Graphic designer based in Liverpool, UK

The Annoyance, OF grammar;

Forgive the title, but it proves a point.

Maybe I’m the wrong person to be writing about grammar, since I don’t believe mine is perfect, but I do believe that grammar is incredibly important when it comes to design. While many could argue that design is a visual artform, at some point, you’re going to have to incorporate some copy into it and if that copy is being seen by the public, it’s important to get it right.

Wrong wrong wrong
Wrong wrong wrong

I think one of the worst offenders that I can name off the top of my head are the WHSmith’s Christmas adverts, which have annoyed me since they were first aired two years ago. Their tagline is:

This Christmas. Think WHSmith’s.

How is that acceptable grammar? Anyone with even a basic knowledge of grammar knows that that is nowhere near a correct phrase. If anything, it should be:

This Christmas, think WHSmith’s.

Why have they used a full stop instead of a comma? It makes no sense.

I’m sure the majority of people won’t even notice it at least on a concious level, but I believe that on a subconcious level, most people will. It’s not going to make them buy less or think of WHSmith’s as a bad company, but I do believe that it speaks a lot about a company if they can’t get simple grammar correct. I don’t believe it speaks much about the design agency that was commissioned to create this advert, either. Little details like this make a big difference.

Additionally and perhaps sometimes a worse offender is spelling. I think one of the main spelling mistakes people seem to make – and businesses too – is “your” instead of “you’re”. If you’re writing your copy in Word, Word doesn’t know that “your” is the incorrect spelling because the word “your” is correctly spelt, but it’s certainly not the right word to use. So many companies don’t seem to proof their copy so it actually makes sense.

Another offender would be jargonese. In other words, writing something so that it sounds like you know what you’re talking about, but in reality, confusing your audience by beating around the bush with superfluous paragraphs. Your customer wants to know what you’re offering without having to read 5 paragraphs of blurb to get to it.

Language is such an important design element to consider when you’re designing anything at all. The copy can sometimes mean the difference between your customer being confused or content.

So, next time you’re planning on writing some copy, take another look at it, send it to a few people first. Whatever you do, don’t rely on your own judgement when it comes to copy because more often than not, because you’re writing it, it will make sense to you but not others. Proofread it yourself and then get someone else to as well. You’ll save yourself a headache when your customers are complaining about that full stop instead of a comma.