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November 29, 2005

Pronunciation is Bad (Advertising)

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Ever notice print advertisements where the headline is in the form of those pronunciation guides found in dictionaries? Sorry I can't find an example to display or link to, but what you get looks something like this (if your computer can match mine's symbol set, that is):

Thĭs ĭz Hrd t Fŏl

(Actually, the "Th" should have a line through it and the first two "o"s and the final one should have horizontal lines over them -- this is the best I can mimic my dictionary.)

I suppose my failing here is that I have an irrational aversion to pronunciation symbols (though, perversely, I use 'em when I need 'em). Sort of like sentence diagramming. Big-time rear-pains when I was in grammar school.

What's more, I can't imagine what the copywriter and art director were thinking when they created advertisements with symbol-strewn headlines.

Did they think the headline could be easily scanned?

Who were they trying to reach?

And who were they trying to impress? -- their Fifth Grade teachers?

Did they ever think it might be a turn-off to oddballs like moi?

Reactions, anyone?



posted by Donald at November 29, 2005


Ah, but look at it this way. You noticed the advertisements. That means they're working.

Posted by: Peter on November 29, 2005 9:23 PM

Heh. I wonder if a picture of a diagrammed sentence would prompt readers to stop and puzzlee it out?

Posted by: Brian on November 29, 2005 10:39 PM

I too have been noticing the pronunciation symbol adverts lately. They are usually accompanied by Michael's "nonsense brackets." Heh.

Posted by: Cody on November 29, 2005 11:35 PM

I think they're mainly designed to attract attention. Unfortunately, now they remind me of the college (or high school) essay that begins with "Webster's defines ______ as _____________."

It's a strategy whose time has come and gone.

Posted by: Dave Munger on November 30, 2005 6:40 AM

Related to this is the phenomenon of putting nonsensical umlauts (the two dots) over certain brand names.

Posted by: beloml on November 30, 2005 10:09 AM

Maybe they are there for folks who listen to audio books instead of doing the real thing and picking up one in print....;o)

Posted by: Deb on November 30, 2005 4:43 PM

Hay, hoo sez awdiobook fanz kain't rede?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on November 30, 2005 4:54 PM

Peter -- Well, getting noticed is an essential step in the advertising-to-sale process. But everything is wasted unless the final step -- eliciting the desired action -- occurs. Yes the ads with those marks get my attention but they are, for me, a total turn-off: no action elicited.

Dave -- Yep. Actually, I grind my teeth when almost any ad or article or whatever throws in a dictionary definition. Generally destroys the reading flow.

beloml -- Since I know some German, the umlaut pain for me is real!

Posted by: Donald Pittenger on November 30, 2005 8:42 PM

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