Language is important

One of the reasons I like working as a copywriter is that I love language. I find it fascinating – how it’s used, how it creates hidden meaning, how it changes over time.

Because I pay such close (perhaps too close) attention to language, my eyes are always drawn to copy like this. I have never – ever – heard anyone say “oh, his story was so fascinating that I was hanging onto his every word.” No – the correct phrasing would be “hanging on his every word.” Without the to, if you please.

Yes, I know. I have language OCD. I get it. But at the same time, I’m not a prescriptive grammar Nazi. Language should have room to evolve and change, to suit the changing needs of the people who use it. I’m completely okay with that.

What I’m not okay with is writers who demonstrate that they have a tin ear for language. The idea that a professional writer could come up with this idea and execute it so sloppily is troubling.

I’m hoping that’s not what happened here. I’m hoping this was a client decision – “no no, the phrase goes ‘hanging onto your every word. You’re wrong. Change it.'” That sort of thing happens a lot, and it’s a definite possibility here.

But regardless of who’s responsible for the awkward phrasing, the idea itself is weak. I could overlook off-key copy if the idea it served was a good one. Even in the context of a very iffy (in terms of clarity of message) campaign, this really falls flat.

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