How to Use Grammar to Rewrite Sentences

grammar rewrite sentenceA solid understanding of English fundamentals allows for some very flexible sentence structures. Rules can be bent, complex ideas rearranged, and ideas rewritten – either for variety, adding spice to your texts, or simply to restate something in a different way (useful if you want to regurgitate other people’s ideas, for example). This is a subject I’d originally focused on from a foreign learner’s perspective, but came to realise it’s something all writers in English might benefit from taking a closer look at. To explore it fully, I’ve broken down an example sentence to demonstrate ways that English sentences can be rearranged. Continue reading

How to justify expensive dining

expensive diningMy wife and I went to a cafe at the weekend, where they said the potato hashes were amazing. We’d heard about it from a few different sources. A cramped diner with plastic sheets, and a massive plate of basically all the component parts of a Full English breakfast mashed together in some magnificent mess. It was, as you may predict, amazing. It also cost £8.10. An expensive dining experience for what it was, if you consider that a bit of potato and some diced sausage probably amounts to a few pence of produce. Relative to a pleasant evening meal in Brighton it’s a pittance, but relative to similar experiences this was an expensive breakfast. And all value, after all, is relative. So why was it worth it?

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Combating clichéd thinking – change your starting point

cliche writingGiven a fairly unoriginal brief, or a marketing stance that lacks certain imagination, it’s all too natural for clichés to start flooding your mind when you come. So what if you hit that terrible stumbling block when, for everything you try, you keep coming back to the same clichés? Consider that unoriginal starting point, that unimaginative bridge, and reposition yourself. Continue reading

Bending the rules of formal writing for business and correspondence

bending formal writing rulesWhen exploring techniques for formal writing  in business and correspondence, there are two points that effectively form the building blocks of appearing official, neutral, neat and polite. Essentially, writing in the passive voice and using formal vocabulary. There are times when you can sound too formal, though, when a little human touch is necessary. Hoping to calm down an angry employee or customer, for example, or in building relationships. Using these two key techniques in formal writing, it’s possible to start bending the rules. Continue reading

Why get pedantic about “incorrect” English?

poor preposition choiceAs copywriters, it’s our prerogative to pick holes in language use, often overly so. Ranting about an insignificant grammar rule, fuming at unoriginal adjectives, these are the things that we could go to war over. The problem is, many of these issues don’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. I saw the sign to the left at St Pancras a few days ago and momentarily scoffed – what, as opposed to the lift without heavy luggage? Rue this careless copywriter, leaving room for ambiguity, right? Actually, no, more rue me – wasting my time deriding this kind of thing. Tens of thousands of people see this every day and I very much doubt a single person has been confused by this sign. Continue reading

Bare-faced Psychological Pricing Shenanigans That Don’t Bother Me

psychological pricingThere’s a convenience shop near me that sells a two litre bottle of milk for £1.69, where they cheat me out of a penny every time I go there. And I love them for it. It’s almost twice the price of our nearest supermarket, but also almost twice as close. With the extra five minutes to get to Morrisons saving me 70p, the equivalent of a £8.40 an hour reimbursement, I’m fairly happy to use the closer store, and I’m just happy to know that they will shamelessly stop short of full committal to the psychological pricing lie. Continue reading

Bikes, Downs, and facing challenges with the wrong resources

copywriting resourcesShame on me, I have not been updating this blog much recently. In part because there’s so much great stuff been said about content writing and copywriting that there’s not much I feel the need to contribute (hording it all to myself). So when I do come up with an idea worth punting up here, it’s got to be suitably abstract. And one did occur to me, just this weekend, with the tale of my bicycle acquisition seeming to form an ideal analogy for the need to employ the right resources in whatever work we do. Continue reading

Why writing in the second person is so motivating

writing second person youYou need to read this. You deserve better. You won’t believe what happens in this video clip. You’ve heard it all before – and that’s because it works. Writing copy in the second-person engages the reader. It makes your connection personal. And it’s been said a thousand times in a thousand copywriting tips. But now a research study is claiming that it doesn’t just help customers to engage with a piece of text…it helps people to engage with themselves. Continue reading

Disappearing down the grammar hole

english grammar ebookEager readers of Copywrite Now may be wondering where I’ve been lately. Run out of adverts to analyse and copy to ponder over? Kicking back on a beach somewhere far afield? Not exactly. About a year ago I started work on a brief English grammar guide for foreign students, planned to be some 14 pages or so long. In the past month or two I knuckled down to finally finishing it, at about ten times that initial length. Such is the nature of the ever-evolving beast that is English grammar. On top of that, my freelancing efforts have been channelled increasingly into the full-time realm, as I’ve taken up a mobile app project that’s quickly becoming a serious business. But that’s a story for another day.  Continue reading

What makes grammar boring?

what makes grammar boringOne of my earliest memories of being aware of the concept of grammar is an ill-fated English lesson in secondary school, where my teacher opened the class by saying “Now I’m sorry, but we have to cover some grammar today.” Having had the subject introduced like that, it felt perfectly natural to oblige him with a loud groan of disappointment, inspiring a few cheap chuckles from around the class. He quickly countered, though, “Fine, Phil, if it’s so boring then how about you tell the class what a preposition is.”

No one had ever taught me what a preposition was, so of course I looked like a fool for mocking the noble virtues of a grammar class. To this day I feel I was unjustly chastised; sure, I didn’t know what a preposition was, but to be honest I wasn’t too sure what grammar was either. I had groaned because the way he’d brought it up made it sound like it warranted a groan. And that’s a fundamental problem in the way we understand grammar. It’s presented as a dull set of tools, so we grow up believing it’s boring. Continue reading