Most of the time, a writer wants to be as clear as possible. But with taglines and slogans, ambiguity can be an asset. In my latest column for the Visual Thesaurus (by subscription), I look at some famous examples of ambiguous taglines and consider what makes them effective. Here’s an excerpt:
One of the longest-running and most famous examples of a semantically ambiguous slogan is “When It Rains It Pours,” created in 1911 for Morton Salt and still used today. According to the company’s website, the first attempt at a tagline was “Even in Rainy Weather It Flows Freely,” which was vetoed because it was too long. The next efforts—“Flows Freely,” “Runs Freely,” and simply “Pours”—were short but pedestrian. The winning slogan came from putting a positive spin on the old proverb “It never rains but it pours.” Instead of “never” and “but” we now have the repeated “it” with its double meaning: the first time, it refers to weather; the second time, it refers to the salt inside the box. Rhythm, repetition, and a sprinkling of ambiguity have given this slogan a century-long lifespan.
Read the rest of “The Power of Ambiguity.” And don’t forget to rate!