Advertising bloopers that drive me nuts

spelling-errorThey’re everywhere—on posters, signs, in flyers, menus, and even in radio commercials.

I just don’t get it. Advertising is an investment. It costs a significant amount of money to advertise your company or product, but making every effort to ensure that the content is 100% correct doesn’t seem to be all that important to a lot of businesses. Even big-budget companies aren’t immune. I’ve heard mispronunciations in radio commercials that have set my hair on end. I’ve also seen glitzy ads with shockingly sloppy punctuation.pies blooper

There’s nothing like poorly written advertising copy to deflate a company’s credibility. After all, if they haven’t taken the time to ensure that the messaging that represents their brand is 100% correct, who’s to say that their service won’t be as shoddy? Or that they haven’t cut corners with their products too?

real estate blooperYou might think your ad piece looks marvelous, but I guarantee that 75% of the time, a fresh (and well-trained) pair of eyes will find something that needs to be corrected. A good proofreader/editor will spot something you’ve missed—either because you’ve read through it too many times already, or because you aren’t equipped with the right training. In the end, the extra attention to detail will pay for itself by weighing the scales of credibility in your favour.

Here’s a micro list of my peeves (since my full list would probably run too many pages for you to read in one sitting):

LCD display.
Listen up you merchandising people who like to write your own ad copy. LCD is an acronym for Liquid Crystal Display. So unless your intention is to write: Liquid Crystal Display display, please do skip the extra “display.”lcd display

With that said, there are far too many techies and merchandising people writing about product and sending it to print without first passing it by an editing professional. Unfortunately, that’s why it’s now standard to see units of measurement written with no spacing between the number and the unit: 32GB, 20kg, 5ms, 8MP, and so on. Would you write 32gigabyte with no space between 32 and gigabyte? Well then why do you think it’s ok to eliminate the space just because it’s been abbreviated? It’s not ok. It should have been corrected the first time out by an editor.

Adding “st,” “nd,” “rd” or “th”
after a numeric day when the year follows, e.g. October 25th, 2011. What purpose does the “th” serve, other than to add unnecessary clutter? Eliminate it.

apostrophe misuseApostrophe train wrecks.
Example: The store’s are all open on October 25th, 2011. ARRGGHH! If you don’t realize that apostrophes: (1) show the possessive use of a noun (John’s car), (2) are used in place of missing letters in contractions (I’m/I am), and (3) are never used with nouns that are already possessive (its, theirs, yours, etc.), then please, please, please hire an editor.

Double spacing double spacing
at the end of every typed sentence. Yes, back in the day when we used typewriters this practice was drilled into our heads. But guess what? It’s an antiquated rule that no longer applies in our advanced era of perfectly spaced type fonts. Really, it’s beyond distracting to see so many gratuitous spaces throughout a page of text. Only one space after a period. Always.
save-2-off
Save 10% off doodads.

I see this so often that if I had nothing better to do, I would spend all of my time sending out letters offering 10% off my proofreading/editing services. Attention advertisers: When you take 25% off the price of your doodads, your customers will save 25% on said doodads.

Again, it’s either 25% off or Save 25% on. Take it off. Save it on. Now, repeat this over and over again until it sticks and the next poster you produce will not make me want to rip it off your wall and run over it with my car.

See store for details. see store for details
I’m sure this qualifier was originally written without much thought by some lawyer who was in a hurry to get the details out of the way so he could cram more billable hours into his day. Does this mean that if I drive by the store, I’ll see the details written on the front windows? That would sure save me the bother of having to stop, park my car, and enter the store to ASK for more details, or ASK in-store for more details, or ASK an employee for more details. I see a person. I ask them for details. Now if, in fact, you have written the details on the front windows, you can ignore my rant.

Certain radio commercials
have tried to sell me “joo-lery” instead of “jew-el-ry.” I have no desire to shop at your store because after hearing that terrible mispronunciation, I believe that your advertising people are either slawppy or dum. And that makes me wonder if perhaps your joo-lery buyers are too. Before you drop gazousands of dollars to advertise your product in a commercial, don’t you think it’s worth the extra effort to make sure that the talent you’ve hired pronounces it correctly?

select and off onSelect versus selected.

