The goal of any good piece of copy is to engage the audience and provoke an intended response. Imperative sentences are a useful tool that maximizes the odds of audience response.
But what are imperative sentences? And how can you correctly implement them into your copy?
Defining Imperative Sentences
An imperative sentence conveys instructions or advice through a wish, an invitation, a command, or a request.
Imperative sentences use a base verb without a subject and are often short in length. The more complicated the instructions however, the longer the imperative sentence.
Imperative sentences rely on their verbs to express instructions to the audience. These imperative verbs always convey a command or request. An imperative verb can often be an entire imperative sentence on its own.
The 4 Types of Imperative Sentences
Wishes convey a hope for something. You use them when wishing good luck or when a request is out of the subject’s immediate control.
These imperative sentences invite the subject to action, rather than ordering. If you are afraid someone will respond negatively to direct orders, you can use these to express your request politely.
Commands are straight to the point and call for direct action from their subject. These imperative sentences are strong calls to action.
If your request is more complicated or requires specific actions, you’ll use instructions. They lack the punch of commands, but make complex requests easy to follow.
Imperative Sentence Examples and Their Verbs
Here are some examples of the different types of imperative sentences with their verbs highlighted:
● Stop it! (Command)
● Take care. (Wish)
● Be careful when you walk the dog. (Instruction)
● Don’t throw bananas! (Command)
● If you walk out that door, don’t come back. (Instruction)
● Please, buy more toilet paper. (Invitation)
● Have a happy Hanukkah! (Wish)
● Kids, can you quiet down a little? (Invitation)
● Everybody, look at me! (Command)
● Halt! (Command)
Using Imperative Sentences in Your Copy
Knowing everything about imperative sentences does little unless you know how to effectively implement them in your copy. Let’s go over the main instance when you’ll want to use them.
Direct-response (DR) copy is where imperative sentences are most effective. Where other types of copy like television ads and brand association play the long game, DR focuses on immediate engagement.
The goal of any DR copy is to inspire immediate action. This action could involve purchasing a product, joining a newsletter, or sharing a link.
Perhaps you can already see how important imperative sentences are for DR copy? Without them, you can only hint and nudge the audience towards the goal, but with them you can make a concrete, clear request that inspires a direct response.
Using Question Marks and Exclamation Marks in Imperative Sentences
Changing the punctuation of an imperative sentence can alter how an audience responds to your request/command.
A question mark will soften the impact of your instructions and can be very useful when you want to subtly influence the audience or avoid coming on too strongly.
An exclamation mark enforces your command. They are useful in rousing your audience with a strong call-to-action or tugging on their emotional heartstrings.
Why Does Commanding Language Work?
Commanding language is the core of imperative sentences. It is any language that seeks to influence another’s action.
Issuing commands and instructions to your audience can seem like the perfect way to irritate them, but really commanding language is an effective tool in guiding buyer activity. It prevents your copy from becoming limp and lackluster and sparks emotion from your audience. Even if the emotion sparked is irritation, any response to your copy is better than none.
Go! Take your new understanding of imperative sentences with you as you continue to improve your copywriting skills. They may be one of the most rudimentary tools in your toolbox, but they are an effective one.
What is a Declarative Sentence?
A declarative sentence is one that makes a statement, relays information, or expresses an opinion. They are the most common type of sentence in the English language.
What is an Interrogative Sentence?
An interrogative sentence is one that asks a question. They always end in a question mark.
What is an Exclamatory Sentence?
An exclamatory sentence is one that expresses emotion. They usually end in an exclamation mark.