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My Copywriting Pet Peeves

Pet peeves. Let’s be honest. We all have them. They’re those annoying little behaviors that, while seemingly normal to everyone else, drive you bonkers.

Being surrounded by the written — or typed — word for the majority of the day, I happen to have collected a number of personal pet peeves when it comes to copywriting.

It should be noted I subscribe to the AP Stylebook frame of mind, so for those writers out there who have their differences of opinion, to each their own.

The following list is in no particular peeve order, but each is nonetheless like nails on a chalkboard to my copyediting brain.

  1. Home in vs. hone in: I bet you’ve heard someone say something like, “Let’s hone in on this goal and really try to hit the mark by the end of the first quarter.” Well, it’s wrong. It should be “home in.” I promise. Whenever using the word “in,” always put “home” before it, not “hone.” I get that it seems weird. But in truth, home as a verb means “to move or be aimed toward a destination or target with great accuracy.” Just like to “home in on.” Now, you can certainly “hone” (or sharpen) your skills. But you can’t “hone in” on your target — nope.
  2. Daylight saving: This is on the list primarily because we just rolled the clocks back for daylight saving time (DST) this fall. I would guess many people don’t know it’s wrong say “daylight savings time.” Don’t believe Wikipedia that says, “Daylight saving time (DST), also daylight savings time (United States).” You are saving time … not savings time. (sigh)
  3. Hyphens: Those little marks sure can make or break you. Heck, there’s a whole section in the AP Stylebook that says “use of the hyphen is far from standardized. It is optional in most cases, a matter of taste, judgment and style sense.” Just in case you weren’t already confused by them. The standard I go by is making sure to hyphenate words that act as adjectives or modifiers for a noun in the specific text. For example: full-time job; high-quality care; first-rate service. When coming after the noun, the modifier is no longer hyphenated, i.e. She has a job that is full time.
  4. Capitalization of titles: This one gets you, every time. People like to capitalize things — they just do. More important. More significant. But in some cases, more wrong. (OK, that was bad grammar, but you get the point.) Only capitalize titles when they are directly before someone’s name. For example: Vice President Public Relations Tiffany Whisner. When the title comes after your name, don’t capitalize it. I am Tiffany Whisner, vice president public relations. Hard to swallow, but if you really want your title capitalized, put it before your name.
  5. Comma, specifically the Oxford comma: I left this one for last. The Oxford comma is also known as the serial comma, and it sparks a lot of debate in the copy community. (Sad, isn’t it?) It’s the final comma in a list of things. AP Style does not require the use of the Oxford comma, and personally, I’m not a fan. I prefer, “The flag is red, white and blue” as opposed to, “The flag is red, white, and blue.” That last comma actually was difficult to even put in the sentence! I ONLY use the Oxford comma when the meaning of the sentence would otherwise be unclear. Now, when you start writing a complex series of words, that’s a different story. While I can’t say using the Oxford comma is wrong … I CAN say it’s a pet peeve. A big one.

Need someone to write or edit your article, blog, brochure, newsletter or website? We can do that for you, among other things. Rest assured your copy will be handled with care, sans the Oxford comma.

By Tiffany Whisner,
Vice President Public Relations

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Looking Back, Moving Forward

Ever since I started working at Coles Marketing — almost a decade ago (yikes!) — my coworker, Chris Mercier, has been a wonderful mentor and friend.

dsc_0098And at the end of this month, she’s retiring. I can’t imagine the workplace without her, so I thought a spotlight on her for this blog seemed quite fitting.

Q&A with Chris Mercier (it rhymes!)

Q: How did you get started with Coles? Why have you stayed so many years?

A: I joined the company when it was known as Coles & Morrison. I met Candy Morrison first through a non-profit. Working part-time at the non-profit was my first job going back to work after staying home with my two children. In 1998, Candy introduced me to Barb, and I joined the company.

d20_1669Q: Describe Coles Marketing in one word.

A: Family

Q: How has the PR/marketing/communications industry changed over the years?

