I have seen the apocalypse, and it comes with a dangling gerund.
They’re EVERYWHERE. They’re not only copywriters, they’re PR experts and marketing professionals. People whose business, theoretically, is the creation and sale of effective, enticing communication. Somehow, inexplicably, an absurd number of these people seem to be unable to form a sentence with all its nouns and verbs matching up. For those of you figuring out how to do this, it goes in pairs, people. Like Noah’s ark. And line dancing.
Where do they come from?
I know at least one client who hired a marketing service to make up some – wait for it – marketing materials. Yes. I KNOW. It shocked me, too, but it doesn’t stop there. These people created some of the most painful, hair-raising, excruciating copy I personally have ever read. It was somehow humiliating to even be seen looking at it. Like watching Queer as Folk with your grandmother. They mixed second and third person without SHAME, people. Like so:
“One won’t believe how much you’re going to love this!”
It was horrible to behold. And it went on and on. Page after page. I’ve seen copy that would make your fingernails start to grow inward to try to avoid making contact with the print on the page. I’ve seen copy that third-grade English teachers would point to as a cautionary tale to all those students who refuse to learn ‘i’ before ‘e’ except after ‘c’, after which the students would rush, feverish with fear, to their dictionaries. I’ve seen copy that makes me, personally, want to blow my brains out, and I want to know why.
How do they survive?
Darwin, bless his heart, tells us that the strong survive and the weak die out. Now, the strong have certainly survived, but why haven’t we EATEN the weak long ago? Why are they still out there, producing their terrible copy, day after day? Who is feeding the beast?
I have a partial answer, but not one that fully satisfies me. However – some of them have learned camouflage. The client referenced above was suckered into paying for a marketing package without viewing samples of the marketing company’s work. She paid for the package and then she felt too guilty to demand her money back. That’s right. The bad copywriters are surviving by preying on the unsuspecting clients. New clients, baby clients, clients who don’t know better. They are eating the young.
There must be more to this. They must have a secret weapon. We have to find it and destroy it before they start writing scripts in Hollywood. YES. It gets worse than the Star Wars I-III trilogy. It’s almost too horrible to contemplate.
How do we kill them?
Damned if I know, Johnson. Try to warn as many clients as you can. Tell them to watch out for the warning signs. Tell them, by all that is holy, to look at a portfolio, to ask to see a writing sample, to get one shred of proof this person can produce passable English. Only by educating the populace can we stop the scourge.
Don’t they have any redeeming qualities?
Well, yes. Sort of. Once a bad copywriter has produced copy of a hideous nature, it’s a fairly easy job to produce better copy. I wouldn’t call it a challenge, but it’s a low bar. If you can clear that bar with a foot to spare, you’ve just become pretty impressive to your client, and that’s worth while.
The down side is that your client might not have any money to repair the problem now that the bad copywriter has cleaned them out. They might be stuck, desperately looking for someone to save them, but to no avail. Take pity on them, the poor bastards. Give them a preposition or two. Move an apostrophe. A little kindness is all I’m asking for. Don’t let the scourge win.
What’s your deal, dude?
They make my head hurt. No, literally. I have a microchip in there inserted by the Grand Society for the Preservation of Grammar and Sanity, and it zings me every time I see someone say ‘breath’ when they mean ‘breathe’. I see that, and I get half a taser shot worth of lightning. For the love of JERUSALEM ARTICHOKES, PEOPLE! You BREATHE air. You stop to catch your BREATH. They are pronounced differently, and they mean different things. WHAT MORE CAN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE DO FOR YOU?
Subscribe. Or the GSPGS will zap me again. Help!