in Copywriting, Writing

Right … and Wrong

Have you ever noticed how when people don’t know right from wrong, they often aren’t too bothered whether they get something right or wrong?

Just look at politicians – or journalists – for instance. (Yes, yes, I know, easy targets …) Or more to the point, look at how this trend is spreading – both to business and the working world in general.

The Writer’s Curse:

Look, I was born under a curse – the need to write. And when I started writing for a living, I began looking more and more at the way punctuation and grammar actually work.

And, partly as a result, one of the things I got to noticing, was just how bad the standard of written English is on the websites of a lot of companies. And on their billboards. And social-media channels. And … well, everything, really … (I’d go on, but it almost feels kind of mean at this point.)

Now, maybe not everyone has to know the subtler niceties of this or that bit of punctuation (although, it would be nice if they did) – but if you’re doing this stuff for a living, as copywriters are, then you really ought to know at least the basics. (Just as graphic designers, in an ideal world, would be more familiar with how punctuation applies to typography and layouts – like whether to use a hyphen or an en-dash (‘-’ vs. ‘–’), or how to use spaces with an ellipsis (‘…’).)

And for me, that’s one of the more frustrating things about offering my services to companies like this. It’s hard to find anyone that knows – or cares – about the difference. Who actually cares about getting it right.

Brave Part …

“… Ye can take our lives … but ye’ll never take our … punctuation?”

Okay, as battle cries go, maybe it needs a little work – but the point remains: getting it right is still important. Bad punctuation is distracting – it puts out a subtle and off-putting sense of wrongness that people pick up on, even if they’re not quite sure why.

It’s distracting and irritating, and the general sense of sloppiness that it conveys comes along with the message, ‘False in one thing, false in all’. And the same goes for bad writing.

People notice these things, if only subliminally – and more than you’d give them credit for. So give them a little credit. Read up on punctuation. And pay attention to whether something’s well-written or not.

Your customers – and your employer – will thank you.

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