Your real estate grammar is important, because communication is important. When you add content to your web pages, write a blog post, or send a prospecting letter, you hope that readers will understand your message and react positively – and choose YOU for their agent.
Grammar is defined as the whole system and structure of a language. For our purposes today, I’m referring to the whole thing: not just spelling, punctuation, proper use of singular and plural, choice of pronouns, etc. I’m including tone, and word choice with reference to its degree of casualness or formality.
You’ve noticed that some people speak more formally (and properly) than others.
If you go into stores or other venues where you see a cross-section of society, or if you watch TV, you’ve heard a variety of speakers.
Conversation ranges from words most of us don’t use because they’re vulgar to words most of us don’t use because (to us) they sound pompous – or we don’t even know their definitions. A few times I’ve found that those (pompous) speakers also didn’t know the definitions, but that’s a whole other story.
Some have such poor grammar skills that it’s difficult to comprehend what they’re saying. At the other end of the spectrum, some are so focused on being proper that they sound stiff and stilted – or just plain silly. These are often the ones who are still stuck on grammar myths that were debunked years ago. This article reveals two of those myths.
Hint: YOU could still be trying to adhere to those debunked rules.
Since communication is the goal of real estate writing, you don’t want to be at either end of this range.
Choose medium-well for real estate grammar
Since real estate writing should be conversational, you don’t need to feel bound by rules of grammar that you don’t use in speech. At least not all of them.
When you speak, you sometimes speak in fragments. That’s OK now and then, as long as it still makes sense.
Write the way you speak, with a couple notable exceptions.
1. If you’ve picked up the “like” habit, edit it out of your writing. Few things make an adult sound like a high-schooler more than saying “I was like” in place of “I thought” or “I said.” Similarly, “like” doesn’t belong in the middle of every sentence, as in: “He like showed up 20 minutes late.” And if a house has a spectacular view, it isn’t “like a great view.”
2. If you’ve gotten in the habit of using “myself” as a subject or object word, get it out of your writing, and practice using it correctly in speech. In case you’ve forgotten, myself is reflexive pronoun, which means it has very limited use.
“I” is the subject: “I thank you.” “Me” is the object: “Please call me.” “Myself” is the reflexive pronoun: “I think for myself.”
Strangely, what I’ve noticed is that most of those who use “myself” incorrectly are trying very hard to be proper.
One rule of copywriting, whether for real estate or anything else: Target a 6th grade reading level.
That means, when you have a choice, choose the small word over the large word.
- Instead of facilitate, say assist.
- Instead of utilize, say use.
- Instead of promulgate, say advertise.
If you begin to use a word that a 6th grader might not understand, stop to think of a better, simpler word. If no word comes to mind, all you have to do is type “synonyms for _____” into a search bar to get plenty of choices.
But what if you sell only high-end real estate?
Shouldn’t you attempt to sound more sophisticated? Not necessarily. Having money does not automatically make someone a grammarian, nor does it mean they use only sophisticated words. But one thing is certain – if you write at the 6th grade level, they will understand you and so will (almost) everyone else who could become a client.
Since you want to be understood, it’s still important to follow some guidelines:
English is tough because we have so many words that sound alike but are spelled differently and have different meanings. When you’re speaking everyone will understand, but if you write the wrong form of those words, you’ll confuse your readers.
So learn the difference between there, their, and they’re; your and you’re; and here and hear. These are some of the most commonly used of the “trouble words” and using them incorrectly can destroy your message.
Use the proper tense of words (past or present). I know this one can be difficult for some for whom English is not a first language. If that describes you, ask a friend (or your broker or office manager) to proofread for you and help you learn.
Use the correct pronoun. (And I’m not talking politics.) If you don’t know when to use me, myself, and I, as mentioned above, read this article.
Be careful with modifying phrases. This seems to be a problem even for newspaper writers and novelists, and that’s too bad.
An incorrectly placed modifier can make a reader stop and say “Huh?” and that is just what you don’t want. You want your thoughts to flow directly through your words, past their eyes, and into their subconscious – where they will realize that you are the professional they need helping them. That won’t happen if their train of thought is interrupted by “What did she mean?”
One short example of an improperly placed modifier is “The woman ran into the cow in the red car,” but I see more examples almost every day.
Going for medium-well in real estate grammar will allow your message to be understood by most people.
You won’t sound crude or un-educated, and you won’t sound pompous or snobby. You’ll sound like a normal, intelligent, approachable person.
If you’re unsure of your grammar skills…
And if you need words for your website or your letters…
Get in touch. I love writing words that help real estate agents succeed.
Grammar book image courtesy of Stuart Miles @ freedigitalphotos.net