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June 26th, 2015

Why conjunctions count.



In today’s insta-twitter-texting world, are punctuation and grammar slowly becoming a thing of the past? Will sentences become so short we’ll revert back to grunts? And who really cares about conjunctions anyway? I do! (And not just because it keeps me employed.) Grammar mistakes are noticed more often than you think in advertising, and punctuation can be a life-threatening subject.

While language is ever-evolving, clear communication will always be essential. And your brand’s correspondence with consumers should be error-free—if not for the sake of your grade school English teacher, then for the sake of your reputation and credibility as a company. Would you interview a candidate for a job position if her resume was riddled with misspellings and improper punctuation? Do you think consumers would take you seriously if your website had the same issues?

And while there can be many ways to approach punctuation (for instance, take the Oxford comma), actually using it (for more than a smiley face), is essential to communicating exactly what you are trying to convey. To share a common example, you can read how the same sentence below holds opposite meanings thanks to a slight difference in punctuation:

A woman without her man is nothing.

A woman: without her, man is nothing.

The power of a comma or colon shouldn’t be underestimated, especially in a time when face-to-face meetings and phone calls have been replaced by email.

Eloquently summed up by Lynne Truss, punctuation extraordinaire and author of Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation

“The reason to stand up for punctuation is that without it there is no reliable way of communicating meaning. Punctuation herds words together, keeps others apart. Punctuation directs you how to read, in the way musical notation directs a musician how to play.”

In advertising, it’s key to remember your brand’s voice when writing and editing copy. Some brands are more buttoned up and require stricter guidelines when it comes to grammar and punctuation. Other brands are more laidback, and can benefit from being casual and using slang to properly connect with their target audience.

So, to help you brush up on a few things you may have forgotten since English class, I’ll leave you with this, along with a few errors I commonly see:

  • Everyday (one word) is an adjective meaning common or ordinary. Every day (two words) means exactly that: each and every day.
  • It’s as a contraction always means “it is” or “it has.”
  • There is a difference between may and might. May indicates an actual possibility, while might implies more uncertainty of the possibility happening.