A Monthly Meditation on Branding and Language
From Your Favorite Copy Shop, Editorial Emergency

#38 (March 26, 2010): Debate Club

Spring is in the air, which explains both the blossoming exuberance in our hearts and the nonstop sneezing in our offices. Yes, our cranky word-nerdery is in full flower; witness this issue's rant about heedless abbreviation, a non-debater's introduction to argumentative fallacies, a salute to new "On Language" columnist Ben Zimmer, and the latest dandelion in the Not Our Clients weed patch. Gesundheit!

Red Pen Diaries: Stop Abbreviation Abuse Now!

ImageIn most digital media — from text messages and tweets to marketing e-blasts and Web pages — brevity is the soul of wit. But I wonder if those using "fail" as a stand-in for "failure" are simply witless.

If you regularly use "fail" instead of "failure," please This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it why. Is it because you think it sounds cool? (It doesn't.) Is it because you're in a hurry? If the latter, how much time do you save in not typing "ure?"

Read the rest here.

Argument Clinic: Seven Deadly Fallacies

ImageAs America's ongoing adventure in health-care legislation illustrates, our public square can produce some loud, emotional arguments. But it would be a stretch to call the incessant volley of epithets and doom-saying that have characterized the health-reform saga a "debate."

Traditional debate, wherein one posits a claim and attempts to make a persuasive case with logic and examples, whether deductively or inductively, has come to seem as quaint as an 8-track player in our tweety-speedy demimonde. Even our political "debates," which ape the formal structure of more rigorous rhetorical face-offs, are more tailored to the coining of killer sound bites and "gotcha" moments — and, lest we forget, the cultivation of on-camera gravitas — than winning on the merits.

Read the rest here.

Ben Zimmer Hits the Big Time

ImageWe've known and cherished Ben Zimmer for some time as the editor of word-nerd destination The Visual Thesaurus; in that capacity he's done us the honor of syndicating material originally created for "Editorializing" — and taught us a thing or two via both his published articles and delightful correspondence. We're not alone in recognizing the man's prose-writing prowess, editorial acumen and garrulous grace, however: Ben has been tapped to succeed the legendary William Safire as the New York Times Magazine's "On Language" columnist. Safire launched "On Language" in 1979, and his departure for The Great Reference Library in the Sky left huge shoes to fill. But we feel confident that Ben has big feet. We wish him great success.

Photo: Monico Rabara

Not Our Clients: Frog in Our Throat Edition

We enjoyed the museum's frog exhibit — but some explanatory copy on the wall nearly gave us warts.

Hey, kids: Find the FOUR punctuation errors
in this paragraph and you can be the new curator!

For more lamentable samples from the swamps of poor usage, swim over to Not Our Clients. Has a similar outrage hopped onto your virtual lily pad? Don't just croak about it; This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it If we choose to post it, you'll earn yourself an iTunes gift card, redeemable for the soundtrack to "The Princess and the Frog," "Peace Frog" by the Doors or Kermit's lament "It's Not Easy Being Green," among other amphibian attractions.


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We've worked for these kinds of clients on this kind of stuff.

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