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Go tell it on the mountain

22/03/2012

We had a death in the family last week (which accounts, incidentally, for the spasmodic blogging of late), and yesterday I had my appointment with the Registrar to go through all the tiresome formalities of signing somebody off from the clutches of Big Brother.  That’s the Orwellian dystopia, of course, as opposed to the Endemolian rubbish.

As it happens, the county’s computer chose that moment to spit its dummy out and yell “shan’t”, when invited to work for its living.  This left me kicking my heels in the ante-room, while censers were waggled frantically and emollient prayers were chanted to get the mighty machine working once more.

There was a scrolling video-advertising display on the wall, for various services connected to the human procedures of birth, marriage and death. Taking a detached ‘professional’ interest rather than as a potential customer, three of the ten advertisements were wrong. One had conflicting sub-clauses so elaborately punctuated as to turn the simple message – This is us. This is what we do. This is how you contact us – into convoluted gibberish. One had three spelling errors in the text, which would have earned bloody knuckles in my day. The last even managed to get the spelling of its town wrong, rendering ‘Andover’ as ‘Andove’.

By all the gods, how difficult is it to check 50 words of simple text? You’re investing your hard-earned in a message to sell yourself and your services as faultlessly, reliably professional and attentive to the needs of your customers, yet you’re too slipshod, idle or stupid to spell Andover correctly.

There’s a connected question which has nothing to do with text-editing, and more to do with advertising theory? By the time that ‘customers’ get to the Registry Office, the child’s been born, decisions about the wedding ceremony and reception have been taken, the stiff’s already in the undertaker’s fridge. Surely spending money on advertising at that stage is, even more than usually, money utterly wasted. Well, that’s what ‘my’ undertaker thought, deriding the competition for being suckered in.

Oh, one of the official forms has an unforgiveable split infinitive in it, the spotting of which quite made my day, giving me a chuckle at a time of stress!

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