April 16, 2009


As a copywriter, I can get pretty anal about the proper use of written English. I admit I can be pretty hard-arsed about it, at times. Even unreasonable. After all, I couldn't Photoshop my way out of a paper bag, so why should I expect colleagues to have punctuation-perfect emails and briefs? Let's just call it my pet peeve and call it a truce.



Every once in a while, I come across people--people in our industry, mind, people who've studied communication--who have a such a gob-smackingly poor grasp of how to communicate in writing it brings tears of frustration to my eyes. Their emails are long, punctuation-less rambles or sentences with no subject or--lord help me--no verb. How exactly am I supposed on act on something when you omit the dang action word?

Honestly, I try. I read the thing. I read it again. I try putting two sentences together to see if that helps. But, unbelievably, it simply makes no sense--except perhaps in the mental ramblings of whoever wrote the thing. Look: emails aren't free-flow bits of thought. You can't just write what's going on in your head. Yeesh, you can't even write like you talk, because I'm not there and I can't hear the intonation in your voice or see what you're pointing at.

My personal favourite: an email from an AE that started off naming the project, then proceeded to use the name of the project as a noun, verb AND adjective in one run-on sentence of a request. And, pinkie swear, I wrote him back 4 times before caving and calling (they're not big on the phone, our sister-city).

When did written communication become so unimportant? I don't mean this as a rant on chat-speak or internet acronyms--they're intentional and serve some sort of purpose. But how did people with degrees, people who've climbed into advertising, people who communicate for a living, end up unable to get a simple point across?

Look back at old ads and old newspapers, and you'll see not an apostrophe out of place, not a semi-colon (good lord, when do we see those anymore?) omitted. The advertisers of old built their foundations before erecting their message. They learned the basics of writing before breaking the rules.

Sometimes it feels we've got a lot of advertising rebels and not a whole lot of sense.

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