Copywriting Grammar Review: 10 Common Grammar Mistakes
You wouldn't want a misplaced comma to be the downfall of your otherwise good copy, would you?
Using correct grammar helps build your creditability as a writer, and ultimately makes you a better copywriter. Everyone makes mistakes, but improving your grammar skills will make your advertising more effective.
Keep reading to learn more about the ten most common grammar issues and how to avoid them.
1. Subject-Verb Agreement
For subject and verbs, make sure that singular subjects go with singular verbs, and plural subjects go with plural verbs. Mistakes with the subject-verb agreement are typically found when this rule is broken.
For example, in the sentence "The customer needs the receipt", the subject, "customer", is singular, so the verb is also singular.
If the subject and verb were plural, the sentence would read as follows: "The customers need the receipts."
One exception to take note of is that when a verb follows a main verb, it often uses its basic form. For example, "She saw the boat float down the river."
Another exception to remember is that the subject "I" uses a plural verb, as in, "I walk."
2. Run-On Sentences
Run-on sentences are sentences that contain two independent clauses without a coordinating conjunction or appropriate punctuation. This grammar mistake plagues the copywriting world.
An example of a run-on sentence is, "This article is not clear, it needs revision."
Two clauses connected by a comma create a comma splice.
An easy way to avoid writing run-on sentences is to split the two independent clauses with a period.
For example, "This article is not clear, it needs revision" becomes, "This article is not clear. It needs revision."
You could also avoid this grammar mistake by connecting the two independent clauses with a comma and coordinating conjunction.
For example, "This article is not clear, so it needs revision."
3. Confusing Words
In the English language, many words have similar spellings or similar meanings, which can make it a confusing language to understand.
Confusing different words with each other is a common grammar mistake that copywriters make.
To, Too and Two
The word "to" is a preposition that indicates direction. An example of "to" in a sentence is, "I should go to the grocery store."
The word "to" can also be used in conjunction with a verb to create an infinitive. An example of an infinitive is, "She wants to be famous."
In a sentence, the word "too" is an adverb that means "also," "in addition," or "excessively."
An example of "two" in a sentence is, "I ate two cookies."
Your vs You're
In a sentence, the word "your" is a possessive adjective, and it is commonly followed by a noun.
For example, "The flight attendant wants to see your boarding pass."
The word "you're" is the combination of the words "you" and "are."
This contraction simply replaces the words "you are" in a sentence.
For example, "You're going to have so much fun at the park!"
They're, Their and There
The contraction "they're" is a combination of the words "they" and "are."
In a sentence, the word "they're" is used in place of "they are."
For example, "They're a really nice couple."
The word "their" is the possessive form of they. Use the word "their" in a sentence to describe nouns related to other people.
For example, "Their dog is named Sam."
The word "there" is an adverb that typically relates to a location or direction. An example of "there" in a sentence is, "We went there after the movie."
Affect vs Effect
Two more commonly confused words are "affect" and "effect."
The word "affect" is a verb that describes a change or producing an effect.
For example, "My lack of sleep affects everything in my life."
The word "effect" is a noun that describes the result of something. For example, "Grumpiness is an effect of my lack of sleep."
Then vs Than
In a sentence, the word "then" acts as an adverb that is typically related to time. For example, "I went to school, and then I went home."
The word "than" is classified as both a conjunction and a preposition, and it is used to make a comparison.
For example, "She has more free time than him."
4. Plural and Possessives
Plural words indicate that multiple things are being referenced.
For example, "the cats slept" refers to more than one cat that was asleep, and "the dog's tail" refers to the tail that belongs to the dog.
5. Split Infinitives
An infinitive phrase is made up of the word "to" added to the simple form of a verb. "To walk" is an example of an infinitive phrase.
Split infinitives occur when you include a word between "to" and the verb like "to really understand."
You can often rephrase these sentences and avoid splitting the infinitives in your copy.
6. Comma Mistakes
There are several different ways to misuse commas by adding them or taking them away, so here are specific comma mistakes to avoid when copywriting.
- Not adding a comma at the end of a dependent clause when it is found at the beginning of a sentence.
For example, "Before we go to bed, we should brush our teeth." The comma after the phrase, "before we go to bed" is correct.
- Not adding a comma after introductory words.
Sentences that have small words or phrases at the beginning must be followed by a comma.
For example, "Yes, I will study photography" includes a comma after the introductory word "yes."
- Adding a comma in front of conjunctions when they are not connecting the proper clauses.
For example, the sentence, "I wanted ice cream, but I did not have any money" does need a comma. However, the sentence, "I wanted ice cream but had no money." does not need a comma.
The first sentence has two independent clauses, but the second sentence does not.
7. Dangling Modifiers
Dangling modifiers result when a word or phrase does not clearly modify its intended object. In some instances, dangling modifiers refer to a word that is not even in the sentence.
For example, in the sentence, "Thirsty, the lemonade was drunk quickly." the word "thirsty" is a dangling modifier.
To correct this mistake, rephrase the sentence to say, "Thirsty, we drank the lemonade quickly."
8. Sentence Fragments
When you read a sentence that ends unexpectedly, it can be jarring. Sentence fragments end before they should and are a common grammar issue found in copy.
Sentence fragments are groups of words that may look like a sentence, but when you examine them closely, you realize they do not contain both a subject and a verb.
For example, "He wanted to run for class president. And he did." In this sentence, "And he did" is a sentence fragment.
When correcting sentence fragments, read the sentence to make sure that it forms a complete idea.
9. Vague Pronouns
Pronouns replace specific nouns in sentences. When pronouns are vague, the antecedent they refer to may not be apparent to the reader of the sentence.
For example, "My mom baked my favorite dessert. This made me happy." In this example, the pronoun "this" is unclear.
You can resolve this grammar mistake by adding a noun after the pronoun. For example, "My mom baked my favorite dessert. This gesture made me happy."
10. Apostrophe Mistakes
One simple grammar issue in copywriting is the addition of unnecessary apostrophes. Here are a few examples of apostrophe mistakes and how to resolve them.
"Our flower arrangement's always impress!" should be "Our flower arrangements always impress!"
"There are always good deal's online" should be "There are always good deals online."
A simple way to know if you need to include an apostrophe is to ask yourself if the word is a possessive noun. If it is not, you most likely do not need to add an apostrophe.
Make the Most of Your Copywriting by Avoiding Grammar Issues
There are numerous types of copy, like brand copy, SEO copy, and advertising copy. Whatever kind of copy you write, an easy way to improve it is to use proper grammar.
We at the San Francisco School of Copywriting believe copywriting skills are some of the most important skills in the business world.
Through our ad school and copywriting courses, you can earn a copywriting certificate that will make you stand out.
Check out our copywriting courses to learn more copywriting tips to avoid grammar issues and other branding skills.