Select” means “special; chosen because of its outstanding qualities.” For example, if you have slashed the prices on an assortment of run-of-the-mill sofas that you want to bounce from your inventory, then you would advertise a sale on “selected sofas,” not “select sofas,” unless of course the sofas on sale are truly superior to every other sofa in your store and aren’t simply stock that you’re trying to move out.
Select” means the best; “selected” means chosen by you. If your chain of stores is offering a huge sale on backscratchers this week and you tell me that they’re only available at “select” stores, you’re telling me that some of your stores are superior in quality to your other stores, and that the backscratchers are only available at those few superior-quality stores. If that’s the case, I’m only interested in shopping at your “select” stores, so please don’t direct me to any of your lesser-quality locations.

Serial exclamation marks.
We’re having a sale! On everything in the store! You won’t want to miss it! See you there! Not on your life!!!

An asterisk explosion.
The minute I see asterisks, I feel skeptical. “Aha. There is a catch.” Most of the time, the statement qualifying the claim is perfectly visible at the end of the copy block, and I would have seen it whether or not an asterisk was placed prominently beside the price. In cases like these, customer suspicion is piqued for no good reason (most likely caused by the paranoia of a few corporate honchos who believe they’ll be sued if an asterisk doesn’t follow anything and everything). Not smart when you’re spending countless dollars in an effort to not only persuade consumers to buy your products, but also to build trust with them so they’ll want to become regular customers.
asteriskHere’s a very easy rule of thumb to remember: Do not use an asterisk when your qualifying information appears in the same general vicinity as your claim. If your qualifying information is located in a distant, murky section of the page, or there are several items shown together and the qualifier only applies to one item, or the qualifier has to be placed on a separate page, then you should use an asterisk to let people know that a “by the way” exists somewhere else in the ad. Otherwise, simply place your qualifier in brackets underneath your copy. Not only will your butt be covered, you’ll avoid using a psychological marker that screams, “Strings are SO attached to this offer.

An aside: And then there are the many instances where a proofreaderCarpetOneInvite/editor is on the payroll, but certain people who are in more of a hurry to get a job out the door than to make sure it’s correct will “forget” to run it by the proofreader. Always a Big Mistake.

Now… the flip side of the coin:

Oh, the joys of being a writer/editor in corporate advertising:

1. Oh c’mon… Anybody can write! No sweat. And then, once they realize that it’s not the picnic they’d imagined, the poor writer is dragged in to clean up their crime-scene of a mess.

2. Give this a quick proofread…but don’t make any changes because it has to go to press in an hour. Sure thing. But are you going to let your shareholders in on the fact that the copy in the ad that they’ve spent a fortune on could have been far more appealing and properly punctuated had you scheduled enough time for a writer/editor to work on it?

frustratedUnfortunately, this is all too often how the process works: a marketing manager with the grammatical skills of a chimpanzee throws some copy together two days before a project has to go to press; it’s then circulated to everyone from the VP to the tech manager (an entire troop of chimpanzees) so they can add their two cents… and circulated again… and circulated again… with each person deciding each time that another word should be changed here or another sentence there. By the time it appears before the eyes of a proofreader (if at all), parts of it no longer even make any sense.

Here’s a cutting-edge idea: How much more powerful might the results be if you actually allowed the writer to write it and the editor to edit it in the first place?

3. I can’t count how many times people have changed my corrections back to the original errors because “well, we’ve seen it written that way before.” Oh hell then, it MUST be right! While we’re on a role, we should of just skipped hiring an editer in the 1st place!

And on and on and on. Before I begin to froth at the mouth, I’ll end this now with a sensible Latin quote:

Abusus non tollit usum
which means

Misuse does not nullify proper use.
bad vintage ad

You’ll feel Happy just looking at the pictures of the quilting projects in this book!

