A Crash Course on Real Estate Grammar
December 13, 2016
When it comes to real estate listing descriptions, grammar is typically thrown out the window. But, why? Aside from the unclear abbreviations often used in the industry as a method of circumventing the problem a lack of space allotted poses, much of the questionable grammar can be attributed to a lack of knowledge. Real estate agents simply aren’t versed in the rules of grammar, particularly the more complex ones. This serves as no surprise, as the average person can navigate everyday communications without truly understanding the ins and outs of syntax and semantics.
By no means are we saying that every real estate agent is required to be an expert in grammar. Rather, this presents a prime example of why hiring a South Florida marketing agency with a team of skilled copywriters and copy editors is important. If hiring an agency is just not in the budget right now, here are some common areas where grammar falls by the wayside in listing descriptions so that you may avoid these errors in the future.
Hyphens can be quite difficult, even for some people who write copy every day. Particularly for real estate, hyphens become confusing where compound modifiers are concerned, or two adjectives that form to modify one subject. So, when are hyphens needed for two attributive words?
Typically, hyphens are used to separate two modifiers that come before a noun, but there are times when one is absolutely necessary and times when the decision to use one will not impact the reader’s understanding of the phrase. Alternatively, a hyphen is not needed when the dual modifiers come after the noun in a sentence. They are, however, a necessity for prefixes, compound numbers, and instances where a line break separates a word.
As a rule of thumb, if the adjectives present confusion or lack a clear connection without the use of a hyphen, it’s a safe bet that a hyphen should be used. With modifiers for which this isn’t the case, what it comes down to is preference and consistency. If a home with three bedrooms is described as a “three-bedroom home” in one description, it should appear that way in all descriptions. The same goes for if it is described as a “three bedroom home.” As with most things in marketing, consistency is key.
2. ORDERING ADJECTIVES
There is a natural order in the syntax of English for phrases with multiple adjectives preceding a noun. Because of this, sentences which are structured improperly may not be easy for the reader to digest. For instance, you wouldn’t say that you have a three-bedroom, family, beautiful home, you would say that you have a beautiful three-bedroom family home. The latter sentence structure is correct because the adjectives are interpreted as being associated with the noun they precede, yet separate from one another without the use of commas. Most people will be able to catch errors like these by simply reading over the copy in their head, or even aloud — so make a habit of doing this.
In the last tip, we touched on why commas aren’t always necessary in phrases with multiple descriptive words, but that is not always the case. Leaving a comma out when it is needed can be misleading, and it requires the reader to stop and think about what it is the agent intended to express. In the English language, commas must separate items in a list of more than three. However, things get tricky where the Oxford comma (the comma which appears before the last item in a list of three or more) is concerned.
Some believe that every list should incorporate the Oxford comma; therefore, a comma should separate all items in a list of three. The opposing school of thought, however, feels the use of a serial comma can be redundant. These individuals would not deem a comma necessary before the conjunction in a list of three items. The Oxford comma is stylistic, and for real estate listings the decision will be based solely on preference. That said, be aware that without the use of the Oxford comma some sentences may need to be restructured in order to make sense. This is yet another reason why reading over a description before submitting is essential.
These are just a few of the most common areas where grammar gets complicated in a listing description. The best way to prevent these grammar errors is to work with a South Florida marketing agency that specializes in copywriting for real estate, and employs a team of writers and editors, plus a team of marketing experts who will have a vital role in producing your listing descriptions.
If you need help writing your next listing description, our team is just a call away.