• A Grammar Guide for Marketing Content and Sales Emails

    I’m often surprised by how many awkward phrases, spelling mistakes and grammar blunders I see on the Internet. Renowned blogs and magazines post content that I have to stop reading halfway through because doing so is frankly painful. Sometimes, I receive sales emails so replete with grammar inaccuracy that I delete them before finishing them. I definitely don’t reply to them. If you’re a sales prospector or marketer, this is certainly not the reaction you want readers to have to your content.

    If you want readers to like and interact with your content, learn how to write well (not “good”;here’s your first lesson: “good” is an adjective used to describe a noun, while “well” is an adverb describing a verb; in this case, that verb is “writing”). This guide will skip the rules you should know by now (we all learned the difference between “than” and “then” in kindergarten, right?) and focus on the ones you might not. Hopefully, the following tips will help you become a writing expert.

    • Avoid Redundancy. How many different ways can you repeat the same phrase over and over again? Too many. Redundancy in content is annoying and boring. Instead, be concise. These are some redundancies you should avoid:
      • More happier. In technical terms, this phrase uses a comparative modifier before a comparative adjective; already, you can tell that the word “comparative” has been used too many times. Don’t say someone will be “more happier” if they do this. I know you’re trying to make a point, but you’re actually undermining it by using this phrase. You wouldn’t say “more better,” right?
      • Here’s a brief summary. This phrase might be common in emails from inside sales reps providing synopses of collateral. However, it’s redundant: a summary in itself is brief. According to Thesaurus.com, it means a “short statement of main points.”
      • Let’s connect together again. Again, this is another phrase inside sales reps might write in emails, and again, the redundancies are solved by knowing the definition of the word. “Connect” means to “join, link, or fasten together” according to Dictionary.com.
    • Be Consistent. Grammar rules are hard to keep track of, and many are actually malleable depending on style or choice. Whichever style you choose, stay consistent with it throughout the correspondence. 
      • The Oxford Comma. The Oxford comma, or the serial comma, is the comma that appears at the end of a list before the word “and” (e.g. nouns, verbs, and adjectives.) However, many people learned to omit the Oxford comma in order to be concise and save space, journalists in particular. Whichever you choose, stay consistent, and make sure the writing makes sense.
      • Spaces after periods. I know many people who insist on inputting two spaces after the end of a sentence. Some students adapted the method in order to slightly increase the lengths of their papers! Again, I never did it to save space, but it’s really a matter of preference. If you’re going to input two spaces, do so throughout the document.  
      • Spelling and Abbreviations. The rules for spelling and abbreviations depend on the country you’re in or the style you’re using. You may write “theatres” instead of “theaters” or “U.S.A.” instead of “USA.” Just keep it the same throughout.
    • Be Concise. There are so many words and phrases that can be clipped from your writing to make it concise and clear. I learned the hard way: my high school English teacher furnished my papers with red marks during my first year of study. However, by the end of my high school career, she inspired me to write more concise phrases by challenging the class to write 1-page essays. (She was also instrumental in my decision to become an English major!) Here are some of my least favorite phrases that should be clipped right away:
      • The fact that. This is the most annoying and pervasive phrase in the English language. Strunk and White, authors of The Elements of Style, condemn it. Instead of writing “the fact that,” write “because;” instead of writing “call your attention to the fact that,” write “remind you;” instead of writing “in spite of the fact that,” write “though.” 
      • A lot of: I think the phrase “a lot of” sounds like it comes from the mouth of a 5th-grader – “There were a lot of people in the playground today, Mommy!” – and there’s always a disconnect in my mind when I see a professional using the phrase. Instead, write “many.”  
      • At the present time. I’m getting exhausted just typing these long-winded phrases! Instead of writing “at the present time” and sounding convoluted and pretentious, write “now.”
    • Be Correct. Most importantly, purge any inaccuracies from your writing. Are you unsure about whether to use “effect” or “affect” in a certain situation? Are you unsure of the spelling of the word “constituencies?” Look it up! Here are a few common inaccuracies I’v noticed:  
      • Quotes, Punctuation and Parentheses. Digital Content Marketing Manager Megan’s biggest grammar pet peeve is the incorrect use of quotes and parentheses. Punctuation almost always belongs inside the quote and outside the parentheses. The exception is if an entire sentence is inside parentheses; then the punctuation belongs inside.
      • Could of, Should of. Please stop writing this! “Of” is a preposition. It does not belong there. You need a helping verb for that subjunctive. Write “could have” and “should have” instead.
      • Intensive purposes. I giggle to myself when I see someone write this phrase. Did you know that “for all intensive purposes” isn’t a commonly used phrase at all? If you’re going to use this phrase (and in most cases, you really don’t need to, as it’s easily redacted for conciseness), use the correct version: “for all intents and purposes.”  
    • Be Careful. There are a few phrases that can be construed differently when reading them online or in an email. Be careful with your word choice so you don’t accidentally offend someone or say something you don’t mean.
      • I agree with you 100 percent. This can be construed as patronizing and cocky, especially if you continue to push a product or service or whatever after they say their company doesn’t need it. Don’t say something unless you really, really mean it.
      • Let’s be honest. When I see this phrase, I think, “Oh wait, you’re being honest to me now?What about all our previous conversations? Were you honest then?” My other reaction is, “No, I want you to lie to me.” Omit this pointless statement and speak your thoughts with authority instead of condescension.
      • It is what it is. How depressing. If someone won’t accept your service and you send back this message, you’re sending the message that you give up and are admitting defeat. It might follow an “Oh well.” I’m sure sales managers have seen their team members send this message to them. Remind them, “No, it is what you make it.” 

    I hope this guide helps you become a better writer and communicator to prospects and readers. Do you have any questions about incorrect grammar? What are your grammar pet peeves? Comment below!

    Allison Tetreault is Digital Content Intern, AG Salesworks.  To view all company blogs go to AG Salesworks blog site.

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