October, 2013

Put your writing on a diet

Slimming down what you write needn’t mean your copy loses weight – it actually makes it stronger. Important points will stand out more and people will be more likely to read it.

We all cave into temptations now and again such as stuffing our copy with redundant words. But just as you might choose an apple instead of a cupcake (yeah, right) try to choose less flabby words and phrases for your writing.

The word ‘that’ is a good place to start.

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Apostrophe atrocity – even museums make mistakes

Go on admit it. I bet when you see those chalk boards outside shops and cafes, with their incorrectly placed or missing apostrophes, you’re  tempted to do something about it aren’t you? I know I am. But I don’t think I’d ever go as far as this museum visitor who whipped out their ballpoint to correct an error on an information board.

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Can you inherit a memory?

“What would you like your children to inherit? A house? A clock? The family silver? Or something a little more valuable?” So begins the new TV ad from Center Parcs


The voiceover is followed by images of families doing lots of fun stuff outdoorsy together set to one of my favourite tracks – ‘Sweet Disposition’  by Australian band The Temper Trap.

The ad ends with an excellent strapline: “Memories start here.” So far, so good.

I hate to be picky (really, I do) but can you really inherit a memory? Surely, memories are individual and personal, and based on experience. Otherwise wouldn’t it be a bit like Bladerunner, you know when the nasty Tyrell Corporation implants other people’s memories into the ‘replicants’ they’ve created?

You can read or listen to someone else’s memories of course, but surely the point of the ad is that a Center Parcs holiday creates lasting memories for the people who experienced it. You had to be there in other words.

I know that Adland stretches language and grammar – and often to good effect, but this is a stretch too far for me.

Great images, great strapline, and of course that glorious soundtrack through!



End apostrophe abuse

There I was tucking into my porridge, when a leaflet from my local leisure centre dropped through the door.

I like having something to read with my breakfast so I started to flick through it. There was a rather large ad on the back page (so a good, prominent position that most likely cost quite a bit) and the heading read:

“Wedding Video’s.”

Oh dear. Not a good start. Misplaced apostrophes are my bugbear and for the life of me, I don’t understand why anyone thinks it’s correct to use one in a plural. Reading further down the ad, I came across:

“Children’s Party’s”.

Breakfast now totally ruined, and indigestion setting in, I decided to write about apostrophe abuse again.

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An ‘infestation’ of ‘inverted commas’

“Anything that causes you to over-react or under-react can control you, and often does,” reads the quote in the book I’m reading. It’s a book about improving productivity and the quote is absolutely correct.  However, it was more relevant at the moment I read it than the author could possibly have imagined.

I found myself very much over-reacting to his over-use of quote marks. He’s wrapped them around anything and everything. On one page alone there are nine instances of totally unnecessary inverted commas. And the very fact I’ve bothered to count them shows I’m over-reacting, and that these seemingly innocuous little punctuation marks are indeed controlling me.

I find them distracting. They force me to pause and emphasise the framed word in a particular way and with a very particular voice in my head that I heartily dislike. So that (and counting the marks) means my productivity is slowed right down: the total opposite of the book’s point.

So when and where should quotation marks be used?

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It’s just so ironic

Let’s start with a little sing-song. All together now…

“It’s like rain on your wedding day

It’s a free ride when you’ve already paid

It’s the good advice that you just didn’t take

And isn’t it ironic … don’t you think?”

Well, no actually I don’t. Bad luck – yes. Ironic – no. So when should you use the word ironic?

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Contractions don’t have to be painful

Why are people so afraid of contractions? I don’t mean contractions as experienced by mothers-to-be in labour. For goodness’ sake, people have every right to be afraid of that sort of contraction. Just thinking about them makes me wince and brings tears to my eyes. And I haven’t had children!Anyway, I digress and I’m feeling queasy so back to my point. The contractions I’m talking about are things like:

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One word or two?

Sometimes (or should that be some times?) it’s difficult to know whether something (some thing?) should be written as one word or two. Well, it all depends on context.  Here’s an example.

A stroppy, bored teenager may use the one word version of ‘whatever’ (emphasis on ever for maximum effect of course!) as a retort to a weary parent. Whereas the weary parent may well ask ‘what ever did happen to our sweet, angelic little child?’  I’ll explain the differences later.

I’ve put together a list of words that seem to cause most confusion. It’s by no means exhaustive but I hope you’ll find it useful.

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Acronyms, bacronyms and the wisdom of Humpty Dumpty

I love it when I learn something new especially when it’s about words.The other day I had a meeting with a lovely new client, Anna Maria Ciangola. Anna Maria is a seaweed consultant/therapist and she wants me to write the copy for her new website.

She’s re-launching her current company, Simply Seaweed, under a new name – Sanare Per Aquam.  It’s Latin for health through water or to heal through water.

Some people believe that Spa is an acronym of this Latin phrase and that it’s how the word entered the language. I decided to find out and was taken down a fascinating path that didn’t have much to do with spas, seaweed or water therapy.

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Commonly misused words

Quite often in English, words develop a different meaning through constant misuse. Here’s list of words that are frequently used in the wrong context; often in business letters and documents. Test your knowledge and make sure you are using them correctly.

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Hello. I'm Elaine, I'm a copywriter and this is my blog.

It's mostly about words and writing - things that inspire me, entertain me, and make me smile. Sometimes it's about things that horrify me so much I want to scream and shout!

I hope you enjoy it and find it useful. And speaking of useful - scroll down and take a look at the Oxford Dictionaries tool.

Click here to find out a bit more about me.

Word Alchemy Blog