Here’s a slightly belated quiz in honor of National Punctuation Day. What’s missing from each of these national ads?
Email promotion for the Pizza Hut P’Zolo.
Magazine ad for Crest Pro-Health “clinical” rinse and toothpaste.
If you said “the comma of direct address” – also known as “the Donner Party comma” – give yourself a standing ovation, sir or madam.
The P’Zolo headline needs a comma after “YA” to make it clear that the word is slang for “you” and not the librarian’s abbreviation for “young adult.” The Crest headline needs a comma after “hike” to avoid suggesting that the reader deserves a wall-mountable award for going the distance on the Appalachian Trail. (Better layout would help, too: the idiomatic “take a hike” shouldn’t be broken up over two lines.)
Who’s at fault? Maybe the copywriter; maybe the proofreader, if there was one. Most likely, a comma-averse art director decreed that an extra punctuation mark would disturb the Platonic perfection of his design. I speak from experience: I’ve had many frustrating conversations with designers and art directors who arbitrarily removed correct and necessary punctuation “because it looked funny.” To which I say: Stick to pictures, bub.