How good of a communicator R U? A Linking Mess for 03/07/14

“Talk like society talks” – and write like society reads via Talentzoo

This is a short blog entry about a topic that everyone in marketing communications has to address: when to “dumb down” their writing or even eschew grammar rules to fit the common vernacular. The example given is a hospital billboard that reads: “We make you feel good.” Although most people say they feel “good” rather than “well,” it is grammatically wrong. Many writing mediums, such as journalism, stick to long-held rules of grammar, but marketing, in most cases, has no such restraints.

Just like many other copywriters who create marketing and advertising copy, I make decisions every day to either abide by the rules or not. When does an incomplete sentence deserve a period? (Example: a bullet-pointed phrase that reads “Support and comfort.”) In what instance might a common noun take a capital letter for the sake of emphasis? (“We support American Ingenuity.”) When do you decide to leave punctuation out due to the suspicion that most readers will think they’re looking at a typo? (“A family owned and operated business” instead of the correct “A family-owned and -operated business.”) So these things come up regularly – probably every day. And because there is malleability in marketing communications, you can argue that it gives writers carte blanche, making things pretty easy. It’s true, but every time I have to seriously bend the rules, I die inside a little bit, such as recently when a client had me take off a “hanging” hyphen like the third example above, even after I convinced her it was correct. “It just doesn’t look right,” she said. I guess she was right, in a way.

The dash is the best via Intelligent Life

Intelligent Life magazine has had an ongoing series in which writers plump for their favorite punctuation marks. This article is about the dash, and I am edified, but also ashamed, that it taught me something I should have already known. But first, a comment: if you’ve never had a discussion with a writer about the difference in the en dash ( – ) and em dash (—), including the different instances in which each should be used, you haven’t lived. I love the dash, and around here we use the en dash – with a space on either side of it – instead of the em dash, which is the convention in journalism. Anyway, this article taught me that the names of these two dashes originated in the days of metal type – the en dash was the same width as an “n,” and the em dash was as wide as the “m.” Seems obvious, of course – but it’s new to me.