Monday, August 22, 2011

Three errors in eleven words

At a New Hampshire diner, the paper placemat displays ads from several local businesses. In one space on the placemat is this sentence:

“Tell these advertisers that you saw their ad on this placemat!”


The alert reader notices at least three errors in this 11-word sentence.

The first and most obvious error he notices is overdramatization: the exclamation point isn’t appropriate.

The second error he is likely to notice is an error in grammar: each advertiser has its own ad; therefore “their ad” should be “their ads.”

The third error he is likely to notice is poor composition: as written, the sentence means, “Call, write or visit all these companies and tell them that you saw their ads on this placemat.”

But that’s absurd; it is more likely that the intended meaning is, “When you patronize one of these companies, please mention that you saw the ad on this placemat.” And that’s how the sentence should have been written.

The Takeaway: Be especially diligent when what you are writing will appear in an ad. People who see your ad will usually take only three seconds to decide if it’s worth reading. Consciously or unconsciously, they use those three seconds looking for a reason to throw it away. So, don’t give them a reason. For example, don’t use inappropriate punctuation, bad grammar, or poor composition. Always ask at least two alert readers to read your ad before you publish it.

See disclaimer.

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