Thursday, August 25, 2011

Apostrophe catastrophe

Pic via @Hellocreatives. Created by @willrolls

On the day that the BBC ran a story (you probably remember it) about how poor spelling is costing millions in online sales, I also came across a interesting kinetic typography presentation featuring Stephen Fry talking about language.

I’ll link to it at the bottom, 1] so you can read the rest of this post comfortably and 2] so we end on a more positive note because, let’s face it, worrying about little marks that come before and after ‘S’s and in between ‘N’s and ‘T’s is a tad anal.

But while Stephen Fry as ever makes a brilliant case, businesses do need to take more care about their copy.

I would say that, wouldn’t I? I’m a copywriter and so that’s how I make a living – by helping businesses talk proper/better/nicely.

And there are a whole lot of other important points to consider when it comes to your written communication, like clarity, interestingness and persuasiveness.

But you just can’t aim for perfection without caring about the basics, and so every business should be getting basic grammar and punctuation right.

My favourite (yes, you might call me a word geek, although I’d never use the word ‘geek’ to describe myself – it’s just too ugly) mistake I’ve seen is this:

The do’s and don’ts of...

I love it because people who write this make the mistake on the word ‘do’, but never do on the word ‘don’t’, presumably because it already has an apostrophe, as if one of the rules is ‘never, ever have two apostrophes in the same word’, which, by the way, you never should, it’s probably just that it’s so freaking obvious, there just isn’t a rule.

And today, almost unbelievably, but no less comically, the following two phrases are twitter trending topics:

A’s and B’s


You couldn’t make it up. Well you could, if you were really shit at apostrophes, which it seems a lot of people are.

Now I’m not really a snob. Really I’m not. I even like Dan Brown novels because I’d rather read a good story than a literary masterpiece (or does that just make me uncultured?). But I reckon businesses should really, really make sure their copy plays by the rules.

Why? Because you want intelligent people and people who care to have trust in your company – and why should they do that if you can’t even be bothered to write properly?

But then, I would say that wouldn’t I?

Now time to get inspired by language:


Unknown said...

That's a great graphic. From Cat (who knows there's no apostrophe in T&Cs).

Hayes Ben Thompson said...

Sure is. @Hellocreatives shared it on twitter. Trying to find out who deserves the credit for it

Hayes Ben Thompson said...

And well done on the whole apostrophe thing :) Is that Cat H?

Unknown said...

Nah, Cat A from Uber - and the Long Copy do.

Hayes Ben Thompson said...

Ah, hello there. We should stop meeting like this.

Unknown said...

I know! Meeting over an apostrophe (again) makes me seem like some kind of grammar stickler. I'm not! (Ok, so maybe a little.) Language develops and grows by being flexible and changing according to styles of the day. BUT it still has to be clear what you're trying to say...