George Thorogood slaps grammarians

Good copy is often grammatically wrong.
Good copy is often grammatically wrong.

Whom do you love?

Does that sound pretentious? It sure does to me. And yet, it is grammatically correct. It is Proper American English.

The iconic “Who do you love?” is bad grammar.

Grammarians can be weenies

I have written for a lot of different places. I look at a lot of different writing job listings. Many require “perfect grammar”. I have sent good copy in only to have it crossed out by a grammar zapper who said it was not grammatically correct.

They were right. It was not grammatically correct.

Yet what they put in sounded so lame. I was confused. This editor was killing copy that sounded great and persuaded. They were changing it for copy that sounded stilted and impersonal. It made the company sound downright unlikable.

Editors at certain content mills are especially thick-headed about this. I believe they are just venting their anger for making $12 an hour. Hey – I would be angry, too.

Never sacrifice power for grammar

Don’t neuter your copy because it has bad grammar.

Can you imagine George Thorogood onstage belting out “Whom do you love?” instead of “Who do you love?” People would laugh at him. They should laugh at him. It would be ridiculous.

I shiver to think what some of the copy editors I’ve worked with would do to that song.

Stand with George

Fight for powerful copy. Especially in business writing.

Why strong copy makes some people uncomfortable

Many companies have not done the work to know their true business souls. Because they do not truly know who they are and what their purpose is, and why their customers need them, they will get uncomfortable if you get too specific.

They may like generic, unspecific copy that does not really say anything. Unspecific, weenie copy may actually be what they want.

This will not work in the age of social media. To loosely paraphrase Seth Godin: “Be remarkable or go home.”

Other reasons people are afraid to break grammar rules

1) They have been traumatized by a 4th grade teacher who beat them with a ruler if their writing was not grammatically correct.

2) They fear retribution from other grammar hawks who will delight in pointing out bad grammar in the sales copy.

That’s fine.

Test it

Good copy will win. Good copy converts. Good copy goes to the soul.

Slap those grammarians. Belt out your own version of “Who Do You Love?”.