English is my native tongue, language is my beat, and corporate America is where I earn my daily crust. Nevertheless, every so often I encounter an English word — in a corporate memo, speech, or email — that mystifies me. I've seen the word before; I've just never seen it used that way.
I've always assumed the word meant one thing; here it obviously means something very different.
In theory, advertising copy doesn't need to be elegant or even eloquent: its job is to make us pay attention and take action. But should it adhere to generally accepted rules of spelling, punctuation, grammar, and syntax?
I listen to a lot of NPR. Unless the correspondent is doing a "man in the street"-type interview, the subjects generally appear intelligent, educated and literate. At least they used to. I've heard several malapropisms
in recent weeks, some of which are so common that I figure it's time I spoke up.
The "call to action" is one of the sacrosanct elements of ads and direct mail: Lose weight! Save money! Act now!
How unorthodox, then, to discover calls to in
action — invitations to simply think
— in a spate of recent ad campaigns.
When my 12-year-old nephew, Caleb, asked what I was going to write about for the next installment of Red Pen Diaries, I said: "The em dash." He confessed that he didn't know what that was. "Neither do most adults," I explained.
"In difficult times fashion is always outrageous," the Italian designer Elsa Schiaparelli famously said. But come hard times or good times, you can always count on fashion writing
to be an excessive, outrageous genre unto itself. Where else but in fashion copy would destructed
be an acceptable — indeed, comprehensible — adjective? Who but a fashion editor would bully her readers with imperatives such as must-have
? And what on earth is one supposed to make of cryptic abbreviations like cardi
, and MOTG
And now from our friends at Editorial Emergency, a brief rant against abbreviated jargon, from "fail" to "convo": "If you feel like an idiot saying something out loud, don't say it in writing either."