Although I’ve been hooked on crochet for ages, I also enjoy dabbling in other creative pursuits such as embroidery, fine arts, refashioning with fabric, and quilting.happy-quilts1

IMG_8719It’s been a while since I’ve made a quilt, but thanks to a delicious book I got ahold of last week, I’ll be beating a path to my fabric stash the first chance I get. The book is called Happy Quilts by Antonie Alexander, and it’s chock-full of the most vibrant and fun projects to make for kids, accompanied by easy instructions and a CD that contains all the project templates.IMG_8721

 

Here’s a link to Antonie’s site: https://theredbootquiltcompany.com/ where you can order a copy of her book, find a link to her blog, and also discover some lovely free projects to make. You can also order her book from Amazon and other bookseller sites.

 

IMG_8722Honestly, there are so many awesome projects in there, I don’t know which one to try first!

Forget the kids—I’m going to make them for myself!! 🙂IMG_8723IMG_8720

 

For all those parents who have lost their baby boys

I wrote this poem years ago for a friend, pregnant, who learned she was carrying a son.

Today, I’d like to dedicate it to the parents who lost their baby boys to a senseless act of violence at Pulse in Orlando. And I’d like to go further and also dedicate it to every parent who has lost their precious child in such an unspeakable way: while at school, in a movie theatre, living in or visiting Paris and Brussels, travelling on airplanes, fighting in uniform overseas, and in so many other equally tragic events too numerous to list here.

My heart breaks for you. I really can’t begin to imagine.

butterly monarch pixabay
My Baby Boy

You’re a butterfly, my baby boy,
The way you dance inside of me.
Soon you’ll emerge from your cocoon,
to be loved by us unconditionally.

Can you feel the joyful longing
that awaits you on that day?
I will count your toes and fingers
and rejoice that all is okay.

I’ll cradle you so gently
in the circle of my arms.
You’ll feel my fervent promise
to protect you from all harm.

baby feet pixabay
I will marvel at your silken skin
and stroke your downy head,
Sing lullabies and rock you,
Keep you warm and dry and fed.

I’ll bandage knees when they’ve been skinned,
and wipe away your tears,
Teach you about rights and wrongs,
and help to ease your fears.

No matter what your mischief,
when I look into your eyes,
Love will blossom in my heart,
and turn my scolds to sighs.

boy and teddy pixabay
School plays, long summer days,
High school will soon arrive,
Rebellion, hormones, hockey, girls,
and teaching you to drive.

As time whittles the years away,
I’ll need to set you free,
and have faith that I have raised you
to be the best that you can be.

With tears of pride and adoration,
I’ll then uncap my jar,
to free my precious butterfly—
proud of the fine young man you are.

butterfly pixabay

 

Memories of my many trips to the island of Curacao

curacao hut copyIsland Dreams

I’m in a seaside paradise,
where my heart is light and free,
where palm fronds wave and whisper
in the breezes from the sea.

Days of idle frolic
on dunes of sun-bleached sand.
Evening skies ablaze with stars,
moonlit strolls, calypso bands.

Sunsets stain the turquoise sea,
liquid gold dips silent, slow.
The sky is splashed with grenadine
and garnished with an orange glow.

curacao tropical colors copyThe bustling waterfront market
is rich with handmade wares.
Tourists spar with merchants
to barter prices fair.

Where sea meets blue horizon,
distant sailboats bob and weave.
I breathe the salty, spicy air,
and I never want to leave.

I travel often in my mind,
daydreams suffice for now,
until I can return again
to the isle of Curacao.

curacao beach copy

TGIF!

Watch the ball game tonight. Sleep in tomorrow morning.
Smell the roses. Pick some daisies.

It’s quittin’ time! TGIF!

flowers daisies

When all else fails…get out your Sharpies and doodle!

