(815) 503-0286 matt@matthewlbrennan.com

I’ve blogged before about how important it is to write how you talk. In order to accomplish this, you may need to take a few liberties with grammar that may drive the purists a little batty from time to time.

Sometimes it’s easy to fall into a pattern of formal and collegial. If you’ve decided that’s you, and it’s producing results, more power to you, and keep doing what you’re doing. You’ll need to consider if you’re boring your readers with a faceless academic text, or if you’re providing the type of information that they’re looking for.

If it’s not an accurate reflection of the ‘you’ in the real world, then what is? I can’t really answer that. You’ll have to figure out the best way to address your audience. Remember that informal can still be professional. So, just be who you are.

An informal approach can turn certain readers away, but they may not be the type of readers you’d be looking for anyway.

I want to be clear. There’s a difference between intentionally employing a more casual tone, and unintentionally using the wrong form of a common word. But…if you want to try and chat with your customers a little more informally, that could create some impact, dig?

That sentence was probably a little too casual for me, but it’s a good segway. Here are a few grammar-bending tips to adopt a more informal style:

(None of them are wrong, unless you’re writing term papers.)

  • Ellipses. You know, those three little dots that trail off the end of a sentence. Although grammatically correct, you’ll be driving purists crazy everywhere with these. If they’re not your real audience anyway, then that’s OK. Ellipses are used a lot as a way to transition to a new thought. They’re an informal way of saying (in a Forest Gump voice) “That’s all I’ve got to say about that.” Thus concludes grammar-bending tip #1…
  • Using casual words in your post or copy. Do you have a word that you like to use a lot when you talk? Are the guys that you refer to dudes, or is business usually biz? Listen to your conversational patterns closer than you usually do. They’re part of your personality. Including them in your writing can give a new audience a way to know you.
  • Dashes or parenthesis. Using dashes or parenthesis (to set apart a thought within the middle of your sentence) can convey the importance of a particular point. You’re telling your reader that it was important enough to be set out on its own.
  • Contractions. These are a great way to convey a jeans and t-shirt feeling to your writing. How many people do you know who would say something this way: “They are not doing the things they are supposed to be doing.”? No. They’re not doing the things they’re supposed to be doing. It’s not wrong. It’s just informal.

Like I said before, none of these tips are grammatically incorrect. They’re just not accepted practice for writing a dissertation. I’ve used just about every one of them in the course of my copy. It all depends on who you are and what you’re looking to accomplish.

Remember, writing is not math. Once you have the grammar and the language down, how you compile things is definitely an art.

Matt Brennan is a Chicago-area marketing writer and copy editor. He is also the author of Write Right-Sell Now.