Here’s What to Say to That Jerk Who Corrects Your Grammar

Food for thought. I’ve ordered my copy to read more on this age-old argument.


Skip downward to go straight to the dirty tips and tricks.

Have you ever had a preening pedant correct you when you split an infinitive? Has a self-righteous scold kindly let you know that one thing cannot be “more unique” than another? Perchance you’ve had to sit through an apocalyptic screed about how young people are becoming illiterates, mutilating an English language that was once so revered—about how the day is nigh when we shall all just drool to each other through the Twitter!

Well, there is now a book full of ways that you can tell such people to put it where the sun don’t shine. Or at least let them know it ain’t nothing. Bad English, on sale June 3 from Perigree, is a 255-page takedown of linguistic snobbery—detailing the ways people are being hypocritical and arbitrary when they insist on a strict adherence to rules…

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How one piece of poor communication can damage your reputation

‘Pay your rent or social services will take your children away’!

This is the message delivered in a letter sent out recently by Knowsley Housing Trust. What an utterly brilliant example of careless and ill-considered communication. With no empathy for the recipient or their circumstances.


Having worked for a housing association for 13 years, I know how much effort is placed on developing and protecting the brand image of the business.

“We are a social business…”

“We focus on our customers…”

“We put our residents at the heart of everything we do…”

And then some idiot comes along and sends out a piece of writing like this. Unfortunately, this is not likely to be a one-off. In all probability, this is a standard letter. A template, which gets pulled up as part of a process. The person has signed it without even really thinking about the impact it will have.

Well this one has certainly caused a stir! And Knowsley Housing Trust’s reputation is certainly taking a battering through the number of social media shares, likes (or dislikes), posts and retweets.

So what can housing associations do to avoid this happening to them?

1. Put yourself in your readers’ shoes.
This is absolutely the most important thing. If you want your reader to think, feel or do something, you have to connect with them. Picture them when you’re writing. Talk in their language. Don’t talk down to them and don’t shock them. If you know them, are there any circumstances you should be aware of that may affect how they respond to your communication?

2. Make sure that any standard letters and documents are tested for clarity and message by the intended audience.
If you can, ask the type of people you are writing to, to look over your document. Perhaps you have a customer focus group or consumer panel? Do they understand the main points? Is the language too difficult? Is there any jargon they don’t understand? Do they understand what you are asking of them? 

2. Roll out some basic writing skills training for your staff.
Not everyone is a good writer, but they can learn. And anyone who writes as part of their job, whether its letters, emails, reports, marketing copy or social media, will benefit from brushing up on the essentials – grammar, punctuation, planning and structure techniques and common mistakes to avoid. You can also use this as an opportunity to promote your brand style and tone of voice too.

3. Put in place a method of proof-checking for all out-going communications.
No matter how busy you are, or how quickly you need to send out your communication, it is vital that, before you let it go, you check it, check it and check it again. And, I don’t just mean use the PC spell checker.

Poorly written stuff can be costly, for your business reputation as well as your budget. So get someone else to read it – a fresh pair of eyes may interpret things differently to how you meant them. Identify someone who has an eye for detail and pay particular attention to names, numbers, calls to action and web links in online material.

With thanks to Joe Halewood for bringing this letter to everyone’s attention. Read his article.

Why copywriters are brilliant (and I’m not talking about me)

notepadBeing new to the world of freelance copywriting, I’ve been learning a lot from my fellow professionals – nosing through their websites, avidly reading their blogs and butting in on their twitter conversations.

What I’ve learned is that they’re a hugely friendly and supportive bunch.

Now obviously, they’re all trying to make a living from their craft. Trying to set themselves apart from their competition. Be the best.

But there’s a connection. A shared bond. A feeling of family.

I’m new to the scene, but I’ve been made to feel welcome. This is brilliant as it has quashed one of my biggest fears of going self-employed – loneliness. Previously working for 13 years in a thriving Communications team within a company of over 1000 people, I’m used to a busy work environment, verbally swapping ideas, proof checking, sharing office banter!

But, as I sit in my spare room office at home, I don’t feel alone. I’m now part of a mahoosive virtual office. A network of people eager to share what they know, what they’ve done, what’s worked, what hasn’t. Talk. Listen. Share. Advise. Chat. Joke.

So, one month in to my new life as a freelancer, I can honestly say that it’s been a pleasure. A pleasure to meet some great people. Different backgrounds, different expertise, different styles. But all part of a very unique club with a passion for the written word.

Thanks for all your help guys. You know who you are.

The perfect recipe for successful copywriting

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????As a child, when asked ‘”what do you want to be when you grow up?” I always replied the same thing. I want to be a chef.

Whenever Mum gave me the opportunity I would bash about in the kitchen, giving a commentary on my activity that any tv chef would be proud of.

Now a professional copywriter and writing coach, it occurs to me that there are many comparisons between my childhood dream and my current job.

So what qualities do we share?

We are able to:

  • attract an audience and keep them tuned in
  • apply our skills in delicious ways
  • motivate customers to do or feel something
  • turn a mix of ingredients into a work of art
  • demonstrate our skills simply and logically
  • adopt a style to suit the customer, and
  • consistently deliver great results every time, on time.

So although I’ve swapped my wooden spoon for a laptop, and my ingredients are a combination of words, grammar and punctuation, we’re not so different really.

I just like to imagine that I’m more Nigella Lawson than hairy biker!