How to upset your English teacher and captivate your readers


Shock. Horror. Disgust. Do either of the following two ‘misdemeanours’ and that’s the reaction you’ll get from any conservative English teacher. (Think beady eyes blazing down through tiny spectacles balancing just so on a pointy, unbecoming nose).

But do both of these things. And do them well. And your business copywriting will engage your readers and convert them to clients quicker than you can read this blog. Because when you’re writing for business, or anything for that matter, it’s all about writing in a way that’s compelling for your readers.

1. Start your sentences with And, But, Or, Yet and So

Conjunctions. I was never formally taught what they are. But having read more books than some librarians file in a lifetime, I get the gist. Well and truly. Problem being, as a business copywriter, I don’t use them like an English teacher would like me to.

I use them unconventionally, to begin a sentence. Ooh. How daringly brazen of me! Well, not really. It just makes sense. Because it makes a powerful impact. See for yourself:

“The harried CEO sent his email right on the deadline, but he forgot to attach the tender document.”

Versus: “The harried CEO sent his email right on the tender deadline. But, he forgot to attach the tender document.“

Do you see? The first option is less dramatic. You skim over the sentence without fully ingesting the terrifying impact of not attaching his tender document. It’s more matter of fact. Ho hum.

The second option: Kapow. The reader feels the CEO’s sheer relief that he wrote and lodged the tender document on time. Then, with no warning, comes the clincher. No tender document attached. Bam. And you think: deadline not met. Instant loss. The message has significantly greater impact. And, as a professional business copywriter, that’s what you’re aiming for.

So, yes, conjunctions can connect two phrases or ideas. Yet, they’re way more fun and effective to use when they make a dramatic impact. Knock you over with a feather kind of stuff. And they shorten your sentences, too. But that’s a story for another day.

2. Use one-word sentences. Often.

Punchy. Powerful. Provoking. Use one word in a sentence and it’ll make your readers really ingest what they’ve read. Readers like it. Because it’s dramatic. It gets your point across instantly, with no further explanation needed. After all, when it comes to business writing, quick, punchy and powerful sentences are increasingly the order of the day. Take a look at these:

“The dog ate my homework again.” Versus: “The dog ate my homework. Again.”

Or “I guarantee your readers will love it.” Versus: “Your readers will love it. Guaranteed.”

It’s subtle, but effective. Because it makes a significantly stronger and more convincing point. So, ignore the annoyingly pious ‘I know best’ voice that’s saying, “Sentences always need a subject and a verb.” They don’t always. Empower your business writing and unleash your inner rebel. Use a one-word sentence. Today.

Whatever you do, do you and your readers a favour. Break the ‘rules’. Shock your English teacher. And expect to face resistance from conservative English camps when you do. I’ve had many hair-splitting arguments with fanatical grammarians in my time (don’t get me wrong, mostly I'm a stickler for grammar). But, on these issues, be bold. Be brave. And stick to your guns. It’s worth it for the impact you’ll create. Because your readers will love you for it. Guaranteed.

Find out more about how to make your professional business writing more compelling and captivating by effectively breaking English ‘rules.’ Contact Belinda Findlay at Write Angles Communication on +61 419 603 359 or email belinda@writeangles.com.au.

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