Grammatically correct branding

August 6, 2012

A motto, slogan or tagline needs to be short, sweet and memorable. But does it need punctuation? Are taglines like “Rethink possible.” or “Save money. Live better.” more effective than taglines like “Don’t be evil” or “Impossible is nothing”? How much of a difference does a period make?

I would like to think that grammar and punctuation in taglines help rather than hinder. It can help remove unwanted interpretations of a phrase. Several taglines, slogans and mottos change punctuation without any sense of reasoning or logic though. This is becoming even more prevalent through social media, where text space is at a premium. Spelling, grammar and punctuation are all minimal concerns when either texting or posting to Twitter or Facebook.

Language evolves with each generation. It’s entirely possible that punctuation and grammar is shifting due to quirks of social media and the generally accepted abbreviations used for texting. Twitter’s 140 character limitations seem to either inspire haiku-esque statements, or a devolution to 1337-speak styled spelling so everything can fit.

If you’re creating a one liner or one-word statement that embodies your company, campaign or product, then it has to be very clearly defined. Punctuation can help in that definition, as long as there is reasoning behind it. If you have a period in your tagline, then that period should appear in all communications the tagline is in. The same should go for any punctuation or specific phrasing you use.

Personally, I tilt my head or squint a bit when I see unusually phrased taglines in the media, or unexpected punctuation in corporate mottos. But I try to keep in mind that a majority of consumers and the public at large are not English majors, like myself, and generally don’t care about such literary quirks. They’re more willing to take a company tagline for how it’s meant to be interpreted, instead of focusing on all the potential misinterpretations.

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