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When to Break Grammar Rules in Marketing Copy

Don’t get us wrong, grammar matters. Your command of language will help you engage with your audience and establish credibility, so meticulous editing will always be an important part of any marketing project. (Don’t even get us started on how much we love an Oxford comma.)

That being said, language is constantly evolving to suit the needs of users in an ever-growing range of scenarios. A strict adherence to the conventions we applied when writing our term papers doesn’t always make for the most engaging or digestible marketing copy. 

As humans writing for other humans, it’s important to know your audience (and your brand voice) so you can make strategic choices about when to color outside the lines. 

Here are a few traditional grammar rules that were made to be broken in marketing copy. 

writer places hands on laptop considering grammar rules for writing marketing copyNo Need to Spell Out Numbers 1-9

In formal writing, we’re told to spell out numbers less than 10, theoretically to make it easier for readers to scan a line of text. In marketing content, however, the disruption caused by digits often works to our advantage. 

The psychology of numbers is a study unto itself, but one thing seems certain: numbers grab readers’ attention. There is something about being the “#1 rated” business in your area that is so much more memorable and appealing than being the “number one rated” business. 

This is especially true for numbers that appear at the beginning of headlines. Thanks to the difference in the way our brains process letters and digits, numerical values in headlines pull focus and promise readers a payoff, like “9 Tips for Better Marketing Copy.” In situations where your numbers substantiate a value proposition, it’s wise to disregard the rules and choose bold single digits. 

End Sentences with Prepositions (Sometimes)

You want to convey authority with your marketing content, but that doesn’t mean the words you choose can’t or shouldn’t mimic natural language. 

If you’ve ever tied yourself in knots trying to avoid ending a sentence with for, about, from, or at, you recognize just how formal (and a bit odd) it can sound. Short, snappy lines of copy can suffer when writers work too hard to follow the preposition rule. 

Imagine reading about chocolate cake for which you could die or the deal for which you have been waiting. Sometimes, successful marketing copy must prioritize the sound and feel of messages over technical correctness. 

Contractions Are Your Friend

Brevity, concision, and word economy are at the heart of good copy. While they are frowned upon in formal writing, contractions can help make marketing content sound more relatable and help you reclaim valuable whitespace. 

Your brand’s personality will determine your relationship with contractions, but in general, they lend a conversational feel. Consider the difference in the CTA Don’t Miss Out compared to Do Not Miss Out. The first option feels more playful, whereas the second may come off as vaguely threatening. The choice between the two is stylistic, and marketing copywriters should feel that both options are available. 

Don’t Worry About One Sentence Paragraphs stack of books on grammar rules for marketing content

Our English teachers insisted that a good paragraph has at least two sentences, but never more than five. Though good advice for an essay, one-sentence paragraphs can actually help marketing copy be easier to skim.

Humans have a tendency to scan in an F-shaped pattern, tuning into the first lines and becoming less attentive as we move down the page. Shorter paragraphs with easy-to-locate topic sentences can help your audience get the gist of your copy with less effort. 

This is not to say that you have to skimp on valuable information — using progressively granular heading levels and making the return key your friend will help readers absorb your content in greater detail. 

Split the Occasional Infinitive

In English, infinitives (or basic, unconjugated verbs) are preceded by “to.” Conventional grammar rules state that we’re not supposed to allow any words in between these two parts of the infinitive. 


Correct: I like to run quickly.

Incorrect: I like to quickly run. 

Split infinitives often hit the ear wrong, but not always. Sometimes marketers want to emphasize the adverb, or -ly word in a sentence, over the verb. Imagine if the intro to Star Trek had instead been, “…to go boldly where no man has gone before.” 

Breaking this grammar rule allows writers to play with word order and make how a brand does something the focus of the sentence when the situation calls for it.     

A Little Slang is Okay

breaking grammar rules for writing marketing copy on blank notepadMarketing copywriters walk a fine line with colloquialisms. While certain words, expressions, and references will make your copy look dated this time next year, a subtle sprinkling of slang can give your writing character.

Different platforms and formats are more conducive to trendy language than others. For example, it only makes sense that you’d want your business’s homepage to be more evergreen than your Instagram account. Social media is a great opportunity to get on board with current trends and take a more relaxed tone while staying true to your brand voice.

Don’t Sweat Incomplete Sentences

Each one of your sentences should be a complete thought with a subject and a verb. Every. Single. Time. (See what we did, there?)

Marketing copy gives writers the freedom to play with not just the content, but the rhythm of language. Breaking this grammar rule lets us write in a way that mirrors natural human speaking patterns so that we can emphasize and express points more effectively. 

It’s a good idea, however, to break this rule in moderation. Don’t give your readers a reason to doubt that you were intentional in your grammatical choices, and lean heavily into outside copyediting to ensure that your message is being received as intended.

Stay clear and consistent in your communication without forgetting that strategic copywriting sometimes pushes boundaries.