The truth about the importance of grammar in copy

Once upon a time, I sent a letter to marketing agencies offering my freelance copywriting services.

Attached to the top of the letter was a picture of my handsome self, and it opened as follows:

——–

“Dear Mr. X,

As you can see, I have attached a picture of myself to the top of this letter. Why have I done this? Actually, there are two reasons:

#1: Firstly, I have something important to share with you, and I needed some way to make sure this letter would catch your attention.

#2: And secondly, I’m old-fashioned, and I believe you should have an opportunity to “put a face to the name” before you decide whether to respond to this letter.

Here’s what it’s all about… blah blah blah.”

——–

My favorite response to this letter was a phone call I received a few days after the letters went out:

AGENCY BIG-WIG: “Callum?”

ME: “Yes. Who is this?”

AGENCY BIG-WIG: “I found you! I received your letter with your beautiful picture attached…”

ME: “Nawww. Aren’t you sweet.”

However, the responses weren’t all so flattering.

For instance, one email read:

“Just a tip you start four bullet points with I.”

“Plus I wouldn’t use words and numbers together, as unnecessary duplication.”

To which I was very tempted to reply:

“You missed a comma after “tip”. And you missed a comma after “plus”. Plus, I really don’t care whether you would use words and numbers together or not.”

Now, I’ll admit that my initial reaction to this email, after slaving away at the campaign for hours and hours, was an emotional one.

Her critique was perfectly accurate. I did begin four bullets points with I. Even though the bullets weren’t as self-centered as it might appear–every one explained how I could help them— I agree that using “I” too often is a bad call.

But then I realized something…

I don’t want to work with a grammar natsi!

Not least because people don’t make a buying decision based on grammar.

They buy things for emotional, not rational reasons.

Yes, good grammar is important. But in comparison to other factors, it is decidedly unimportant.

In fact, some top marketers deliberately include spelling mistakes in their copy.

It shows the prospect they are human, and people like to buy from others they can relate to.

Plus, if all the grammar natsi took from my letter was that I used words and numbers together, that’s not somebody I want to work with.

So, I decided to continue to use words and numbers together.

And to continue NOT obsessing over grammar.

As it turns out, it’s a great weed killer.

It stops bad clients dead in their tracks before I waste any time talking to them.

What relevance does this have to you?

I don’t know, you’ll have to draw your own conclusions.

But the obvious point is that, if you are responsible for creating your own marketing materials, then there’s no need to worry yourself nutty over grammar.

As the late great Gary Halbert used to teach:

What you say is far more important than how you say it!

Now, let’s get down to business with a shameless plug:

There are more weird marketing nuggets like this in my new, grammatically-inaccurate book.

You can buy it on Amazon for $14.97.

Or, for the time being, I’m offering a complimentary copy when you join my email newsletter: