grammar rules

5 outdated grammar rules you’re allowed to break

grammar rulesMost of the grammar rules that were drilled in your head as a child might be a little irrelevant these days. We live in a world where we can constantly share and receive information and that has caused us to change the way we communicate.

Writing online copy means sometimes breaking grammar rules in order to achieve higher search engine rankings, so if you don’t evolve as an online copywriter, you might get left behind or overlooked.

A lot of ancient grammar rules won’t work in the online world of writing. These grammar rules include:

Using conjunctions

What purpose do conjunctions serve, if not to link sentences that would otherwise be too long? The rule is that you should not start a sentence with and, because, but, or also. In most cases, the sentence that starts with a conjunction supports the previous one and can be broken apart with a pause or comma. In today’s world, we prefer short and sweet, and commas tend to mean longer sentences.

Another exception for using conjunctions is after answering a question. Why? Because that’s how we normally respond to a question. Try writing how you talk. It will make your content more appealing and easier to understand.

Sentence fragments

If you’re using conjunctions in the beginning of your sentences, you’re going to have more sentence fragments. Try to ignore the green squiggly line under your fragmented sentence that tells you to consider revision. Fragmented sentences add impact to your writing because it’s more personal. We don’t always speak to each other using complete sentences, so it’s okay if your sentence doesn’t include a subject and a verb. It’ll work as long as it makes sense and punctuation is in place properly.

Spelling out numbers

Writing styles vary, and many of us don’t have time to keep up with them all. The rules vary when it comes to spelling out a number or not. According to the MLA handbook, if the number is smaller than 9 it should be spelled out, but for the sake of readability, I prefer going numerical. Quite often it catches the reader’s attention and makes the content easier to skim through. It also gives consistency to your writing when all your numbers are either spelled out or written numerically.

Paragraphs with 3-5 sentences

Paragraphs are the combination of sentences that group ideas together. Sometimes the rules for online content and print copy vary, because SEO writing likes lengthy, detailed content, but proper grammar rules sometimes prefer short and to the point. If you’re writing for SEO, you could end up writing one lengthy paragraph. These days’ readers tend to prefer lists or subheadings to separate ideas, so try to keep paragraphs short, to make your content skimmable and/or appealing.

Comma use

Comma use has become a lot more flexible. They’re more commonly used before conjunctions, to combine independent clauses, and when listing items (like I just did).

It used to be crucial to only use commas when necessary; now comma use is encouraged. For example, when listing your favorite foods you might say, “I prefer pizza, chicken wings, and mac and cheese”. Normally, it isn’t necessary to use the comma after the second item in a list, but because mac and cheese goes together, it clears up any confusion there may be.

Be careful though: when writing online copy it may be safer to use periods to separate thoughts instead of commas, because of the difference in how we process information. The good news is, you won’t get a lower grade from Google for using too many commas, but being a successful copywriter is contingent upon knowing what rules to break.

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