I keep an art journal for doodling in. Whenever I feel inspired, I get out my markers/coloured pencils/pen and ink/crayons/etc., and I draw. The results needn’t be perfect (after all, perfect is boring). The act of drawing and colouring is a release of sorts. You become absorbed in the act of allowing your mind to guide you in creating freestyle images on paper, just as you did when you were a child, living “in the moment.” My art journal is one of the many simple things in life that costs little to nothing, yet provides returns that are priceless.
bird_watercolor pencil & inkThe beauty of a little yellow finch at my backyard feeder caught my eye and was soon the subject of my art journal. After drawing him, I felt the need to embellish him with a poem I’ve always loved—Maya Angelou’s I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings.graphic doodles_sharpieThinking one day about how much I love the ocean, I opened my journal and doodled a page of rolling waves and water bubbles… and then I set sail with some of my guiding beliefs.IMG_8709I started doodling the little house in the country that I’ve always dreamed of, and then it turned into a pattern for a thread-painting sampler (which I still have yet to do).IMG_8710Another doodle that I’d like to transfer onto fabric and hand-embroider someday.IMG_8711I drew a tree to contain the marriage poem I wrote. Again, I would love to someday hand-embroider the entire thing onto fabric and turn it into a small wall hanging that wedding guests could leave their signatures on. The finished product that I envision would make a great gift for a bride and groom.IMG_8712Ahhh… to be shipwrecked on a deserted island. It’s what I dream about.
IMG_8713A drawing to go with my Monkey poem, which I shared in one of my earlier blog posts.
IMG_8714I must have been in a really good mood the day that I doodled this one! 🙂

Whether you choose to express yourself with pictures or words or both, journaling is captivating, restorative and sheer fun.

Try it and see. Get yourself a journal and a pack of coloured markers. Then throw open the windows to your mind and fill the pages with your thoughts, your feelings, pretty shapes and colours, or anything else that inspires you. The more often you do it, the better it gets. Do it!

8 Tips for Creating a Fabulous Workday—Every Day

Most of us spend five days of every seven in the workplace. That’s a huge chunk of our lives lived in an often stressful environment. Of course, it’s impossible to control every workplace stressor. But we do have the power to change elements that will, in turn, bring unexpected pleasures to each day. It’s easier than you think…

  1. Try leaving your car at home once in a while.

gratisography.comWhen I worked nine-to-five, I grew to dread the daily rush-hour commute. My twenty-minute journey often lasted close to an hour. My teeth were grinding long before my day at the office had even started. Between the slow drivers obstructing passing lanes, crabby horn honkers, and the constant braking and inching forward that’s par for the course on overcrowded city streets, navigating a path to and from the office was a daily wikipedia.org_traffic jamexercise in frustration. One day it dawned on me that I had other choices. I decided to give public transit a try. The one con was that I had to roll out of bed a half-hour earlier to get to the bus stop on time, but I discovered that the pros made it worthwhile. The fresh air and exercise I enjoyed walking to and from the bus stop was energizing, and I began to feel clear-headed before I’d taken my first sip of coffee. On the bus, I sat back and listened to music on my headphones (at a volume that wouldn’t disturb other travelers) while watching irate car drivers from the comfort of my window seat. Sometimes, I read a book or magazine. Or did some needlework. All while my bus driver dealt with the traffic. I returned to driving only when my hours were changed to a flex schedule outside of the rush-hour zone.

  1. Surround yourself with beautiful images and treasured items.

office desk2While leafing through an art magazine (on the bus, of course!), I came upon the most beautiful photograph of a swan curving her wing gently around her baby— a photo that captured the true love at a mother’s core. I clipped out the photo and pinned it to my cubicle wall. When I need a mental boost, all I have to do is look up at it. I’ve enhanced my workspace with things that I love: pictures of my family, a calendar of artwork and sayings that make me laugh, a vase of fragrant lilacs from my garden. It’s all balm for the working soul.

  1. unsplash.com_nicklas bajemaEscape your desk for a five-minute fresh-air break.

I often feel as if I’m chained to my ergonomic chair. Tech screens are a form of hypnosis—they have the ability to draw us in and keep us absorbed. Some days, I look up to discover that four hours have disappeared in one swift chunk. Yes, being preoccupied makes the day seem shorter—at the expense of having a body that’s stiff from lack of motion, and eyes that are on fire in their sockets. If you have to sit in front of a computer all day, do your body (and your mind) a big favor—take five minutes to wander outside and revitalize yourself with a quick walk around the block. If you need a motivational push, invite a co-worker to join you. Five minutes in the morning and five minutes in the afternoon will not detract from your workload. If anything, you’ll return to your desk refreshed, and with a clearer mind and more energy.

