Why you can sell in person, but your marketing copy fails: Blame your English teacher

Services for Real Estate Pros with Marte Cliff Copywriting

Why you can sell in person, but your marketing copy fails: Blame your English teacher.

You may be writing under the  mistaken belief that a marketing letter needs to sound formal.

Your high school English teacher might approve, but prospective clients aren't impressed. Face it, formal writing is stiff and boring, and no one reads "stiff and boring" unless they have to. And they don't have to read your letter.

A good sales letter is conversationalwomen in conversation

 It sounds like you're talking to an individual person about a subject that interests both of you. And what interests them is how you can solve their problems. They aren't the least bit interested in whether your sentences would be grammatically acceptable in an English class.

So don't worry about perfect grammar – worry about perfect communication.


You can begin sentences with "and" or "but," and you can end them with a preposition. You can also get away with a sentence fragment here and there. 

On the other hand – you mustn't get TOO far away from the rules of grammar. Otherwise, communication will suffer as much as if you started talking in "whereases" and "howtofores."

  • You do need to stick with a sentence structure that people understand.

  • You do need to say "their," and not "there" when you're speaking of something belonging to someone.

  • You do need to avoid run-on sentences and misplaced modifiers.

And you do need to avoid the little speech habits that detract from your message. For instance, if you've picked up the "like" habit somewhere along the way, you need to weed it out of your copy. (And your spoken vocabulary.)

What's the "like" habit?

It's when you like tell people about your like afternoon and you say you took some like buyers to see like a house.

Seriously - I  always thought it was something people (mostly teens) said without thinking - but I have actually seen this in a couple of blogs!

And it's like - so uncool.

Image courtesy of Dreamstine.


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Chandler Real Estate Liz Harris, MBA
Liz Harris Realty - Chandler, AZ

Excellent points!  Will revise some of my marketing materials!

Jan 30, 2012 03:44 PM #1
David Shamansky
US Mortgages - David Shamansky - Highlands Ranch, CO
Creative, Aggressive & 560 FICO - OK, Colorado Mtg

there are book smarts and street smarts. If I only could have one I take the streets. But in a perfect world if you have both you are a dangerous producing machine

Jan 30, 2012 03:46 PM #2
Deborah Byron Leffler BzyBee Real Estate Lady!
Keller Williams Realty Boise - Nampa, ID
Like....I like it!! LOL. But I think everyone needs to like settle into their own like style when writing.....it will sound more natural...or would that be like natural??? Love your tips!!! Or is it Like your tips?? LOL
Jan 30, 2012 03:48 PM #3
Gayle Rich-Boxman Fishhawk Lake Real Estate
John L Scott Market Center - Birkenfeld, OR
"Your Local Expert!" 503-755-2905

Another slam-dunk, Marte! It's like wwwwwwwaaaaaaaaaaay better than someone talking about writing a letter could be!

Honestly, the whole "like" thing drives me bananas. And this doesn't really apply in verbiage, but the intonation that people use called "uptalk"; do you remember that from years gone by?  It's when people will say a statement, but the intonation is such that they end it in an up tone, making it sound like a question. I'll get caught up in it and I will then get a bit annoyed. It used to be something similar to ValleyGirl talk. Oh, boy, I'm dating myself here, I think that was clear back in the 80's.


 I get upset with common misspellings and the wrong choices of their, they're, there, and similar homonyms. Now, I have a question: misplaced modifiers? Oops, I can't remember what those are!

Jan 30, 2012 03:51 PM #4
Janis Borgueta
Key Properties of the Hudson Valley - Newburgh, NY
LIC RE Salesperson

spell check is easy... grammar is more difficult.. but if we are writing we should check for this.

Jan 30, 2012 03:53 PM #5
Marge Piwowarski
Phoenix AZ Horse Property - Phoenix, AZ
Phoenix AZ Horse Property, LLC

Marte this is great! 

Jan 30, 2012 03:58 PM #6
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

Liz - Only you know if they need it :)

US Mortgage - I agree, street smarts are more valuable, but the combination is dynamite.

Deborah - like, I'm not like sure, but you're like right. Everyone does need to settle into their own style - so the words sound like them.

Back when I was a broker I had an agent with a teen-age daughter - and she picked up that habit. One day she hung up the phone and I asked her what she'd been talking about - what was it that was like a fireplace? She got mad.

Meanwhile, I got so paranoid about the possibility of slipping into using like that I made every effort to say "as if" when "like" would have fit better.

Gayle - Oh yes! I don't guess I knew any valley girls, but I had a couple of real estate clients who put that question mark at the end of every sentence. It was WAY annoying.

Misplaced modifiers: That's when you say something like "The woman wasn't paying attention so she tripped over the curb in the red dress." I see a lot of that in our local newspaper - and always have to stop to figure out what the heck they're talking about.

Janis - Grammar IS more difficult, but thankfully, we don't have to be letter perfect because no one speaks in letter perfect grammar.

Thanks Marge!

NOW - I hope these comments stay here. The ones I wrote this morning (on my previous post) disappeared some time during the day.

Jan 30, 2012 04:26 PM #7
Nathan Tutas
Tutas Towne Realty, Inc. - Davenport, FL
Your Central Florida Real Estate Expert

I love this post. I have a very conversational tone when I'm writing. And I do that on purpose. <---See what I did there?  LOL  If it's hard to read and no fun people will skip over it. That's a fact. Good post.

Jan 31, 2012 02:27 AM #8
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

Thanks Nathan. Writing in a conversational tone is so important if we want people to actually read what we write.

It's funny, but this morning, Nick Usborn was talking about the same thing in his Excess Voice message - except his focus was on "being genuine" when giving interviews and speeches.

Jan 31, 2012 05:17 AM #9
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