Sunday, 22 November 2009

I didn't mean that!

Human beings do it all the time. We say one thing, and mean another. Of course, it's not usually a problem. Whether intentional or not, there are times when every one of us has fallen fowl of the ability to assemble words that can be taken the wrong way.

It can even be funny. Consider the unintended humour in these signs (all seen by me in various places around the world)...
  • No standing at any time (a no parking sign)
  • This door is alarmed
  • Do not use lift (elevator) in case of fire
  • Cyclists use left shoulder
Unintended humour can also be a problem if it crops up in your advertising. Especially if it has you insult your target market, or lead to a PR blunder.

The only way to avoid such mistakes, is to have several people check your copy before it goes. And these people must be in your target market. That way, you avoid making a mistake through ignorance (e.g. not knowing a particular word has a different meaning among your target audience).

You'll also help your cause if you make sure every sentence you write contains only one sentence. Keep your eyes peeled for sentences that feature semi colons, or more than 2 commas.