A: When I first joined the company, six of us shared one email account. We sent news releases through the mail (snail mail). Social media wasn’t even on the horizon. Advertising was limited to print or broadcast. Clients have many more opportunities today to tell their stories.

img_2037Q: What qualities do you think are required of a leader for success?

A: I think a leadership role requires you to think on your feet. Develop honest relationships. Listen to your client to formulate a strategy to help them accomplish their goals. I enjoy the critical thinking it takes to come up with workable strategies for each challenge.

Q: What kind of impression or impact do you hope to leave on Coles Marketing and its employees?

A: I hope people remember that I was a hard worker with a sense of humor.

Q: Offer a piece of advice for up-and-coming PR and marketing executives.

A: My advice to future execs is to be a supportive and contributing member to the team. Always stay one step ahead by staying organized. Don’t be afraid to take on more responsibility, and embrace change.

mercier_5inQ: What’s ahead for you?

A: My husband and I look forward to spending more time in Scottsdale with our daughter, two grandchildren, Jim’s mom and dad and extended family of close to 50. We will also be closer to our son in Portland and hope to travel the western U.S. in the next few years.

 

Chris, we will miss you. You can never be replaced, and we will always remember you as a hard worker with a sense of humor … and so much more!

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Building a Strong Public Health Campaign

public health campaign

Tiffany Whisner

Tiffany Whisner

It takes organization, planning, a solid leader and a supportive team to pull off a public health campaign.

Coles Marketing is in the process of working on a public health campaign for the Seafood Nutrition Partnership, a nonprofit organization with a mission to inspire a healthier America by raising awareness about the essential nutritional benefits of eating seafood.

Team leader Chris Mercier has a lot on her plate as the team works to hook some meaningful partnerships.

 

Changing the tide on seafood

In 2014, Indianapolis was one of two pilot cities selected by the Seafood Nutrition Partnership (SNP) to conduct a grassroots public health educational campaign.

Chris Mercier

Chris Mercier

“Indianapolis was one of the cities selected because of our high incidents of heart disease and also because we are a population without as much access to seafood, therefore lacking the knowledge of how to select and cook it,” Mercier said.

Only one in 10 Americans follows the USDA Dietary Guidelines of eating seafood twice a week. And the biggest barrier to eating seafood is a lack of confidence to select, buy and eat it.

Coles Marketing was chosen to lead the campaign in Indianapolis — which included a series of educational events in business, healthcare and culinary communities — to raise awareness of the benefits of seafood and how to include it more frequently into daily meals.

 

Ingredients for a whale of a campaign

This year, as Coles Marketing prepares for a new wave of activities in October as National Seafood Month, Mercier highlighted the essential ingredients to a successful public health campaign:

  • Coalition: “Develop a local coalition of community leaders who support your mission and goals,” Mercier said. “It’s important for them to have an influential network of followers or constituents to help carry the campaign’s message.”
  • Events: “The goal of these educational events is to bring awareness to large and diverse groups of people about your message — in this case, seafood nutrition and the benefits of eating seafood.” These events include health fairs and cooking demonstrations.
  • Health screenings: Depending on the particular health campaign, coordinating screenings may be an important component, whether it’s Omega-3 screenings, or screenings for blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes or osteoporosis.
  • Communications and media outreach: “Use e-newsletters and other communications to keep your coalition in the loop, offering them information and updates to share with their network,” Mercier said. “And getting the word out through traditional and social media channels helps give that third-party recognition, endorsing and validating the campaign.”

 

How to reel in success

But what do you need to do to set your team up for achievement? Mercier said:

  1. Start early. “Get your messaging down and event dates secured in advance as much as possible.”
  2. Stay organized. “You are handling so many different tasks; you are bound to miss something if you don’t keep organized.”
  3. Have a committee. “Share duties with your team. Each person can work on a different aspect of the campaign so one member doesn’t have to do it all.”
  4. Gather a team of experts. “Meet both face-to-face and over the phone with coalition partners and other campaign leaders to get their feedback and support early on in the planning process.”
  5. Follow up. “It’s your duty to follow up with coalition members, team members and members of the media to keep your campaign on their radar.”

 

If you need help getting the word out about your health campaign, let us help you capture the message and audience you want. Contact us today!

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