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17 November 2015

It's Not What You Said, It's How You Said It

Written by: Alex Eeles, Principal Writer at Edelman

Consumer Trends & Insight, Culture

The other day, I was ‘enjoying’ a shopping trip to buy clothes for my four year old son when his eye was caught by a Fireman Sam T-Shirt. No surprise there. However, what was written on the garment came as quite a shock.

HELP IS ON IT’S WAY!

As a fully paid-up member of the grammar police, it was like a punch in the gut. After all, this was a well-known high street shopping chain, so how could such a glaring mistake get through all the layers of checks and approvals to actually make it onto the shelf?! It’s the equivalent of ordering a meal at a restaurant only to find no-one’s noticed the food hasn’t been cooked.

Sadly, it’s by no means an isolated example. Road works warning of temporary traffic light’s. Supermarket checkouts for 10 items or less. Friends (or former friends…) who email to say your going to love what I’ve got planned tonight.

Look around long enough and you’ll find similar atrocities everywhere. And in a world where almost anything can be Googled, we can’t even plead ignorance anymore. I mean, if you’re unsure how to use a semicolon or an apostrophe correctly, a quick search will reveal at least a dozen websites only too glad to tell you.

In the world of communications, these errors are like linguistic poison. There are few more certain ways to sell a great idea short than by burying it amidst a litany of typos. Few bigger turn-offs for a journalist, client or consumer than a catalogue of grammar errors.

In short, whatever we do (and however small the keys of our smartphone), we must weed out these mistakes to ensure our words can actually do what they’re meant to: communicate something meaningful to the reader. Otherwise, what’s the point?

As for Fireman Sam, my four year old and the great T-Shirt emergency – did I buy it? Not for all the apostrophes in the world.

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