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Copywriting Rules I Struggle With

Geoff Graham wrote about all the copywriting rules that he struggles with:

I edit technical articles over at CSS-Tricks. I literally read tens of thousands of words a day about front-end development practices and trickery, making changes along the way, and it’s been that way largely since 2016 or so. Even with all that experience, I still find myself questioning the way I approach certain grammatical instances. And even when I do settle on an approach, I probably wind up changing it several months later after something convinces me otherwise.

There are a lot of rules here that I struggle with, too. And my opinion will change from post to post as well, which is odd. I think Geoff has edited my work more than anyone else and he constantly tidies up my weird grammar, my eccentric placement of commas and em-dashes.

And I adore him for that.

But I think it’s worth pointing out here that I don’t believe there are rules when it comes to language or copywriting (“eyeball” is a word that was invented by some guy whilst he was writing a play). The way I think about it is this: if rules around language are agreements between writer and reader then copywriting rules are more like loosely defined agreements between writer and editor.

For example: I use the word “faff” a lot. In the U.K. it means something like “a great deal of ineffectual activity” but I’ll say “faff off” a lot to friends because it sounds fun. I also use the word “fonts” instead of “type” because I prefer the sound of that, too. And any sort of snickering or mockery around language—the misplacement of commas, the handing down of language commandments from someone’s ivory tower—is the absolute best way to let folks know that this person is a boring drone.

I guess my point here is that copywriting needs rules, yes. But language requires play.

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