August 24, 2017
Grammar rules are so dizzyingly confusing and so plentiful that even Amy Einsohn, author of The Copyeditor’s Handbook, which inspires this post, likely doesn’t know all of them by heart. It’s completely understandable that some grammar rules elude you. In fact, many grammarians occasionally consult a manual because some grammar rules differ by style and manual. Nonetheless, if you’re a copywriter writing ad copies for your company, it’s important that you avoid these three common grammatical errors inexperienced copywriters make.
A comma splice is a grammatical error copywriters make by punctuating two independent clauses, or complete sentences, with a comma instead of a period. For those of you who have forgotten grammar terms, an independent clause, which can stand alone as a complete sentence, is comprised of a subject and a predicate. Examine the examples below. The first example, which has a subject (Johnny, Jenny’s brother) and a predicate (planted seeds), is an independent clause, and the second example, which has a subject (Johnny, Jenny’s brother) but does not have a predicate, is a dependent clause.
- Johnny, Jenny’s brother, planted seeds.
- Johnny, Jenny’s brother.
If the second example sounds incomplete to you, then you have keen grammatical instincts worthy of applause. As you correctly suspected, the second example is an incomplete thought, a dependent clause.
When you place a comma between two independent clauses, you create a comma splice. Because the two independent clauses below stand alone as a complete sentence, adding a comma instead of a period is a grammatical error.
Comma splice: Johnny planted seeds, his seeds grew into healthy, fruitful apple trees.
Correct version: Johnny planted seeds. His seeds grew into healthy, fruitful apple trees.
Although comma splices are not as glaring of an error as a typo, comma splices are considered a grave mistake in a grammarian’s world.
Plural vs. Possessive
When you refer to more than one noun, you use the plural form of the noun. Thus, the singular noun “apple” turns to the plural noun “apples.” However, many inexperienced copywriters can’t distinguish the difference between the plural form of a noun and the possessive form of a noun.
Here’s the difference: plural denotes more than one noun whereas the possessive denotes ownership. For example, “Anne’s” is possessive and “Annes” is plural:
- Anne’s yellow jacket.
- There are so many Annes in the world.
Here are a few common misuses of the possessive.
- Top Five Facebook Advertising How To’s
- The 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s
- The CEO’s of Silicon Valley
- The Do’s and Don’t’s of Advertising
In all three examples, the possessive was used rather than the plural. Here are the correct versions.
- Top Five Facebook Advertising How Tos
- The 70s, 80s, and 90s
- The CEOs of Silicon Valley
- The Dos and Don’ts of Advertising
Of all the entries in this list, capitalization rules are the most complex. Because capitalization rules have numerous exceptions and differences between house styles and style manuals, It’s understandable why many inexperienced copywriters often misuse them. Although all the capitalization rules from all style manuals is not added here, the list below contains the general Chicago Style capitalization rules that are safe to follow.
Capitalize company names, trademarks, and brand names
- Instagram Stories
(To see a list of trademarks, visit the International Trademark Association website at www.inta.org.)
- the Internet
- the World Wide Web
Capitalize Job titles and offices (only when they directly precede a personal name)
- President Lincoln
- The vice president announced…
- George Washington, the first president of the United States…
Capitalize adjectives based on personal names
Capitalize proper names and nicknames of geographical names
- the Bay Area
- the Big Apple
Capitalize directional nouns and adjectives referring to a distinct region
- the Midwest
- the South
- the East Coast
Capitalize titles of works
- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
- The Complete Guide to Facebook Advertising
- “Five Ways to Improve Your Ad Copies”
Capitalize all personal names (first, last, and middles names, nicknames, and suffixes)
- Anne Piamonte Felicitas
- Little Ronnie
- Ronald Jr.
- J.K. Rowling
- T.S. Eliot
- W.E.B. DuBois
If you want to see a complete list of capitalization rules and their exceptions, consult a style manual.
Grammar, with its seemingly endless rules, is hard to master. However, as a copywriter, it is your duty to ensure that your ad copies are free of errors. Whether you are a novice or an expert, it’s best that you always have a grammar book by your side.