The STANDARDS of Writing Effective Copies: Here are the basic rules you need to take note of! [Tuesdays: “Write with the Pen of the Masters”]
Last week, we talked about some general rules in using punctuations, particularly these three:
Today, we’ll focus on another set of guidelines applicable to any type of writing―content writing, copywriting, storytelling, etc.
Curious about what these rules are?
The Subject-Verb Agreement and proper use of colons (:) and dashes (―)!
Here are some of these guidelines as discussed in William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White’s book, “The Elements of Style”:
Use a colon to introduce a list of particulars, appositives, amplifications, or illustrative quotations.
According to Strunk Jr. and White, a colon tells a reader that what follows after the punctuation is closely related to a preceding clause.
“A colon has more effect than the comma, less power to separate than the semicolon, and more formality than the dash.”
This punctuation usually follows an independent clause and SHOULD NOT separate a verb from its complement or a preposition from its object.
Here’s an example of a sentence where a colon is used incorrectly:
Your theater play requires: A castle, a carriage, and trees.
Remember: A colon usually follows an independent clause. If you remove the list of objects enumerated after the punctuation, you’re left with…
Your theater play requires.
Requires what? The sentence is incomplete. That means a colon shouldn’t have been used in the statement.
To fix the example above, add an object after the verb:
Your theater play requires three props: A castle, a carriage, and trees.
That way, even if you remove the list after the colon, the message will still stand on its own.
You may also use a colon to introduce a quote that supports a preceding clause―just like what we’ve been doing a few times now in this section!
Take a look at this example:
The squalor of the streets reminded him of a line from Oscar Wilde: “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”
You may choose to follow the format above in introducing quotations but if you want to make a statement stand out from the rest of the text, you may put a line break after the colon and then write the direct quote.
Other functions of colons include following the salutation of a formal letter…
Dear Mrs. Montecarlo:
… separating hour from minute in a notation of time…
The train departs at 10:48 am.
… separating a title from its subtitle…
Practical Calligraphy: An Introduction to the Italian Script
… and distinguishing a Bible chapter from a verse.
Dashes serve to set off an abrupt break and to introduce an appositive or summary.
As stated in “The Elements of Style” book, a dash is a mark of separation that’s stronger than a comma, less formal than a colon, and more relaxed than parentheses.
While there are different kinds of dashes and different uses for each, the em dash (―) is the one referred to by Strunk Jr. and White in the book.
The fan blade started to make an irritating noise―a grinding, chattering, teeth-gritting rasp.
Her first thought after getting out of the bed―if she had any thought at all―was to get back in again.
The increasing reluctance of the sun to rise, the coldness in the breeze, and the falling of leaves―all are evidence of fall drifting into winter each day.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that you should only use dashes in instances where a common mark of punctuation such as commas, periods, semicolons, etc. seem inadequate.
Overdoing your use of dashes may result in awkwardly written copy.
The number of a subject in a sentence determines the form of a verb.
The subject-verb agreement is one of the important foundations of good and effective writing.
General Rule: A singular subject requires a singular verb and a plural subject requires a plural verb.
She is an introvert.
They are inside the restaurant.
The apples are on the table.
Use the singular form of a verb for indefinite pronouns like each, either, everyone, everybody, neither, nobody, and someone.
Everyone thinks the boy is intelligent.
Nobody is at home right now.
While both clocks strike cheerfully, neither keeps good time.
A compound subject formed by two nouns joined by and almost always requires a plural verb.
The dog and the carpenter are walking closely together.
Tom and I are going on a road trip.
Argentina and Brazil are both located in South America.
However, some compound subjects, often clichés and those introduced by each or every, are considered a unit and therefore take the singular form of a verb.
Bread and butter was all she served.
Give and take is essential to a happy household.
Every window and mirror was smashed.
A singular subject still requires a singular verb even if there are other nouns connected by with, as well as, in addition to, except, together with, and no less than.
His speech, as well as his manners, is remarkable.
Her room, except her closet and bathroom, is neat and organized.
The boy, together with his friends, cleans the classroom.
Keep in mind that there are nouns that are plural in form but are singular in meaning.
Here are some examples of these nouns:
… and others.
It’s important that you take note of these rules on subject-verb agreement. In doing so, you’ll be able to minimize and even eliminate errors in your copies and your proofreader/s won’t have a hard time reviewing your work!
A participial phrase at the beginning of a sentence must refer to a grammatically correct subject.
A participial phrase is a phrase that contains a participle at the beginning of a statement.
Usually, when this is used at the start of a sentence, the following subject must be the one the phrase is referring to.
Take a look at these examples:
Without a friend to counsel him, the temptation seemed irresistible.
Being in a dilapidated condition, the man was able to buy the house very cheaply.
Wondering irresolutely what to do next, the clock struck twelve.
Do you think there’s something wrong with these sentences?
Without an explicitly stated subject in the first sentence, it sounds as if the temptation is the one that doesn’t have a friend to counsel him.
The second example is quite alarming. It’s as if the man is the one in a dilapidated condition while buying the house at a very cheap price!
Meanwhile, the third sentence is a bit funny. We bet you’d also visualize Cogsworth, the pendulum clock in the Disney film “Beauty and the Beast,” going around in circles and not knowing what to do next!
To fix the structures of these examples, you may rewrite the sentences in the following formats:
Without a friend to counsel him, he found the temptation irresistible.
Being in a dilapidated condition, the house was bought by the man at a very cheap price.
Wondering irresolutely what to do next, she looked at her to-do list as the clock struck twelve.
By placing the subject immediately after the participial phrase, you leave no room for readers to misinterpret your message.
Even with all these rules, writing doesn’t have to be that hard.
You just have to be extra cautious to make sure whatever you write is not full of errors or misunderstood by readers.
Just like the saying, “Prevention is better than cure,” you don’t have to wait to commit major errors in your drafts before you recall the lessons taught to you in your English grammar classes.
Ensure your copy is as clean and polished as possible, even on the first draft!
That way, there’s less time spent on revising your write-ups and you won’t have a hard time producing effective and compelling content if you want to pursue a career in writing.
Take note of these rules above and apply them as you write your next set of drafts!
By doing so, you’ll see the benefits you’ll reap from following these standards!
About The Dynamic Marketing Communiqué’s
“Tuesdays: Write with the Pen of the Masters”
Who doesn’t find content writing to be a skill that requires a lot of practice and effort?
In fact, many people may even find copywriting very intimidating.
However, you can be a good writer as long as you have the right tools. You won’t always get things right the first time, but with enough time and practice, you’ll get the hang of it!
When you write a copy for any brand or for your company, your aim is to make an impact and…
…to get people to remember.
Getting people to remember means getting consumers to buy your product or to avail of your service.
And when you get your content to deliver the results you want, THAT is a great copy!
Every Tuesday, we publish content based on tips and insights from the masters of content writing, copywriting, and storytelling.
Become more familiar with ways to write great copy that helps you gain ROI from your efforts, drive profitability, and achieve your business goals.
Learn time-tested tactics that better capture the attention of your target audience, and maximize the benefits of great copywriting.
Hope you found this week’s insights interesting and helpful.
Stay tuned for next Tuesday’s “Write with the Pen of the Masters!”
Head of Marketing
Valens Dynamic Marketing Capabilities
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