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You’ve lost me

April 20, 2011

As Anthony Mundine entered the boxing ring with Garth Wood last week, I had my own biffo to deal with. In the pursuit of “effective advertising” Glenn Murray thinks it’s okay to use multiple exclamation marks if “they provide extra meaning for my audience”.

I thought about that for a minute or two and tried to imagine an audience that would appreciate the “extra meaning”. My mind envisioned a masochistic audience that likes to be hit over the head with a four by two.

Certainly not an intelligent audience that appreciates the subtlety and grace of language, the nuance, the wonder, the elegance, the aesthetic.

I’m not a copywriter – though I have written countless advertorials – but rather someone who reads and evaluates everything, even advertising copy. Use multiple exclamation marks and you’ve lost me immediately; my mind reads “lazy, sloppy, manipulative” and turns off.

Three other things that make me switch off:

1. Using an ellipsis incorrectly.
An ellipsis is three dots (…) to indicate missing text or that the writer’s thoughts have trailed off. It is not four dots, it is not five dots, it is not 10 dots, thank you very much. I like to put a space before and after the dots, but it’s okay if you only like to use one space after the dots, even if, logically speaking, that would suggest two words run on together. Yes, I think I can let that one go. But, please, never use more than three dots.

2. Using all caps.
WHY ARE YOU SHOUTING AT ME? IT’S NOT GOING TO MAKE ME BELIEVE IN YOUR PRODUCT OR NOTICE YOU. IT’S ONLY GOING TO MAKE ME WHINCE IN PAIN. I’ve just given myself a headache writing that.

3. The random capitalisation of words that are not proper nouns.
When you Randomly capitalise Words in your Copy it does not make them Stand Out, it Only makes You look like a Spammer.

If your objective is to make your writing read like bad advertising, please, by all means, embrace these hideous slights on the English language. Otherwise, keep with the less is more principle.

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