  1. Slip on a pair of headphones and plug into some music.

unsplash.com_william ivenIf there are too many distractions around while you’re trying to concentrate, music can be a saving grace. Not only do most people hesitate to interrupt a person wearing headphones (it’s a trick I use when I need to focus, and it works), music is also a wonderful mood enhancer. Favorite songs conjure happy memories and have the power to banish a lousy mood. Classical music has actually been proven to enhance the powers of concentration and energize thought processes, which is why many college students play Vivaldi and Bach while they study.

  1. pillow in carStash a pillow in your car.

The most relaxing way to spend a lunch hour is … in your car! Head out to your car at noon, recline the seat, lean your head back on a comfortable pillow, and lose yourself in a really good book or magazine. There have been a few occasions when I’ve actually fallen into a light doze (I’ve yet to oversleep since my coworkers know that if I don’t show up at my desk after an hour, I need a wake-up call!). I always return to my desk feeling relaxed, refreshed and ready for round two.

  1. Organize a weekly “Stitch & Bitch” lunchtime club.

art suppliesI was a cross-stitch enthusiast for many years; nowadays it’s crochet. Two of my co-workers are avid knitters. Another one makes beaded jewelry. Another does patchwork quilting by hand. Few of us have time to devote to our crafting projects after work, because of family responsibilities. When I suggested that a group of us gather once a week in the boardroom with our bag lunches and our crafts, the response was enthusiastic. Years later, our weekly “meetings” continue on a regular basis. If the weather’s bad, we reserve a boardroom and sit around the table. During good weather, we take lawn chairs outside and get creative in the shade of a nearby tree. Not only have we been able to finish lots of projects that would not otherwise have been completed, we’ve become great friends too.

  1. Stock a desk drawer with healthy and satisfying snacks.healthy snacks

There’s a drawer in my desk that I refer to as my “snack drawer.” In my quest to avoid afternoon vending machine binges, my snack drawer is an essential component of my workspace. Mid-afternoon is my danger zone. I usually find myself craving something sweet, sometimes salty/crunchy. If I didn’t take the time to prepare ahead for these cravings, I have no doubt I would cave in and head to the vending machine for a chocolate bar or a bag of chips … and a big dose of guilt. Everything in my snack drawer is portion-packed, non-refrigerated and ready-to-eat. I have packs of cinnamon oatmeal, apple sauce, fruit cups, low-fat puddings, cup-a-soup, microwavable light popcorn, hard candies, a couple of snack-size Aero bars to soothe chocolate cravings, and high-fiber protein bars for energy. My advance preparation pays off in a big way, since I’ve created an environment that enables me to reach for healthy solutions instead of calorie-laden snacks that offer nothing more than brief satisfaction.

  1. Never allow your job to define your life.

sunset on the lake2Your career is not who you are. I’ve always said: when I’m on my deathbed, work will not be something I’ll regret I didn’t do more of. I consider myself fortunate to have a job that I enjoy, but in the scheme of things, my job is simply a necessity if I want to have a roof over my head, keep my pantry stocked, save money toward a comfortable retirement, and afford the basic necessities. It also gives me access to luxuries such as recreational travel, a nice restaurant meal now and then, tickets to a concert or sporting event—things that are enjoyable, but aren’t essential to living a joyful life. The life that I create outside of my work is what brings me my greatest joy. Simple things like spending time with family and friends, immersing myself in a hobby or taking a class to learn something new, watching a sunset, planning a picnic at a park, communing with nature, taking a journey to someplace I’ve never been before. Life’s greatest riches exist outside of the workplace; the choices are endless.

No matter what you do for a living, it’s possible to create a workday environment that makes all five days of your week not so bad … maybe even great! Start today—I guarantee that you’ll discover a world of benefits—and a happier you.

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