It still feels like summer here in New York City. But the holidays are already on the horizon. Stores are pushing Halloween merchandise, TV commercials hinting it’s time to start thinking about holiday shopping.
All this messaging requires writing: signs, ads, scripts, video lettering. So the pressure’s on to get things right. Grammar. Spelling. Clarity.
Ad agencies have copy editors who make sure the verbiage in their messages is correct. But when businesses do their own marketing, correct English and even correct spelling often go out the window.
Or into the window, as this gem attests:
The local supermarket displaying this stunner of an error spent good money on design and printing. Somebody wrote or typed the messaging. Somebody else laid out the text and graphics on a computer. Yet another person looked over the printouts as they came off the machine. Finally, a store worker posted the signs in the windows.
Nowhere along the way did anyone catch the glaring insult to the English language. Or if they spotted it, they didn’t care.
Writers, editors, language mavens and even some marketing professionals have long lamented a widespread loss of editorial standards and oversight. For news organizations, for example, the need to get coverage posted online ASAP in today’s 24-hour news cycle has scraped away the time publishers used to take – used to believe they had to take – to get the words right.
Maybe it’s not so terrible if a news crawl on CNN misspells the name of a presidential candidate. Maybe it’s not even so awful if a grammatical error slips into an article in the Washington Post or a learned essay in the New York Review of Books.
But marketing messaging is something else. There, language errors reflect poorly on businesses and brands. They suggest carelessness and unprofessionalism. And that’s not likely to change anytime soon.
So before you put something out there to represent you or your business this holiday season, do like Santa and check it twice. Have someone else check it, too. One way or another, get it done right. Because some of your potential customers and partners know the difference.
And somebody might just take a photo of your embarrassing mistake and post it online for posterity.