Friday, November 21, 2008

We just keep on asking WHY.

Posted by Tracy Jones

I’m a dedicated fan of Lyn Truss’ Eats, Shoots & Leaves. As a bit of a punctuation Nazi myself, I’m always the one wielding the red pen around here.

So, you might ask, why is there no question mark at the end of the header to this story?

We recently created a campaign for a client about road safety. The campaign theme is WHY. (with a full stop and without a question mark). Here's one of the ads (the other is at the end of this post).

Since it was launched, we have received lots of comments from the punctuation Nazis declaring us to be the enemy of the English language as we know it.

So, before we all get too carried away, where did the question mark go?

The first point to make is that the idea of advertising is to impart a message, a feeling and (hopefully) an action, not to educate the public on grammar. We wanted to start a conversation with the public about road safety and the terrible tragedy of road deaths to every single individual.

WHY. has certainly made people talk – and wonder – about the question mark. Here’s a selection of what people have said:

  • "WHY is a rhetorical question – we don’t expect an answer to it. The answer to the road toll is so obvious. So when you say WHY it’s an expression of frustration.”

  • “This answer is stupid. A rhetorical question is a figure of speech used to persuade the reader to question or think about a particular issue. This isn’t the same thing.”

  • “More than one person has pointed out that a full stop is neither appropriate nor accurate. In the case of these advertisements the aim is to have viewers/readers think about what has happened and why it has happened. You’re saying people don’t expect an answer as to why they’ve lost a family member/friend. We’re asking them to question why this is happening so we can try and avoid it and raise awareness. We’re not posing the question for the sake of it; for no response. This would mean no change. "

  • “It is not a question - we know the answers. People just continue to ignore the glaringly obvious consequences of driving drunk, speeding, traveling without a seatbelt – this uncomfortable feeling that some people seem to suffer from is a good thing regarding this campaign. Look at the whole, the “Why.” icon is just that, a logo a brand a statement of intent – to the drunk driver – we don’t need a question mark as he has no response/answer to justify his behaviour.”

  • “You people are in serious need of a good proof reader. I can offer you my services.”

  • “I can’t figure out whether you guys are incredibly clever or incredibly dumb. "

What do you think?

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous2:27 PM

    Even if you are trying to educate the public, you should ensure your grammar is correct. Your lack of punctuation in your campaign is as annoying as a certain fast food company using "i'm" in its slogan.
    Paris Lord, Darwin journalist.