As communicators, language is important. Our living depends on how well we communicate with our current and potential customers. Language binds us culturally, intellectually, and generationally. We use different words for different occasions. The norms we create within our culture dictate the right time to use slang, proper words, and even "text language."
But should we be upset when our younger generations use "u" instead of "you?" Should we correct our audience when they use "literally" instead of "figuratively"?
Is it acceptable to announce these word crimes?
For the longest time, we were members of the Grammar Police. We shouted shame on those who, in our opinion, bastardized the English language. But as we continue to observe consumer behavior and societal development, in order for a culture to progress, the way we communicate will naturally change.
To impede change is to impede progress. That, too, applies to how sentences and words are formed.
We were further convinced when we watched a TED talk from one of the editors from Wordnik, an online dictionary. She showed how several words were stolen from other languages, how words were compounded to create new words, and how other words that were once nouns were also made into verbs.
She also said that the English language should be considered in the same realm as science and art; it should be explored, innovated, and changed.
After some thought, we agree.
So why does this apply to advertising and marketing? Simply put, we need to speak the same language as our customers. If words and their meanings change, we need to be adept enough to make the changes. We can't be grammar sticklers, we need to embrace creative adjustments to our language.
Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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