Marketing Copywriting: Does ‘Anal Retentive’ Have a Hyphen?

There wouldn’t even be a brouhaha over one space or two if even having a marketing copywriting style guide as a reference didn’t seem so out of style.

There are many stellar copywriters out there. And there are equally great editors. But can we please have a marketing copywriting style guide?

You see, there appear to be (too) many discussions around the all-important matter of how many spaces a writer should place after an end punctuation. Two spaces later, and now I’ve added another one.

There’s the one-space marketing copywriting camp: the digerati, journalism (both digital and print), chronic text users, rule haters, possibly job-screeners looking to weed out (illegally, even in fun) anyone over 40 by examining their written work. Journalism? I received an “F” once in a J-school assignment, because my professor called me out for using two spaces after at full stop. Paper costs money, even if a Twitter character doesn’t.

And there’s the two-space marketing copywriting camp: Book publishing, science, aesthetics, rule respecters from days-long-past childhood education, and perhaps anyone anally retentive. Oh, did I say science? Yes, even researchers have weighed in on this weighty matter. And you knew it was coming … the digerati quickly responded: Mental Floss, and I really appreciate LifeHacker’s investigative response.

Punctuation in Marketing Copywriting: One or Two, Oh My! Whatever Are We to Do?!

I have to say, I’m flabbergasted by all this concern (or lack thereof) over marketing copywriting punctuation.

First, I demand that any HR professional who screens job applicants based on one-space use or two — as a tacit means for age discrimination — ought to be fired, and the company he or she works for sued to high heaven. (Good luck proving it.)

Second, I thank the researchers who have “proven” that all our eyes need a break — even if it’s only a couple of pixels. Dear reader, I know I’m prone to write long, drawn-out sentences, and I apologize. I’ve always suspected you needed a break — and, as a default, I’ve always sought to give you one. No matter what font is used.

Third, perhaps all we really need is a marketing copywriting style guide — and adhere to it. When I get a freelance assignment, one question I often ask, “Is there a style guide for your company or publication? If not, do you default to Associated Press, Wired or Chicago Manual of Style?“ Even studying a client’s website, direct mail, official filings or other communications simply to discern if a preference even exists (or not) is helpful. Observe, and do what the client does with marketing copywriting.

Anal-Retentive Marketing Copywriting: Why Bother? Bother

Logically, there wouldn’t even be a brouhaha over one space or two if even having a marketing copywriting style guide as a reference didn’t seem so out of style.

Perhaps “anything goes” and “break all rules” is the new style — and thus, I’ve wasted your time reading this column, as I get nostalgic for consistency, order, attention to detail, and a layer of copy editors and proofreaders who no longer exist in the world of on-demand communication. But as we throw away the style guides, do we have to throw away the fact-checkers, too?

I guess, these days, that’s also a matter of style. At least there will be no eye strain here, today.

[Editor’s Note: The editors of Target Marketing have removed one space after each of Chet’s sentences. He is now informed: It’s our style!]