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22 April 2015

Give your grammar skills a workout

Written by: Alex Eeles, Principal Writer at Edelman


Until recently, the sign below resided in the male changing rooms of my local gym. And as an unashamed grammatical pedant, it invariably succeeded in raising my pulse-rate more quickly than any session on the treadmill could do.


Twenty-three words, three errors. Four if you count the missing full stop at the end (which, of course, I do!). So finally, after several months of silent discomfort, I did what any self-respecting inhabitant of the 21st century would do: I tweeted my displeasure.

But why am I bothering you with this? In part, because today is official Shakespeare Day, so what better way to honour the Bard than with a quick rant about writing standards?! But also because what happened after my 140 character complaint was…well….rather impressive actually.

Within minutes of making my comment, the owners of the gym had direct messaged me back, expressing their shock and disappointment, and politely enquiring as to which branch was the culprit.

So here was a brand not only monitoring the Twittersphere properly but willing to respond promptly and humbly to something their customer (however geeky) deemed important enough to mention in public.

In an age of 24/7 social media commentary and in a world where word-of-mouth can make or break a business more quickly than ever, it’s something to which many organisations quite rightly aspire. A way for them to engage and excite audiences in real-time and nip any antipathy in the bud.

But how many brands are there who can actually say they do it? Honestly that is, not in an ‘of-course-we-respond-but-we-always-need-to-check-with-the-US-overnight-first’ kind of way. Possibly not as many as there should be.

In this case, the gym’s timely answer was enough to divert my irritation from its sign-writers to the barbell I couldn’t lift in the free weights section. It also reminded me that a mistake is, after all, just a mistake (or four). Ignoring it or, worse, taking offence at someone pointing it out are the real crimes – for brands more than anyone and now more than ever.

So I responded to their response, proffering the name of the branch in question and tendering my own writing services to help put things right….in exchange for a free massage in the onsite Spa of course.

And although my offer has so far gone unanswered and the offending sign has already been replaced with a less grammatically troubling one (another tick), I’m pretty sure I’ll get that massage too.

I guess they just need to check with the US first…

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