The Copywriter's Crucible

Surviving the Vagaries of the Freelance Life

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Archive for December, 2009

Why bad grammar is *sometimes* okay

Posted by rachelwriter on December 23, 2009

Photo Courtesy: Flickr/Ed.ward

I was at a popular department store last night picking up a few odds and ends when a holiday advertisement caught my eye.  It read: “More Trendy.  Less Spendy.”

My first reaction, as a grammarian, was to cringe. 

More trendy?  An abomination!  It should say trendier!  And spendy?  That’s not even a word! 

It took a while for my boiling blood to cool, but when it did, I was able to see things in a new light.  I reminded myself that copywriting isn’t simply about knowing and applying all the rules of grammar.  It’s also about knowing how and when to break those rules.  Not arbitrarily, but strategically. 

Don’t think for a second that the copywriter behind that department store’s advertisement really confused the comparative form of “trendy” for “more trendy.”  Or that s/he really thought “spendy” is a synonym for “expensive.”

No, the copywriter knew precisely what s/he was doing when writing that slogan.  After all, the store’s brand is very spunky and down-to-earth; keeping the advertisement pithy and punchy and not better-than-thou was right in line with the company’s image.  It was a catchy, memorable blurb that told consumers exactly what they wanted to hear: that they were getting caviar fashion on a tuna fish budget.  And in no more than four “words.”

So, while my inner wordsmith nearly suffered a heart attack last night, the creative copywriter in me—the one who understands that rules are sometimes meant to be broken—was empathetic.  After all, in advertising, you do what you gotta do!

My only hope is that children learning to read and write don’t go around saying their clothes are “more trendy” and “less spendy” than those of their peers.  Oh, the horror!  🙂

Happy Holidays! 

–Rachel

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How NOT to look like an idiot when writing

Posted by rachelwriter on December 1, 2009

Photo Courtesy: Flickr/TexasT's

I wonder if I’m the only person in the world who’s bookmarked Dictionary.com, Thesaurus.com, and MerriamWebster.com on my browser for daily consultation.

The thing is, I don’t even post a Facebook status or a Tweet without first checking and double-checking my spelling.  Why?  Because the fact is, what and how you write—including how you spell—is, for many, an indication of your smarts.  Seriously.  It doesn’t matter if you’re the shrewdest, most well-educated person in the Western Hemisphere: if your writing sucks, people will assume that you’re a bumbling idiot. 

But not everyone realizes this.   In fact, what spawned this post was yet another hair-raising spelling error that I read while procrastinating on Facebook.   Two of my connections wrote something in their statuses about how—and I say type this with my skin crawling, mind you—“siked” they were for an upcoming event. 

Siked!?  Oh, come ON!  I mean, were they really trying to express their identity as a small stream, gulley, or ditch (which is what the noun, “sike,” means in Great Britain and Scotland)?  Of course not!  (And, even if that had been their intent, it would have been a big, fat error, anyway—for a noun can never be an adjective.) 

No, what they meant to say they is that they were psyched about an upcoming event.  You know, mentally prepared for it.  Psychologically ready for it.  Had the authors taken a mere fifteen seconds to consult a dictionary, they would have spared themselves the embarrassment of posting such an egregious spelling mistake.

Now, I don’t mean to dis my fellow Facebookers.  I know they’re plenty smarter than their Facebook status spelling blunders sometimes make them appear.  But the truth is, even the smartest of us have to consult a dictionary every now and again.  (Heck, I do it on a daily—sometimes even hourly—basis, even if it’s just to confirm the spelling of a word I think I know how to spell already.)  After all, isn’t it better to err on the side of caution?  (And, yes, I mean “err,” not “air”!)

So.  My advice to you?  Go ahead, right now, and plug www.dictionary.com and www.merriamwebster.com into your browser and bookmark them.  Then, before publishing anything—even if it’s just an e-mail, a Facebook status, a Tweet, or a blog post—do yourself (and your readers) a favor: log onto one or both of these sites and double-check your spelling!  It only takes a few seconds, and it can mean the difference between looking like a blithering fool or someone who knows (and cares) about what they’re writing.

 –Rachel

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