The Copywriter's Crucible

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Archive for the ‘grammar’ Category

How one writing error can instantly damage your business’s reputation

Posted by rachelwriter on January 27, 2010

Photo Courtesy: Flickr/Greg-ography

Embarrassing, but true: a few days ago, I spotted at least one glaring grammatical error on each of the Web sites of two well-known business schools here in Georgia.

The first was a subject-verb disagreement: “Each are….” instead of “Each is….”

The second was an embarrassing typo-turned-malapropism: “Perquisite” instead of “Prerequisite.”

And, I’m not talking about a hastily-scribed blog post, either.  I’m talking about the universities’ primary marketing copy.  The meat of the schools’ Web content.  The stuff that’s supposed to make prospective students salivate at the mere thought of enrolling.

Now, I don’t know about other people, but I wasn’t salivating much after stumbling upon these errors.  Blushing in embarrassment, perhaps.  Wide-eyed and flabbergasted, maybe.  But definitely not salivating.

Because, to me, these errors not only represented a flagrant carelessness concerning the schools’ brands and academic reputations, but they also suggested a rather low-quality education and academic environments that celebrate mediocrity over excellence.

Not true?  Perhaps.  But by now, that’s irrelevant.  Sloppy copy on the schools’ most important marketing tool—their Web sites—overshadowed everything else I read and, unfortunately, created a perception that these schools are not quality academic institutions.

Anyway, the lesson, folks, is this: perception is everything.  If your marketing copy isn’t crystal clear and error-free, you’re sending a message to your prospects that you’re careless, unprofessional, and inexperienced.  Oh, yeah—and totally not worth the money.

Is that really the reputation you want to create for yourself and your business?  Just some food for thought.

–Rachel

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5 Embarrassing Malapropisms and Spelling Screw-Ups

Posted by rachelwriter on January 13, 2010

Photo Courtesy: Flickr/zen

As a language lover, there are few things that I consider more painful than witnessing someone unintentionally misapply a word or phrase.  Sure, it’s cute when a toddler refers to the library as a lie-berry or insists on seeing the polo bears (instead of polar bears) at the Zoo.   

But as literate grown-ups, there’s simply no excuse for making such egregious errors in our speech and writing.

Here are six gaffes that make me cringe:

1. “Supposively”

    “Supposably”

The word is SUPPOSEDLY, people.  Yes, -EDLY.  You may want to repeat that once or twice and jot it down for future reference.

2. “Must of”

     “Should of”

     “Could of”

     “Would of””

No, no, no, and no.  It’s HAVE, people.  You must HAVE.  Should HAVE.  Could HAVE.  Would HAVE.

3. “Irregardless”

Um, I’m pretty sure you mean REGARDLESS or IRRESPECTIVE, ‘cause what you just said is not a real word.

 4. “For all intensive purposes.”

Surprise!  It’s actually “for all INTENTS AND purposes”!

5. “Pacifically”

If you’re referring to something in particular (yes, even if it’s on the West Coast), then what you mean is SPECIFICALLY. 

What other language blunders can you think of that rub you the wrong way? 

–Rachel

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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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