How to Write Right — Part 2
(When "Bad" is Good)

Dear fellow web entrepreneur,

In Part 1 of this article series, you saw why you should avoid grammatical and spelling errors. In this article, you'll explore those situations where you deliberately want to commit errors.

Here is the "golden rule" of writing effective web copy —

Your web copy should be conversational.

What does this have to do with intentionally committing grammatical errors? Simple! In normal, everyday conversation we typically commit many grammatical errors without realizing it. In fact, speaking "correctly" can sound formal and stilted.

Here's some examples —

  • You just saw one. Technically, the preceding sentence should be written "Here're some examples" because "here's" is a contraction of "here is". "Here is some examples" doesn't sound right, and you probably wouldn't say it anyway. But people say "here's some examples" all the time, so — in my opinion — it's not only an acceptable "error", it's preferable to "here're" or "here are" because it not only sounds conversational, it looks "friendlier".

  • Another example — "Who are you talking about?" This sentence has two errors — it should be "whom", not "who"; and the sentence ends with a dreaded dangling participle. The question should be correctly written as "About whom are you talking", but people only talk that way in formal situations. "Who are you talking about?" may be incorrect, but it's conversational... so it's right!

  • My high school English teacher was horrified when she discovered a split infinitive. According to the Ninth Edition of The Gregg Reference Manual, "Splitting an infinitive ... is no longer considered incorrect." That's good, because I split infinitives all the time in my web copy. "I'm asking you to personally check your emails..." may be a split infinitive, but it reads better than "I'm asking you personally to check your emails...".

  • Don't be afraid of sentence fragments... as long as they sound friendly and conversational. Got it? OK.

  • Finally, never never never use the word "one" when you're referring to a person. One sounds ridiculously formal when one does that.

Again, I don't want to condone sloppiness. You should always avoid spelling and grammatical errors... unless they serve a purpose.

But when an error makes your web copy sound friendly and you sound approachable, then don't be afraid to break the rules!

But please don't tell my high school English teacher....

As always, wishing you every Internet success!

signed Jim Barber

Jim Barber