We’ve all been there, haven’t we? Hit Send or Post and then sat back to bask in the glow of a task well done. Thinking to revel in our bon mots and elegant phrasing one more time, we open up the file again and - Wham! The spelling mistake hits us between the eyes.
Why couldn’t we see it before?
Typographical errors - types of typos
There are two main types of errors in written work. The first are straight typing errors where letters get transposed or omitted and words are repeated. The second are grammatical or style errors where the wrong word is used, an infinitive split or apostrophe put in the wrong place. Obviously if you only have a shaky grasp of grammar then spotting the incorrect use of it’s instead of its will be tricky. That’s when a friend, editor or proofreader comes in or reading a good guide to grammar.
Can’t see the wood for the trees?
Trying to proofread your own writing is very difficult. In the same way that you can drive to work and then not remember crossing a particular roundabout, your brain generalises about details and concentrates on higher functions such as writing rather than reading. When you proofread your own work, your brain already knows your intention and the words you meant to write so will skip over the pesky details like the exact spelling. The best way to assist you in proofreading is to change the format of what you are reading, to make it less familiar to the brain. That way, the brain slows down and reads more carefully.
So here are my suggestions to make your work less familiar and catch more of those irritating errors.
And please send me any amusing typo examples you find!
Driving down the M1 this morning I started looking at the straplines on the lorries. Within a few junctions I had passed examples of the good, the bad and the downright puzzling.
When It Really Matters
From TTX Warehousing and Distribution. Would any company say "Use us when it doesn't really matter"??!
This sounds more like a threat from this courier company! And the eight dots before the quotation marks are very odd.
Delivering the promise
From Automatic Refreshments, a vending supplier. An attempt to promote the benefits of their service rather than just the features but rather bland and leaves it vague as to what was promised.
As to the better ones, Gee Force Logistics use The Power To Deliver which makes good use of the pun in their name and I like Travis Perkins' lorries that say Built for the Trade which sounds confident and rugged.
So that got me thinking about what makes a good strapline. Ideally you want something that captures your brand values, has an emotional tug and is memorable. Not much to ask! It is not surprising that you often see tired phrases such as these:
The winning team
Tried, tested, trusted
Making a difference
One of the best I can remember from years ago was for Batchelors' Cup-A-Soup - A Hug in a Mug. Brilliant, encompassing cosiness, warmth and comfort, just what you want from soup. Interestingly this phrase was the subject of a legal battle in 2013 when Rekitt Benckiser Healthcare Ltd applied to register it as a trade mark for their brand Lemsip. A trademark adjudicator ruled that they could both use the phrase as they were sold for different purposes in different shops.
Why bother with a strapline?
You don't have to have a strapline but they can be very useful, for example if your company name does not immediately give a clue as to the nature of your business. If you are called CTP Ltd then a line that says Construction and Building Maintenance will help people work out what you do. If you are called CTP Construction Ltd then you can say something else such as Better Buildings for Nottinghamshire.
Let me know your favourite straplines, and any you see that don't work.
Blog keywords: #straplines, #copywriting, #slogans, #advertising, #marketing, #transport
Chiasmus can be used for wit or wisdom to make a point in a fresh, clever, memorable way
If you enjoy words and language it can be interesting to analyse why certain phrases or forms of words are more memorable or successful than others. One of my favourite of such figures of speech is chiasmus.
The term chiasmus comes from the Greek chiasma a cross-shaped mark. This is a form of speech where the word order of the subject of the first part of the sentence is reversed to give a completely different meaning. By reversing common phrases or ideas it makes us look afresh at the new words and there is great satisfaction in the neat ideas that can be expressed this way.
Chiasmus in oratory
Chiasmus in entertainment
On a more lighthearted note, a witty woman who often used chiasmus was the American actress, playwright, screenwriter and sex symbol Mae West (1893-1980) in phrases such as:
“It’s not the men in your life that matters, it’s the life in your men!”
“It is better to be looked over than overlooked.”
“A hard man is good to find.”
This is an example of chiasmus using the reversed order of a well known phrase without needing to repeat the original phrase. These examples can be especially pleasing as there is the extra satisfaction of working out the connection to the source.
Even Kermit the frog has been known to use implied chiasmus in the following: “Time’s fun when you’re having flies.” Incidentally, Kermit was created by Jim Henson in 1955 so is now approaching 60!
Another in this vein is “A hangover is the wrath of grapes.” There seem to be various claims to be the first to say this but I hope it is the wonderful humorist Dorothy Parker.
If you enjoyed these, then the undoubted master of chiasmus is Dr Mardy Grothe a psychologist who has been collecting examples of chiasmus and word play for many years and written books including one with the wonderful title “Never let a fool kiss you or a kiss fool you.” see more at www.drmardy.com.
And, if you come across any new ones or old favourites, please let me know.
Photo credits: Kermit photo: By Kevin Burkett from Philadelphia, Pa., USA (Kermit the Frog! Uploaded by SunOfErat) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Winston Churchill: By United Nations Information Office, New York [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
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