Who Cares About the English Language?

Language is important. My business partners must get bored when I keep harping on about this. But it is, and they agree…really. 

As an example, we recently rebranded from The Highlands Group to Highlands. OK, not a radical name change, however there were various reasons for this, one of which was that Bob really disliked the company being referred to as THG. 

Easy, kill the “The” and kill the “Group.” THG becomes Highlands. Boom! Well, it’s not that simple because despite Bob’s dislike of “THG” it had become endemic both inside and outside the business. Sure, we could tolerate (with a pinched smile) clients calling us THG, but we must be able to get it right internally. Slowly but surely, we are weeding out and changing all those documents lurking in the deepest recesses of SharePoint and we’re truly becoming Highlands. 

Once again, my daughter inspired me to write about this topic. For my recent flight from London to Chicago my Flight Kit included a book called F****** Apostrophes by Simon Griffin, a copywriter from Leeds in England. It’s a witty and informative rant about the correct use of apostrophes. 

Those who know me well will fondly remember those fun and invigorating conversations about the correct use of grammar and punctuation. Particularly rich from a Danish born Australian who went to a middling comprehensive school in the suburbs of Perth. 

Simon says, “The single most important rule of any punctuation is to help the reader understand what it is you’re going to say.” Too bloody right. As Lynn Truss says in her 2003 book there is a big difference between “Eats shoots and leaves” and “Eats, shoots and leaves”. 

Don’t get me wrong I’m not linguistic expert, perhaps just a bit of a smart-arse pedant, however if you want people to understand your message is it not unreasonable to spend the time to try and articulate it properly? You never know, if you take that time people might actually understand what it is you’re trying to say. 

That’s why all the best organizations take care to get their communications right. Governments, charities, businesses, media companies all employ highly qualified people to help get it right. Sure, nothing works all the time and sometimes so much care is taken not to offend that a message can become too bland and lose its meaning. That’s not a reason to shortcut the process. 

Well-articulated messaging is only part of the journey. What we say has to be backed up. A friend called any brand “A promise, delivered.” I really like. As an example, with the Highlands’ brand refresh we stated that our number one determinant in the recruitment and retention of staff would be cultural fit. We have articulated this well into the business, now we have to deliver against that promise. 

Reading Simon’s book and thinking about this topic has reminded me that we need to continually reassure clients that as we create their brand’s communication strategy, we will take every care to ensure their “voice” is communicated clearly. Whether it’s a website, a corporate brochure, a product flyer, advert or a promotional piece we will ensure their voice has clarity, is effective and resonates with the target audience. 

And we’ll do that by putting the apostrophes, commas, parentheses, semicolons and colons in the right place. 

If it’s worth doing, then it’s worth doing right. 

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