Speaking in Tones: on misused words and the havoc they create

26 01 2010

It’s official.

I’m on a tear this week pushing proper usage and word awareness for content creators, clients and logophiles in general.

Partly inspired by another hilarious cartoon from The Oatmeal, partly by a morning breakfast show host who won’t stop using “literally” as a submodifier, and backed with countless memories of proofing for a homonym-imparied client who wanted to generate capital with their brochures but insisted building capitol was the best way to go about it*.

Proper (or improper) use of a word really does set the tone for a reader’s experience with a piece of writing. I’ve found that door drops, direct mail and other imposed marketing materials tend to bring out the proof reader in all of us. Not only must the messaging be crisp, but it better get its possessives and contractions in proper working order – otherwise that smart little mailer is headed for the bin.

So, how to combat improper word usage to positive effect? Reference, reference, reference.

Writing is an accessible medium that builds civilisations, furthers the cause of human development and helps bring dreams to light. Done well, a written line can impact generations and cultures profoundly. When incorrect, it loses credibility and its spotlight, causing grammar fiends, proofers and editors to lose hair and sleep.

*While I’m sure there isn’t a head office on Earth that doesn’t think of itself as a seat of power, there’s few that draw a legislative assembly.



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