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When ‘Correct’ Writing Looks Wrong, What’s a PR Writer to Do?

By Paul Stregevsky for PRNEWS

While shopping, a sign jolted me. Its grammar was so jarring, I read it twice: “We require that all supplements are third-party tested to contain what they claim.”

Shouldn’t it read “that all supplements be tested?”

Fifty years ago, I’d have firmly answered, “Of course.” Today, “Maybe not.” Times ain’t what they used to was.

As PR pros know, language changes. The Internet now is the internet, as Gretchen McCulloch explains in Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language.

Careful writers, in and out of PR, have long relied on language conventions. They help distinguish one meaning from another. Those of a certain age rely on grammar (be tested vs. are tested), punctuation (eats, shoots, and leaves vs. eats shoots and leaves), spelling (forego vs. forgo) and usage (bimonthly vs. semimonthly).

We also rely on concordance—the agreement of verb form, structure, or grammatical number and person: “I’m one of those people who like their coffee black,” not “I’m one of those people who likes my coffee black.”

For the rest, click here.

To us, these rules are more than useful; they’re vital. Remove them, and careful readers will be lost in Wonderland, where a phrase means whatever the writer wants.

But in the internet age, some time-honored rules carry a strange, new risk: If we apply them, we’ll look not careful but careless. Ignorant. Or worse. Ask any parent who, when their teen texted “Do you forgive me?” texted back “Sure,” followed by (gasp!) a period.  For more, click here.

Photo by William Fortunato :

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