In this chapter we are going to see some aspects that you should improve in your texts. I have only added the most relevant ones accompanied by examples, to make their application easier for you.
A. Commas, enemies of fluency
I love how one of the chapters book begins Where goes the coma of Fernando Ávila’s:
“Don’t eat. Comma diet! You have to thin the paragraph, removing all unnecessary commas! ”.
I have been mentoring journalists on several occasions. The passion for commas of some of them has made me angry more than once. Abusing commas is as bad as not putting any at all, but in copywriting we run the risk of gagging, dizzy and boring the reader.
Read aloud these two sentences:
- Download this book, with which you will get the definitive keys, and discover how to master, once and for all, the art of persuasion.
- Download this book and get the definitive keys. Find out how to master the art of persuasion once and for all.
We both know that the second version is better built. However, most of the students who sign up for my training come with the habit of overloading their texts with punctuation marks.
It seems that we tend to do this by striving to “write well” when all we should do is write more naturally. The positive part is that it is easy to fix.
Years ago I was a proofreader at an independent publisher. I will never forget one of the most complicated assignments of that time. I was assigned to proofread a 400-page youth novel, and although the author was a woman with writing experience, she put 3 commas in each sentence and warned me that this was her “style.”
If you commune with her, you can forget about yourself. A sales letter is not a novel. Persuasive writing needs to flow in the mind of the reader-client. I do not mean to say that the coma is a respiratory element. It is not. The comma is a punctuation mark. However, abusing it does not benefit your texts.
Luckily I am not the only one who thinks this way. This is an excerpt from La grammar decomplicada by Álex Grijelmo, Spanish writer and journalist:
“The comma should be used only when it is essential to delimit the exact meaning we wish to convey. Whenever we consider a comma debatable, we will write better by omitting it. That makes reading more agile ”.
You may think that the use and abuse of the comma is subjective, but there is a type of comma that you must eliminate yes or yes from your texts as soon as possible. The Peruvian linguist Alfredo Valle baptized it as “the criminal coma”, but I present it to my students as “the death coma”. It is the comma that you place by mistake between subject and predicate or between verb and object.
Two sentences with a comma of death:
- “He who knows how to use commas well is a great editor.”
- “María, Juan and Miguel launched their new collection on the market.”
Don’t worry if you’ve never considered how you use this punctuation mark or any other. I’ve been writing professionally for years and I keep making mistakes. The important thing is to be aware of it and strive to improve.
B. Common mistakes when writing
As I said at the beginning of the chapter, in these pages it is not possible to make you aware of all the errors, errors or misused resources. It is not what I am looking for and I do not think it is the objective of this book.
If you want a complete list, I recommend reading the Practical Writing and Writing Guide published by the Instituto Cervantes in 2011.
I am going to indicate the most worrisome mistakes you should avoid in order to improve your persuasive texts.
Gerund of posteriority: the gerund is a verb form that must indicate a simultaneous or previous act, but never later.
- No> The company was founded in 1972, creating new offices after 5 years of hard work.
- Yes> The company was founded in 1972 and were created new international headquartersafter 5 years of hard work.
Phatic infinitive: using an infinitive as the main verb is an error, since for the phrase to be correct, the verb must be in personal form.
- No> Finally, say that this book has become a best-seller.
- Yes> Finally, I want to say that this book has become a bestseller.
Anacoluto: it is a syntactic error. It consists of leaving a word without concordance with the rest of the sentence.
- No> Most copywriters think that action verbs are necessary.
- Yes> Most copywriters think that action verbs are necessary.
Repetitions: it is not advisable to use the same word (in its different forms) several times in the same sentence or in consecutive sentences. Use synonyms.
- No> Would you like to get more clients in 90 days? Thanks to this program you will double your chances.
- Yes> Would you like to achieve more clients in 90 days? Thanks to this program you will double your chances.
C. Spelling is respect for your readers
I’m sure you wouldn’t go to a client meeting wearing dirty hair and oil-stained clothes. You would not do it out of hygiene but also out of respect. The same thing happens with the writing.
A mistake or misprint is a stain that makes the whole look ugly and can even create misunderstandings and drive the reader away from the sale.
There are very few studies that delve into the spelling-quality relationship, but browsing through the archives of various associations I have found an experiment20 that can help us understand to what extent errors can influence the credibility of our business.
The title of the essay could be translated as follows: Do grammatical errors affect the decision to hire the services of a company? The result made me reflect.
Not only did they show the subjects failed and faultless ads, but they also compared two different types of companies. One sold car oil refills and the other offered electronic repair services.
To their surprise, the errors affected very little to the oil change announcement, which received similar results in its two versions when asked if they would hire the service.
However, participants harshly penalized the buggy ad offering repair of electronic devices, noting that they would not trust their computer to that company because it gave a bad image.
These results indicate that spelling affects the conversion of our clients depending on the type of services we offer.
If we are plumbers, mechanics or any other “manual” profession, the reader-client will not take into account the way in which the ad is written.
Despite the study, I have a personal opinion that I hope you share.
Although the difference was minimal, potential customers preferred the NO failures oil replacement ad. It seems to me reason enough to try to write in the most correct way possible, whatever you sell. And if you offer professional services of another kind in your business, now you know that spelling errors can destroy your brand image.