Ad Copy
Entry for 2017-02-24


Excerpted from Common Misconceptions (in the Encyclopedia of Advertising)

AD COPY

SHORT
SENT-
ENCES

Short.

And tight.

That's the
way it's done.

Advertising
copy, that is.

Punchy.

Pithy.

Never prosy.

There's a
reason, right?

Wrong.

It's a fad.

Started with
Hemingway.

Tight, punchy
writing.

It'll pass.

When?

When people
get good and
sick of it,
that's when.



My Totem
Entry for 2017-02-22






My totem pole is nearly carved.
Soon it will stand outside
my house, a fierce discountenance
to would-be burglars and vandals.
It will tell the story of how
my ancestors fought and died
against odds for sheep and pigs.
It will have religious symbols:
a talisman, a taliswoman,
and a taliscockerspaniel.
My totem will announce that I
am not to be taken lightly,
that my people are substantial,
and that my house of antique brick,
asphalt shingles, and vinyl trim
has an electronic security system
and a family of copperheads
drooling hungrily in the hedge.
I fully expect my totem pole
to change my luck


Switchback English
Entry for 2017-02-20


Some passages in English reverse the field repeatedly and get you coming and going. This, for example, was a front page headline in the New York Times a few years ago:

FEDERAL JUDGE EXTENDS BAN
ON END TO AFFIRMATIVE ACTION

Is that good or bad?

Two wrongs do not make a right. Three lefts sometimes do. I try to sort out switchback expressions by charting each positive and negative reference as a "Yes" or a "No" and then counting them up.

FEDERAL JUDGE
EXTENDS (yes)
BAN (no)
ON END (no)
TO AFFIRMATIVE (yes)
ACTION (yes)

This would give the "yes" vote a 3-2 majority, so the ruling would favor affirmative action. But if "affirmative action" is taken as a single, redundant affirmative, then the tally is even at 2-2, so it's necessary to seek further clarification in the story under the headline.

In a preliminary (MAYBE)
injunction (NO)
issued (YES)
late this afternoon...
the judge ruled (YES)
that opponents (NO)
of the ban (NO)
would probably (MAYBE)
prevail (YES)
in their argument (MAYBE NOT)
that it violated (NO)
the Constitution by denying (NO)
equal treatment to women and minorities (YES)

That's a 5-4 vote against affirmative action, which would certainly surprise the judge and the Times editors. So much for that system of analysis.

I yearn for a simpler time when, as James Thurber recalled it, his enigmatic friend Christabelle (who had promised her butler that she would write him into her next novel as the uncharacter of a nonbutler) would respond to someone's assertion by saying, "That's not unmeaningless."


Finch Thing
Entry for 2017-02-18


A purple finch at the thistle feed
took a thurple pinch of fistle theed,
then, thoft thpoken,
thang but a withp,
and even that with a lithp.
(Thiffle feed puckerth your wipth.)


Mailers
Entry for 2017-02-14


Excerpted from Direct Mail (in the Encyclopedia of Advertising)

Coca Cola can afford to float a $45 million flight of ads and commercials to reach 200 million people, all of whom are potential customers. But if they were selling primary ore-crushers or backsizing latex instead of soda-pop, then they would have only a few dozen or a few hundred prospects, and they would just have to look them up, give them a call or play golf with them. If they were selling heat-resistant polyesters or drill pipe, there would be several thousand potential buyers -- too few for TV, too many for golf, but just a nice size list for a direct-mail piece offering free product literature and maybe a chance on a Lexus.

Mailers. The basic unit of industrial direct mail is the "mailer" or "mailing piece." This is often a simple card or folder with a reply card, but sometimes it's much fancier. To many art directors, a direct mail assignment is an invitation to an Origami festival, evoking spectacular folding circuses of multiple die-cuts, pop-ups, and wall-size scratch-and-sniff posters destined to win awards -- if not from the New York Art Directors' Show, then at least from a grateful paper company.

Littacher. Whoever sends in the reply card will receive "product literature" (pronounced littacher), usually a booklet or brochure. (The distinction between a brochure and a folder is highly theoretical, but generically speaking a brochure contains more product information, while a folder is more likely to have big headlines and a bird on it.)