Thought for the Day

The clipping below comes right from my computer’s built-in dictionary. (It’s not my favorite glossary, but it is convenient.)

“As a verb, impact remains rather vague and rarely carries the noun’s original sense of forceful collision. Careful writers are advised to use more exact verbs that will leave their readers in no doubt about the intended meaning. In addition, since the use of impact is associated with business and commercial writing, it has a peripheral status of ‘jargon,’ which makes it doubly disliked.”


A Quick Quiz on Dates

Lately, I’ve noticed several advertisers making fundamental copy mistakes in the expression of dates. Automobile dealers, especially, seem prone to error. Here’s a short test. See if you can differentiate the correct and incorrect forms in the following examples.

  1. The book sale begins on January 27th.
  2. The sale ends on February 1.
  3. Holiday business hours extend from Tuesday, the 9th of December, through Wednesday, the 24th.
  4. Attendance during March, 2011, hit an all-time high.
  5. The June 1999 issue of The Atlantic is missing from the stacks.
  6. I read about the heist of historical documents in the December 1, 2014, issue of The New Yorker.
  7. The Reston Rose Society will hold its annual meeting during the week of May 16–22.
  8. Wildfires of suspicious origin increased dramatically from 2004–2006.
  9. I wonder if anyone living today was alive during the 1800’s.
  10. I can’t think of the ’60s without thinking of the Beatles.

1. Incorrect (January 27)   2. Correct   3. Correct.  4. Incorrect (no commas needed)  5. Correct   6. Correct   7. Correct   8. Incorrect (from 2004 to 2006)  9. Incorrect (1800s)  10. Correct

Offering an oasis amid the heat: Psalm 23.

I don’t know what the weather is like where you are, but it’s pretty warm here. I am thankful for air conditioning. Especially when I recollect sultry September days in grade school—windows open wide and not a breeze stirring, except for an occasional moment of fleeting relief when an oscillating fan at the front of the room pushed a tepid gust my way. The school dress code mandated long pants for boys and we guys all wore jeans. Why not khakis? Because any unusual item of apparel put you at immediate risk of ridicule. Blue jeans were the group-sanctioned uniform. Light, breathable slacks, no matter how practical, were not. It was better to swelter with acceptance than to dare a modicum of comfort at the risk of jeers.

While my discomfort rose in step with the mercury, suffering must have increased exponentially for the Benedictine sisters who taught us. Black habits covered every inch of them except faces and hands. For a little relief, some of the nuns would push their tunics and scapulars out and let them fall back, like gravity-operated bellows. I never heard those dear women complain. But I often heard their simple admonition: Offer it up. When faced with trials, they said, think of what our Lord endured on the cross, and anything becomes more bearable.

We also practiced mind-over-body control with imagery to help us “think cool.” Playing in the snow. Jumping into the pool. Wading into the river. In that same spirit, on this warm, June day, I offer a musical setting of what may be the most refreshing text ever penned, Psalm 23. Please feel free to print and share, and let me know if you decide to perform it publicly. (I have refrained from imposing dynamic markings; simply let the words guide your interpretation.)

Duet for Tenor and Baritone voices with piano accompaniment.

Duet for Tenor and Baritone voices with piano accompaniment.

How’s my stuff gonna get there?

I was offered the job on Friday at nine.
They said, “We need to know—make up your mind.”
So I said ‘yes’ with some caveats:
Where in the world is this job at?
Is it cold there? Do they have baseball?

Will you help me move?

How much is “so much”?

The curmudgeon is in.

I’ve been hearing the phrase “Thank you so much” ad nauseam, especially among on-air news people. (The expression may not have originated at the desk of NBC’s Today, but that show seems to own it.)

Can we agree that “so much” adds nothing beyond a split second of needless sound?

Instead, why not say “Thank you, Donnie”? Polite and personal. If using the name feels too personal, how about, simply, “Thank you”?

Okay, this little rant is over. I feel so much better now.


“A good copywriter isn’t in love with words . . .”

“ . . . he is in love with people. All kinds of people, everywhere and anywhere.”

So avers the late Paul Bringe, respected copywriter, as quoted in The Greatest Direct Mail Sales Letters of All Time (ISBN 85013-238-X). This book may be the copywriter’s best reference on consumer psychology. Every time I open it, I feel grateful to the author, Richard Hodgson. If you can spare the coin, it is worth far more than the price.

Here’s the rest of Bringe’s advice:

“He is intensely interested in people, watches them closely, listens when they talk, lives their bad moments with them, and rejoices in their victories. He is so interested in other people he forgets all about himself, his own needs and wants, and after a time he knows why they think as they do. And he recognizes himself in them and knows what they do he is capable of doing whether it is good or bad. The way to write believable copy is to love people. Know what every living person fears, hates, loves, and rejoices just as you do. Let everything you write say to your reader, I understand you. I have been in your shoes. I can help you, please let me try.”