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Hanged On A Comma

One of the advantages of using a copywriter is that you get your business copy done quickly and expertly. There’s another benefit too. You don’t have to worry about grammar. Even the most educated can fall foul of the arcane rules for the use of comma’s, apostrophes, and colons. Not to mention all the other weird dots and lines that are involved in writing.

Take the case of Sir Roger Casement’s conviction for treason. The man who said he was to be ‘hanged on a comma’. Casement was indeed guilty of working against the UK, but he didn’t undertake his treachery on British soil.

In short, Casement fell foul of the interpretation of a comma in Britain’s ancient laws of treason. Judges ruled this punctuation allowed for a guilty verdict. It didn't matter where the crime was committed. This controversial comma ensured Casement kept his appointment with the hangman.

Then there’s the Oxford comma. A little known but important squiggle. A recent omission of this in employee contracts cost a US dairy firm millions of dollars in overtime payments. This sentence illustrates its use.

I would like to thank my brothers, Sarah Smith and Lucy Jones. 

As written, it seems my brothers have quite feminine names. In this instance, the Oxford comma can clear things up. Let’s include one. Can you see it?

I would like to thank my brothers, Sarah Smith, and Lucy Jones. 

Did you know about the Oxford comma? Maybe now you can see the importance. Good punctuation helps us understand the message. In the case of legal documents, sloppy punctuation can be disastrous, as we have seen.

It goes without saying in copywriting punctuation is important. But the approach is generally to keep things simple. Copywriters favour the comma, apostrophe (possessive or otherwise) and the full stop. Question marks are useful as is the occasional exclamation mark. That's about it though.

Good copywriting tends to avoid colons, semicolons, dashes and ellipses. These clutter text and encourage long sentences.

Indeed, the most important mark in good copywriting is the full stop. Vigorous use of the full stop helps to keep text punchy and on message. There’s nothing worse than long run-on sentences that contain lots of words, information, and unnecessary verbiage that does nothing to get the message over and are there mainly to prop up specified word counts.

A bit like the last sentence in fact!

Using an experienced copywriter means you’ll get your core message across. Clients won’t have to trip over tragic punctuation or elongated sentences.

If punctuation isn’t your forte, then get in touch on 07905 383312 or email and tell us your copy needs. You can be sure you’ll get the creative, succinct, and effective copy your business needs.

And no dodgy punctuation!