Friday, October 06, 2006

Essential Punctuation

Dude – where’s my “s?”

In an otherwise interesting billboard on Interstate 10 just west of Studemont, whomever is doing the outdoor for the American Chemistry Council (ACC) has decided to follow a punctuation stylebook of his own.

The possessive form of Texas is supposed to be Texas’s.

The headline on the right should read, “$72 billion of Texas’s economy?”

The beginning of the question is “what’s essential2” on the left-hand side of the board.

It’s part of a new $35 million dollar public education campaign started about this time last year by the ACC, the trade association for the world's leading companies engaged in the business of chemistry. It’s designed to increase awareness of the chemistry industry’s contributions to modern life, from innovations in everyday products to the US economy overall.

The integrated “essential2campaign uses advertising, public relations, a new website and employee communications. It was created in conjunction with Ogilvy & Mather, Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide and APCO Worldwide.

I earn part of my living from my work with the chemical industry and have done so for years. Still, it hasn’t escaped criticism: the ACC has been caught doing some not-quite-right things over the years.

Nevertheless, I applaud the campaign effort – particularly the billboard design, which has the potential (in other executions) to drive home strong economic facts about the contributions of the chemical industry.

In this one, though, the copywriter is using some less rigorous style book. Or the art director ran out of room on the board and decided to eliminate the extra “s” in Texas.

My dear old Fowler’s Modern English Usage (Second Edition) states on page 46: “…elsewhere we now usually add the s and the syllable.”

I also offer Garner’s recent Dictionary of Modern American Usage, page 509: “To form a singular possessive, add –‘s to most singular nouns – even those ending in –s and –x (hence witness’s, Vitex’s, Jones’s, Nichols’s.)”

Alright, so it’s the pea under my mattress today. But this is an important campaign for the chemical industry. Why screw up a perfectly nice billboard with incorrect English usage?

Campaign theme is Photograph courtesy of Paul Leigh. Materials © 2006 American Chemistry Council, Inc.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is yet another example of virtually every governmental, bureaucratic or industry initiative; the results of which is that each one always ends up losing its "S" in the process !