MarketSmiths- Don’t Be A Syntax Couch Potato

Old, comfortable syntax can be a copywriter’s trap. It restricts our creativity and funnels thoughts into monotonous rhythm, vernacular, meaning. It can also make copywriting weak: when we get too comfortable with a certain construction, we become blind to how it can thwart clarity.

The most interesting writing ebbs and flows—a short, spare sentence here; a complex sentence there. It mixes the abstract with the tangible; and mingles flights of longing or other emotion with hard fact. And it’s clean.

So when a particular syntax becomes a crutch, how can we break free from it? Here are three exercises that may help:

  • Sit down for ten minutes every morning to write freeform from your dreams. Do not try for logical sentences. Let words flow and see where they take you.
  • Look at a few pieces of your own writing. Analyze your sentence structure to find syntax that you abuse. Then find a completely new way to say each of those sentences.
  • Or, take a read of Natalie Goldberg’s seminal book Writing Down the Bones. (It will become your writer’s companion.)

Natalie says: “We think in sentences, and the way we think is the way we see. If we think in the structure subject/verb/direct-object, then that is how we form the world. By cracking open that syntax, we release energy and are able to see the world afresh from a new angle.” (From the chapter “Syntax” in Writing Down the Bones)

Jean Tang

Jean Tang

A champion of high-end content, Jean is a living tribute to copywriting for humans. In 2012, at a TEDx talk, she declared her now widely viewed “War Against Bland.” The visionary founder of MarketSmiths, Jean leads her growing team to captivate, inspire, and motivate readers. She has helped thousands of global clients generate revenue from words (up to 12,000% ROI), and transformed the writing of hundreds of seminar attendees at the SXSW Interactive Festival (2014 and 2015), SXSW V2V (2014), the Small Business Summit (2014, NYC), and other venues.

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