, you use the same language as your audience. You want to connect with them quickly and to do that, you need to speak their language.
You also need to be fresh. Original. And bring something to the table that makes someone’s ears perk up. That usually doesn’t come from the strident, perfect adherence to the rules of grammar. In fact, it often means breaking them.
About your need to correct someone…
I’m on a few mailing lists where the owner says his “typos come free of charge.” I laughed the first time I read that. I’ve been known to have a typo or two in my own emails and even my blog posts.
There are days when I have time to carefully comb through my own writing to make sure everything is neat and orderly. Then there are days when I simply have to let go and move on to my next task.
I do have a secret perfectionist within me; however, she is fast becoming marginalized. I believe this is true for most people. Our lives have become faster. Everything is expected to be done faster and if you’re a marketer, you have to move faster. Otherwise, your competitor will beat you to the punch.
I realize that most Grammar Nazis just want clarity. But I’ve changed my own approach toward language.
What I’m more interested in now, is communicating my message well.
I try to do it as smoothly as possible but there still are a few clunkers that make their way onto the page. Ultimately, I believe my audience understands what I’m trying to say. If I’m writing true copy that is meant to persuade, the final word is the amount of conversions I get.
I haven’t had many people alert me to my grammatical blunders, but ironically, the ones who do are my friends on Facebook.
And they do it publically.
Which is perplexing because there’s this thing called a “message” that you can send privately to an individual. And I’m not sure why they don’t use it.
So I’ve come to the conclusion that since they don’t realize they can privately message me about a necessary correction, I’ll simply delete their comment after making the change.
I’m happy. I’m sure they’ll be happy. And the world will go on spinning in its place.
Meanwhile, things aren’t as dire as they seem. I take comfort from Stephen Fry’s words.