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Lindsey Kuper

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Three-ring incompetence [Mar. 28th, 2010|10:54 pm]
Lindsey Kuper

Through an unfortunate series of clicks, I found myself at this horrible interactive marketing company website, reading about "copywriting". (I'd link directly to that section, but I can't because of their crappy Flash website.) Here's the first sentence of the "copywriting" section:

Mark Twain once said that the difference between choosing the right word from the perfect word, was the different between thunder and lightning.

Seriously, Three Ring Focus? Seriously? Three copywriting mistakes in the first sentence of the "copywriting" section of your website? A website that you're apparently proud of? I won't continue, because, amazingly, it gets worse from there.


[User Picture]From: oniugnip
2010-03-29 03:05 am (UTC)
For the less-eagle-eyed editors, could you point out the three mistakes?

All I'm finding is that "the difference between X from Y" is an odd construction, and that the commas are strange.

Oh, and maybe it's weird to have the beginning of the sentence say "said", and then have "was" as a past-tense as well? "... is the difference between thunder and lightning." might read better too?

Hrm. And maybe "choosing" is clunky. And "once".

How's this? Mark Twain said that the difference between the right word and the perfect word is the difference between thunder and lightning.
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[User Picture]From: lindseykuper
2010-03-29 03:15 am (UTC)
You got all three of mine and then some. If we're going for minimum Levenshtein distance, I'd change "from" to "and", remove the comma, and change "different" to "difference". Those three seem essential to me. Changing "was" to "is" and ditching "choosing" make it even better. I can live with "once".
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[User Picture]From: mindstalk
2010-03-29 04:20 am (UTC)
That's all small stuff. The true irony is far greater.

The difference between the almost right word & the right word is really a large matter--it's the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.
- Letter to George Bainton, 10/15/1888

*Thunder* and lightning?

Edited at 2010-03-29 04:20 am (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: lindseykuper
2010-03-29 04:49 am (UTC)
HOLY CRAP. You're right. Now that I think about it, I must have heard the "lightning bug and the lightning" quotation half a dozen times, but I didn't manage to recognize that that was what they were (utterly failing to) reference. Jeez. It's just layers upon layers of SUCK, isn't it?
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[User Picture]From: oniugnip
2010-03-29 05:11 am (UTC)

So by "almost right", he meant "subtly but definitely wrong", versus "probably good enough, but not as snappy as it could be".

That means something pretty different!

How long 'til we send Three Ring Focus a link?
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[User Picture]From: kel_e_o
2010-03-29 07:25 am (UTC)
Yup, I noticed that too. Also, it's real taboo to not have a quotation either in quotes or as a block quote if you're all about perfect form.

A big part of copywriting/editing is checking the accuracy of things like this. Even in my college copyediting course, most of my 20-21 year old peers found every factual error in the literary magazine that we were working on and managed to correct it. Sheesh.
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[User Picture]From: mindstalk
2010-03-29 11:51 am (UTC)
Ah, but thanks to the errors, Lindsey has brought something to our attention which would have otherwise evaded it. Marketing success!
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From: boojum
2010-03-30 05:17 am (UTC)
You could argue that they're doing an indirect quote instead of a direct quote.[1] I'm not sure that it's the right approach for a quote this short that's easy to look up, but it's at least an approach that's not terribly wrong, unlike everything else about the sentence.

[1] I've forgotten the actual terms, but here are examples that refer to the same fictional event:

a -- direct) Sally said, "Let's go see if there's a good movie showing."

b -- indirect) Sally said that we should go see a movie.
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[User Picture]From: kel_e_o
2010-04-02 04:44 am (UTC)
You're right. You could definitely say it like that. It still stands that they misquoted when it would've taken like three seconds to research it. Silly Marketing companies!
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[User Picture]From: gelishan
2010-04-04 10:03 pm (UTC)
If you are really being pedantic, you could also argue that Twain did not say that, he wrote it. So. Four copywriting + 1 factual errors in the first sentence.
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