Do Not Read This If You Dislike “Bad Grammar”

wrong grammar

Funny story I heard from Laura Belgray….

(She’s an email marketing master who writes copy oozing with personality.)

In her email this morning, Laura told us about her run-in with a grammar cop. 

Officer Grammar Grump is a lawyer who objected to a phrase in Laura’s previous email.

Laura’s offending phrase: “Looking forward to seeing you again.” 

Here’s the lawyer’s grumpy take: “While to some that may sound catchy, it demonstrates poor grammar. (It) is NOT a sentence. It is a sentence fragment…” 

(GASP!!!!! A sentence fragment. Look away!) 

Laura’s assistant replied with a simple “thanks for your feedback.” 

Grammar Grump shot back: “…As a person who taught public speaking, lectures extensively across America and is sponsored/paid by companies to do so, poor grammar is an effective tool only when telling a joke or anecdote.” 

Anyone notice Grumpy’s grammar error?

It’s what my 7th-grade English teacher Clara Fieselman calls a “dangling modifier.” 

In Grumpy’s sentence, the modifier is “As a person who taught…” The subject of his sentence is “poor grammar.” 

So his sentence says “Poor Grammar” is a person who taught public speaking. 

Now that’s what I call ironic, unintentional humor!

A de-dangled, grammatically-correct sentence: 

As a person who taught public speaking (etc.), I have a stick up my you-know-what and feel compelled to lecture far-superior writers about writing. 

All of this reminds me of the old chestnut: How many lawyers does it take to screw in a lightbulb to light up a room of prospects?

Sorry. Can’t share the punchline here. This is a business email. No jokes allowed. 

Back to Laura’s email to sum this up:

(GASP!!!!! A sentence fragment that ends with a preposition.)

“Yep, if we all walk around starting sentences with ‘but’ or ‘and’ and dangling our modifiers, the world will become a constant Black Friday doorbusters at Best Buy, meets the mass hysteria scene in Birdbox (don’t look—both the movie’s mantra and my advice to you regarding checking it out, it’s the worst). Get loose with your grammar and we’ll all start looting, trampling each other, and walking dead-eyed into the flames of burning cars.” 

(GASP!!!!! Amusing sarcasm.)

I know so many coaches, consultants, and other experts who are interesting AND entertaining. Fun to talk to. Great storytellers. Oozing with personality. 

But when they write emails, social posts or other content, they bury their personalities. They’re so darn serious.

They no longer write like they talk. They’re no longer funny and entertaining.

They write as if they fear Officer Grammar Grump is just around the bend, waiting to write a ticket for sentence fragments, split infinitives, or sentences ending with prepositions. 

So their content is the same old boring, “blah blah blah” and readers tune out and move on. 

Oops. I meant to say: “…so out readers tune and on they move?” 

I’ll leave the (almost) last word for Laura: “…writing in plain human-speak—while dangerous to humanity and a major cause of tsunamis and mass cannibalism—is one of the essentials of good copywriting.”

Amen. Hallelujah. And praise Laura Belgray.

By the way, I quoted liberally from Laura’s email today. Sign up for her emails here: I have to throw her a bone to keep her from suing me. 😉

(This email screamed for an ending with a little joke and winky emoji, didn’t it?) 

p.s. I help coaches, consultants, and business leaders discover and deliver powerful stories that captivate prospects and inspire them to act. Whenever you're ready, here are several ways I can help you become a storytelling stand-out so you'll land more clients without pitching and prodding:

1) Connect with me on LinkedIn and Facebook and (if not subscribed already) join our email list.

2) Watch the free, 7-minute Micro-Training: “The 3 Most Important Storytelling Keys to Captivate Prospects and Inspire Them to Act -- Without Pitching and Prodding.”

3) Become a Story Power VIP in the Content Transformation Academy: Master how to discover, assemble, and deliver business-building stories. Weekly masterclasses. Members-only content. One-on-one feedback and consulting sessions. And more… If you'd like to learn more about our VIP program, just reply to this email and put "Story Power VIP" in the subject line. I’ll contact you with more details.

4) Work with me one-on-one: If you’re interested in working directly with me -- to discover, assemble, and deliver powerful, business-building stories -- simply reply to this email and change the subject line to "Private Client." Tell me a little about yourself, your business, and what you'd like to accomplish, and I'll reply to discuss options.

5) Invite me to speak at an event: I can tailor a presentation that meets the specific needs of your organization. Informative. Entertaining. Virtual or live. Potential for continuing education credits when applicable for your group. If interested, reply to this email and change the subject line to “Speaking Engagement.” I’ll circle back to discuss the possibilities.

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Tom Ruwitch

Tom Ruwitch is the founder and CEO of Story Power Marketing. For more than 30 years, he has helped businesses grow by delivering powerful stories using a variety of different media.