“Rules are meant to be broken.” Even the basic English grammar rules.
Laws, instructions, conventions and guidelines – people left and right follow some or the other rules like traffic lights. It is no different when it comes to English.
In this day and age, do English grammar rules even matter? Conversational writing is en vogue today, no matter what the platform may be. Also, space, time and style restraints do not offer content writers the luxury of playing by all the rules. Then, what’s the gung-ho about grammar?
Frankly, there isn’t any need. Debating on whoever vs. whomever is as relevant as diet water in Antarctica, especially in the ever-evolving set-up of content marketing where a piece of content is tagged ‘outdated’ or ‘updated’ faster than you can say “done!”.
However, being told to break a couple of time-tested rules doesn’t mean that you are free to eschew any and every grammar rule you don’t follow.
Some English Grammar Rules To Ignore
English grammar rules exist as a reference that can be used when in doubt, to express yourself clearly without letting your readers stumble on your sentences or second-guess your intent.
But, where to draw a line? Grammar pedants will always ask these of you, but the choice is, inarguably, always yours:
Avoid Passive Voice
A high-school grammar rule dictates that active is always better than passive. But this isn’t always the case. Consider this:
Passive: Up to 90% of the energy in light bulbs is wasted in the form of heat.
Active: Light bulbs waste up to 90% of their energy in the form of heat.
Here, to emphasize the wastage of energy and avoid the personification of light bulbs, the sentence has been passivized.
Similarly, the following passive sentence sounds more refined in comparison to its active counterpart. Also, it helps draw attention to the action instead of the performer.
Passive: The DNA was sequenced.
Active: We sequenced the DNA.
To improve your content writing, don’t just blindly follow a rule. Use what suits.
5 Sentences Make a Paragraph
If that were to be the case, your text would look no different than soldiers’ parade — synchronized and consistent, yet banal and run-of-the-mill.
Rewind to your school days. There was always a textbook with sentences the length of a full-sized river. Did that make it an easier read or a boring one?
Breaking the monotony is good. It keeps your reader interested. Most users leave a page within 10-20 seconds, which makes concise sentences and small paragraphs more of a necessity than a convention.
Don’t Begin your Sentence with a Conjunction
So says who?
And, but, or, so, because, and a throng of similar conjunctions add to your content what normal sentence cannot — emphasis to a specific point. As a matter of fact, Apple’s copywriters usually employ conjunctions to add a sophisticated flair to their content. Here’s an example:
iPhone 8 features a more advanced 12‑megapixel camera. With a larger, faster sensor. A new color filter. Deeper pixels. And optical image stabilization for photos and videos.
Try to merge these sentences and see how cumbersome the passage will become. Also, it reduces the awe linked to each feature.
Write Complete Sentences: Don’t Fragment
…if only you’re writing an essay or a research paper.
Ever seen a successful marketing slogan written in full sentence?
With surplus information and readers with the attention span of a gold-fish, lengthy sentences are about as useful as a chocolate teapot.
Full, complete sentences may meet the standards of English grammar rules, but they fail to provide maximum information in the least number of words.
Short sentences and fragments are a powerful tool as they can emphasize the important ideas of your content.
So, cut-back on dawdling explanations and cut to the chase.
Ergo, saying less is more.
The Formal, the Better
Dang, what for? To impress your reader with your superior writing skills?
Even though it may suit some industries, the aim of any piece of prose should be engaging your readers with your idea.
How will that come to pass if you sound like an 18th century British nobleman?
To be on the same wavelength as your reader, you must set a tone that relates to them. Remember, you are writing to express, not impress!
Unless you are writing a thesis, don’t and do not don’t have a freckle of difference. Instead, using contractions can make your write-up sound less formal, and so, more relatable. Consider blogging to be a real conversation. Would you talk to your peers like that in real life?
Recap in the Conclusion
Hate to break it to you, but this doesn’t work in modern-day content marketing. Sit back and think hard. What do you want your reader to do? Read, find a summary, and then bounce off your website? Absolutely Not.
Ideally, a conclusion should spur the readers into action, motivate them to read more or turn them into productive leads. It should tie-up all the loose ends and bring the matter to a close.
Never Verb a Noun
Don’t believe me? Go, just Google it.
Oops, did I just verb a noun there?
Verb-ing a noun isn’t an issue as long as it’s a convention. Call your mother, text your brother, multiple readings— all these are examples of verbal nouns.
Language develops and changes. I might even be WhatsApping my friend in the near future. On a second thought, I hope not!
Don’t End a Sentence with a Preposition
Then what should our sentences end with?
Take a look at this:
To whom should I give this puppy?
Who should I give this puppy to?
Inarguably, both these sentences pass the English grammar rules. Choosing which sentence to use is your decision. Formal writing demands the preposition to be positioned like the first sentence. Casual writing is fine by the second.
What to use and what not to depends on your case and your preference. Rest is just bull.
Above all, the number one rule is writing for your audience. Writing isn’t about sticking to a grammar manual. It is about reaching out and connecting people with your ideas.
Communicate your ideas in a way that allows the reader to understand the point without getting irritated by grammar faux pas.