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Beware of Tagline-Killing Quotation Marks

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Tips for Taglines

Murder by Punctuation

Driving down I-88 the other day, I spotted a service van with this tagline across the back doors -

Industrial Spray Painting You Can “Trust”

Not good. The author doesn’t realize that putting a word or phrase in quotation marks this way indicates sarcasm. For emphasis – which is what I assume the author was shooting for – use italics. I’ll chart it out:

  1. Industrial Spray Painting You Can Trust means industrial spray painting you can trust.
  2. Industrial Spray Painting You Can Trust means industrial spray painting you can really trust.
  3. Industrial Spray Painting You Can “Trust” means industrial spray painting you can’t trust.

What would happen if big brands fell victim to tagline-killing quotation marks?

  • Tastes “great,” less filling. Result: Miller Lite goes the way of the Edsel.
  • You’re in “good hands” with Allstate. Result: Policyholders run for their lives.
  • Fly the “friendly” skies. Result: United wins a truth in advertising award.

Of course, the state of public education being what it is, there’s a good chance that 90% of U.S. consumers wouldn’t notice bungled punctuation in a tagline.

Does Punctuation Matter?

What do you think: does punctuation matter in a world of emoticons, text message shorthand, and acronyms?