Grammar rules exist so we can express what we have to say with clarity and ease. But the online world has turned those rules upside down.
See what we did there? We started a sentence with a conjunction and used a sentence fragment, all in one shot. And that’s ok! It’s not that grammar doesn’t matter anymore, it’s just that the rules are a little different when you’re writing for the web.
An online audience needs to receive and process information quickly, and that changes the way we need to do things. Here are 7 rules that have no place in web copy – so just go ahead and break ‘em!
Don’t Use Sentence Fragments
A sentence should have a subject, a verb, and an object. Unless you’re writing for the web.
When it comes to web copy, sentence fragments are where it’s at. They help draw the reader in because it’s more personal and sounds like real speech patterns. Plus, shorter sentences are easier for the reader to digest – and we all know that that the average internet user has a very short attention span.
Never Start A Sentence With A Conjunction
Traditional grammar rules say that you should never start a sentence with and, but, because, or also. But as we already demonstrated, we’re all for that!
When it comes to web writing, short and sweet is best – and sometimes that means breaking down sentences in unusual ways.
Don’t End A Sentence With A Preposition
As a writer, there are probably some grammar rules that you will always abide by, no matter what. This is one of those rules for us – we just can’t stand ending a sentence with a preposition.
However, that doesn’t mean you can’t do it! The rule of thumb is, you should write how you speak. If you want to end your sentences with “it,” “at,” or “to,” then go for it. (And if you’re not entirely sure what a preposition is, check out this handy list.)
Always Spell Out Numbers
The old rules say numbers 10 and under should be spelled out, but we say pshaw to that! Web writing is meant to be scanned quickly and digested easily – and the less actual reading a visitor has to do, the better. Just make sure you’re consistent: don’t spell out “three” in one paragraph and then use “3” in the next.
Paragraphs Must Be 3-5 Sentences Long
Let’s be honest: sometimes it just doesn’t take 4 sentences to complete a thought. You shouldn’t have to add in fluff just to make your paragraph technically correct.
1-2 sentences are perfect for web readers. Short paragraphs break things up and make it easier to skim, keeping the audience engaged all the way to the end.
Don’t Use Nouns As Verbs
This rule was just meant to be broken. The practice is so common now that some nouns have actually become verbs (like when you “book” a flight). This is a rule we’ve all been disregarding for years – and if you say that you’ve never gone “brunching” or you’ve never “elbowed” your way out of a crowd, you’d be lying.
When it comes to the Internet, verbing (we made that one up) is all the rage. Consider the popular Internet meme “Do you even science, bro?” It’s playful and fun and people love it!
Avoid the Oxford Comma
This rule has, in all fairness, always been a point of contention. Some people are the pro-Oxford comma type and some are not. That’s just the way it goes.
As far as web copy goes, you should only use commas when absolutely necessary – for one key reason: sentences with commas tend to be longer, and as we’ve already established: shorter is better. If you can take that sentence with a comma and turn it into a fragment instead, go for it.
Remember, you’re not writing a research paper. Writing for the internet is, by and large, much less formal. The goal is to speak directly to your ideal client, to sound like a trusted friend, and to come off as relatable and fun. You can’t do that if you’re busy being the grammar police.
Bottom line? (Grammar) rules are meant to be broken.