Grammar Police!

Wherever appropriate, correct grammar and syntax should be incorporated into advertising and copywriting. When correct grammar is used, sentences tend to be less confusing and the intended meaning is clearer. However, it is not always necessary.

Copywriting and advertising will usually have two goals 1) send a clear message and 2) compel the reader to act.

As such, advertising copy should more closely reflect conversational speech than the Oxford English Grammar book – but do try to avoid common grammatical mistakes such as split infinitives and lost apostrophes.


Use more contractions!

Copywriting should usually use correct English, but rarely does it require formal English.

Many writers believe that writing for the public requires the Queen’s English and that it somehow makes the writing seem more professional or correct. This is not the case. When reading, most people want to read words the way they speak. This includes the use of contractions.

Consider the following sentence:

“We are looking for smart, talented people who love a challenge. If you are charismatic, engaging and love to laugh then you will find yourself at home with us.”

The sentence above has not used any contractions and as a result sounds quite stilted when read. Compare it to the similar sentence below:

“We’re looking for smart, talented people who love a challenge. If you’re charismatic, engaging and love to laugh then you’ll find yourself at home with us.”

The second sentence not only flows better and reads more quickly, it also uses fewer words to better effect – an important goal with any writing. Unless you wish to emphasise one half of the contraction, such as WE are, or we ARE, then “we’re” will usually suffice.

Consider the difference between:

Don’t miss out!


Do not miss out!

Is it just me, or does the first version sound like a friendly tip, and the second like a dictatorial order?

Be careful not to get too blasé with contractions, though, as some contractions can come across as too casual or even confuse readers.

Contractions best to avoid

  • Any contractions of ‘have’ (e.g. should’ve, must’ve) as these are sometimes difficult to read and can be too casual.
  • Who’re (most people don’t say this, and it looks like ‘whore’ on the page).
  • Double contractions (e.g. she’d’ve) as these are colloquialisms.
  • Most of the contractions of ‘had’ and ‘would’ (e.g. what’d, when’d, how’d etc.). These can look odd when written and can sometimes look like other words (e.g. I’d, she’d, we’d). These may work if they are to be spoken, rather than read (e.g. a radio ad).