EDITORIAL: Back to Grammar School

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If the people behind the Caples Awards are good at one thing, it's getting attention. You may recall two recent letters to the editor: one complaining about Caples' banner ad campaign that made a mockery of the English language, using "should of" instead of "should have" or the contraction "should've"; the second saying, lighten up, people, it's a nod toward art directors who frequently mangle the English language to make the copy fit.

Now comes another letter this week from a creative director who felt put out by the second letter (http://www.dmnews.com/articles/2000-08-28/10244.html). To top it off, the Caples folks just mailed their latest call for entries: a poster-size, black-and-white mailer that employs an unfinished look, complete with proofreading marks. Included is a Post-it note with the true call-to-action: "Oh forget it. Just go to the Web site and get the entry forms yourself."

The "should of" banner campaign pulled in excellent results, said Connie LaMotta, CEO of public relations firm LaMotta Strategic Communications, who is doing pro-bono work for the Caples. "It's not about grammar, it's about conversation," she said, adding that more than 300 people downloaded the entry form from the Caples Web site. "It's only the purists who would say it's a mistake."

Beg to differ, but it is a grammatical error. The good thing about advertising, however, is that you don't have to be a linguist to get results. Remember "Winston tastes good -- like a cigarette should"? The language sticklers will tell you the "like" should be "as." While Mrs. Horner, my seventh-grade English teacher, would have frowned and sent me back to my desk, luckily, she's not a Caples judge.

Farewell to a Pioneer

The industry lost a friend and educator with the passing of Nat Ross, who developed New York University's direct marketing program 34 years ago. It was Nat's tireless support that helped guide thousands of young people, and NYU's introductory DM course has become known as "the Nat Ross Course." Nat, your leadership will be missed.

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