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Archive for October, 2013

21 Oct 2013

my primary punctuation peeve: a primer.

Screen shot 2013-10-21 at 3.49.40 PM
I’ve been asked the question – and have answered it – myriad times, yet I never grow weary of educating others on this mystery of my field.

“Why is this ‘high-school’ hyphenated, but that ‘high school’ isn’t?”

Of course, we’re not talking about actual high schools [or whatever]; we’re talking copy, people.
And the issue is compound-modifier hyphenation.
WAKE. UP. It’s just proper punctuation. Try to stay with me, folks.

Here’s how to know when you need a hyphen and when you can go hyphen-free:

Use a hyphen between two words when they’re being used as a single term modifying [describing] another noun.

EXAMPLE 1: We’re going to bust the high-school students for truancy.

Without the hyphen, it’s as if there’s a comma between the two modifying words, and they both modify the noun separately. So without the hyphen in Example 1, it would mean the students were high students and school students – which may or may not be accurate, but isn’t what we’re trying to communicate here and now.

EXAMPLE 2: We’re going to bust the high school students for drug use.

This is technically correct, but I’d suggest deleting the word “school,” since it seems a little redundant with “students.”

EXAMPLE 3: We’re going to bust the truant senior students for skipping school today.

This needs no hyphen because “truant” and “senior” both describe the noun “students” separately – the students are seniors, and the students are truant.

EXAMPLE 4: We’re going to the high school today to bust students for truancy.

This needs no hyphen between “high” and “school” because “high” is the only modifier, describing the noun “school.”

So …
:: When there are two describing words working together to describe the noun, use a hyphen.
:: When two describing words are working separately to describe a noun, no hyphen.
:: And no hyphen when there’s just one adjective and one noun.

The best example ever of this rule is extra | marital | sex:
Extra marital sex is something most wedded couples wouldn’t complain about.
Extra-marital sex is something most would.

Now, go forth and be the hyphenation hero in your work environment!
Or give me a ring with your latest compound-modifier hyphenation quandry – I’m happy to help.

4 Oct 2013

6 signs your tag[line] is *it.*


The thing about taglines is, they seem so simple, so easy.

Think different. The uncola. They’re gr-r-r-eat!

Great taglines, for me, are like Olympic athletes – they make it look so incredibly effortless, it makes you think, just for a moment, ‘I can do that!’

But creating a really great tagline is rarely easy. Or simple.
Creating a really great tagline – & getting agreement from all interested parties to adopt it – is a rare feat, indeed.

So, the tagline, defined: A succinct phrase, situated under or alongside your logo, that communicates a single but powerful brand message designed to resonate strongly with an intended audience. It is the distilled essence of your brand message – conceived strategically, expressed artfully & delivered persuasively.

Easy-peasy, right? Yeah, right.
This is why God made professional writers, folks.

[Hey, I think I just found my new hiphop DJ name: Pro Writa. You know, like rap star Flo Rida? We’re practically separated at birth, y’all. Word.]

Aaaaanyway … Tapping into my extensive adventures in tagline-writing, here are six qualities of a great tagline – you want your tagline to display as many of them as possible; fewer than four, & I recommend returning to the scribbling board.

1. A great tagline is clear. Specific & simple, not vague or overly complex.

2. A great tagline is pithy, meaning brief, punch-y and meaningful. Succinct, relevant & put some *pop* into it, will you?

3. A great tagline is often clever. Unconventional, provocative or humorous, but not too cutesy.

4. A great tagline references benefits or differentiators. Make sure it’s believable, and don’t try to squeeze too much into it.

5. A great tagline is memorable. Tastes great, less _____. Melts in your mouth not in your _____. Takes a licking & keeps on _____. You remembered how to fill in those blanks, didn’t you?

6. A great tagline tells a story. What’s your story? What gets you emotional when you think about what you do? Your logo & tagline should communicate that feeling – not act as just a descriptor.

Whew! That’s quite a list to fit into just six words or so. So don’t try this at home. Hire a professional [e.g., Pro Writa!], & when she hits the bullseye, you just might find yourselves exclaiming in tandem, “Tag – you’re it!”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Most influential tagline by decade, 1940s-2000s*

1948: DeBeers – A diamond is forever.
1956: Allstate – You’re in good hands [with Allstate].
1962: Avis – We try harder.
1975: American ExpressDon’t leave home without it.
1988: NikeJust do it.
1993: California Milk Processor BoardGot milk?
2002: Las VegasWhat happens here stays here.

*All still being used today. Now that’s great taglining!