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How to Bend the Rules in Your Copy and Succeed

Arnold Schwarzenegger talking at event and pointing to head

Bending (not breaking) copywriting rules is essential to success and being original.   

And ‘inspiration’ for this post comes from Arnold Schwarzenegger – one of the greatest ‘bender of rules.’ 

In this post you will learn:

  1. What is bending the rules in copywriting?
  2. How to bend the rules and win in copywriting?
  3. Why bending the rules is key to being original?
bending-rules-copywriting-defined

1. What is Bending the Rules in Copywriting?

Bending a rule in copywriting is the use of incorrect grammar, syntax or mechanics, with the goal of better connecting with the target audience to maximise results.

For example:

  • (for flow and / or build up purposes)
  • …… (for revealing something major)
  • ” ” (isolating copy in double inverted commas for style reasons)

Ever tried it?

And have you heard, never:

  • Start a sentence with a conjunction
  • Use sentence fragments
  • End sentences with a proposition.

Or even (and to be perfectly blunt): Your writing must be like this!

Because you know them: They are the grammar Nazis and as this post demonstrates – they are the worst!

grammar-nazis-tell-you-not-to-bend-rules-copywriting

They have a piece of paper (framed and in a prominent position in their fancy office) they have worked years to get.

businessman looking out window with stunning view of entire city

They went to OxfordCambridge or Harvard and (at least in their mind) they have the best education you can get.

But stop.

red and white stop sign

Does it all matter in achieving your goal? Because as Kerrie Brooks summarises (in this great post), there are grammar rules you can break in copywriting, because although grammar rules (count), guidelines (count for more).

Because if ‘bending a rule’ results in winning communication = winning copy, have you broken a rule?

confused man scratching head

No. You have bent it to achieve results (the goal of copywriting).

But you need to be careful when ‘bending the rules’ with your copy, because each client is different.

Choosing when and when not to ‘bend rules’ is part of the:

how-to-bend-rules-copywriting-win

2. How to Bend the Rules and Win in Copywriting?

Good news and bad news. 

The good news is that it’s easy to start today ‘bending the rules’ in copywriting.

The bad news is that ‘bending the rules’ is subjective and an art, and as mentioned earlier (discussed in this blog post), copywriting is 80% art.

bending-rules-copywriting-subjective-and-art

But what can you do today?

The first key to learning to ‘bend any rule’ in copywriting is to master your mental game.

Master Yoda seated

And 7 mental toughness tips from a former navy seal trainer is a great starting point (for overcoming it).

But let’s summarise those 7 tips into the most important tip: Master your fear!

young woman poking tongue out at growling polar bear

Because that’s the key to success.

Note: This is a ‘great tip’ if you’ve only ever played by the copywriting rule book (is there even one?!), and never bent a rule!

You can read 6 great tips (from Lifehack about mastering your ‘fear’ here).

But the key to mastering fear is to think of the ‘worst’ possible result (say ‘death’ or ‘jail’), and if it’s not going to be that outcome, what is the worst that can happen?!

Because if the result can bring you closer to success (what we all want), then the only way is ‘through fear’ (as reported by Psychology Today).

After you have mastered your mental game – start small.

after-mastering-mental-game-start-small-bending-rules-copywriting

Because the worst thing you can do, is constantly have ‘I need to bend a rule’ in the back of your mind, when writing copy.

Let it be your ‘instinct’ (critical and as discussed in this blog post) that dictates ‘when’ and ‘when not’ to potentially bend a rule.

tiger chasing bird on snow

But when doing so (always) ask yourself: Am I doing this for a better result or just because it’s convenient?

  • Because ‘convenience’ in breaking rules = poor choice
  • ‘Results’ in breaking rules = great choice

Tip: Read some of the greatest copywriters ‘copy’ and ascertain whether their copy ever bent a rule to achieve a better result.

And if that fails:

  • Check out the top ‘blogs’ you follow
  • Scour the net for some of the ‘top ‘blogs’ (in an area of your interest).

Because it’s a sure-fire thing you will find some ‘bent copywriting rules’ along the way!

Takeaway: What you can do today is master your mental game, start small and check resources.

And what about tomorrow?

Unfortunately (and as we mentioned earlier), that is the bad news, because art (all 80% of it in copywriting – as discussed in this blog post) takes time as it’s about:

  • Understanding the ‘wonders of copywriting’
  • Having a ‘passion for copywriting’
  • Believing ‘you are the authority.’

Again – please check out this blog post – where we discuss the 80% art of copywriting in detail.

3. Why Bending the Rules in Copywriting is Key to Being Original?

One ‘life.’ One ‘brain.’ One ‘chance.’

The ‘art’ of being original comes down to 2 things.

Does a person seek:

  • Instant gratification?
  • Delayed gratification?

Because as the marshmallow test (summarised here by The Atlantic) shows: ‘Patience’ is key to success in life.

businessman riding large snail

Parents / grandparents / even great grandparents always gave us those famous words of wisdom (throughout early childhood / teens / adulthood), and that is to be yourself!

But how many of us realistically do it?

  • During our demanding (and grinding) 9-5 job
  • During our biggest (insert big obstacle) challenges
  • During life’s major (weddings etc.) events.

Because ‘bending the rules’ in copywriting (or whatever it is for that matter) leads to originality = your true self.

red bird moving opposite direction

And of course, it’s everyone’s goal in life to combine these traits to be your best self.

But before you get too excited, you need to first understand the ‘science’ (yes no longer ‘art’ – we have talked a lot about that) of why most people follow the crowd (and are not original).

As reported by Psychology Today (read more here) we are influenced by others incredibly.

We are big on:

  • Popularity (being the crowd favourite)
  • Groups (influencing us all the time)
  • Learning (from what other people are doing).

And is there anything wrong with that?

Of course not – because as Psychology Today reports, we live in a ‘complex world’ where others affect our behaviour.

crowd of people walking city

But stop.

red and white stop sign

‘Bending the rules’ in your copy doesn’t necessarily make you a ‘non-crowd follower’ and ‘original’, because it’s a big world (just scour the net), and many copywriters like to succeed by bending the rules!

But it’s a gigantic step in the right direction, that says you take on your fear to block out any naysayers (any outside influence at all), and focus on what matters, and that is:

  • Not results (just by being different)
  • But results (because you dared to be different) and believed this would be your winning edge over all your competition.
Motivational text

Conclusion

Arnold Schwarzenegger is a successful actor, producer, businessman, retired bodybuilder and former politician.

But he only got his results by bending some rules along the way (one of his 6 rules for success).  

Similarly, results are what matter in copywriting.

So don’t be afraid to fire your English teacher (by bending rules) to better connect with your target audience and maximise results!

Over to You

Do you like to ‘Bend the Rules’ in Copywriting or are you a stickler for perfect grammar? Did you enjoy this post, or is there something missing, or you would like to add?? Would love to hear from you in the comments – any feedback is greatly appreciated.

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