question mark Does correct punctuation and capitalization matter in marketing copy?

Years ago, I worked with a large company that had a team of creative people–several designers and writers who all contributed their particular expertise.

I wrote information content for this client (books, blogs, articles). The lead marketing writer often said the difference between what he did and what I did was that I created the actual product and he was the carnival huckster who got people to buy with flash and promises.

The fact that the company recognized the need to have the diversity of talent is good. But the CEO often liked to dabble in marketing, and he would occasionally create ad content that the marketing VP would use exactly as the CEO wrote.

The problem (for me, anyway) was that the CEO did not know the basic rules of punctuation and capitalization. For example, he liked to use quotation marks “for emphasis,” and no matter how many times I tried to explain, he never understood that quotation marks are for quotes or, secondarily, to indicate that something might not be true (not exactly a good marketing message).

When I would attempt to correct the errors in what the CEO had written, the VP would block me, saying they were acceptable in marketing copy. I’m not sure if he genuinely believed that or if he was just afraid of the CEO. It was probably a bit of both.

But setting the internal politics of that organization aside, the question is:

No Parking Violators Towed

Is the sign saying not to park or you’ll be towed? Or that parking violators will not be towed?

Does correct punctuation and capitalization matter in marketing copy? Or any other copy, for that matter?

I say yes. Absolutely.

It’s one thing to break the rules regarding sentence fragments (like I just did in the previous paragraph). It’s something else altogether to do things that are just wrong.

If your marketing message contains mistakes, what does that say about your product—especially if it’s an information product? What does that say about how much attention you pay to detail or how much you care about doing things right? And what if your mistake either changes the message you intended to send or makes it impossible for the reader to be sure what you really mean?

The reality is that mistakes happen and errors will slip past even the tightest editing and proofreading processes. But your goal should be to do it right, if for no other reason than to avoid distracting readers who know what is correct.

Update: Want to know more about the cost of making typos? Zack Crockett discusses “The Extreme Cost of Typos” in his blog on Grammarly. It’s worth a read.

What are your thoughts? Join the conversation below.


Jacquelyn Lynn
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