|Photo: Channel News Asia|
1) MAS didn't engage a copywriter. They might have engaged a design agency or printing agency to design and produce the folders and booklets, and included copywriting in the contract. The agency then got someone in-house, who's likely not a professional copywriter, to write the text. This is a common practice done to save costs. But how the error could also have been missed by MAS, who presumably would have to proof-read the text and give the final go-ahead, boggles the mind.
2) The more horrifying possibility is that both the copywriter and the person in charge of this project DIDN'T KNOW the name of our first president. One website did some sleuthing and actually found a list of instances where "Yusok Ishak" was erroneously published in mainstream media and government publications, including *horror of horrors* MOE and MINDEF! So did the MAS incident happen because someone conveniently cut-and-paste the info from another source and didn't know it was wrong? I really hope not because that would be too sad for words.
Anyway, in my line of work, I come across loads of writing errors all the time. While some of them are simply grammatical or typographical errors, my writers and I constantly lament that there's a lot more blatant usage of words without thought these days. Remember earlier this year when SingTel came under fire for using the tagline "Let's make everyday better"? The error: "everyday" as one word refers to the routine things we do each day but if that's the meaning SingTel had intended, the tagline should have read "Let's make the everyday better".
But fine - I can accept that not everyone is able to distinguish between "every day" and "everyday" (although an ad agency most certainly should). However, when I visited a SingTel shop a couple of weeks ago, I saw this emblazoned on the wall:
What a massive line of gobbledegook. Apart from the very strange sentence structure, what are they promoting? The fertility rate? Toothpaste? It's like someone ran a random slogan through Google Translate. Incidentally, the sentence below is wrong as well. It should be "family's" (singular) not "families'" (plural). Otherwise, I should be able to bundle my family's mobile plan with 10 other families and maybe get 100% discount.
One of my writers retorted, "Everyday better slap the copywriter." When I shared the photo on Facebook, a friend posted this pic:
Oh look - the same copywriter! Groan.
Actually, I don't know if it's just the copywriter who's inept (it baffles me how many people think just because they can string a grammatical sentence together, they are qualified to offer copywriting services) or the client who insisted on going with something unintelligible. But there are just too many ads that dress up gibberish with mood photography or fancy videography. I still remember a Capitaland tv commercial a few years ago that made me cringe. One of its lines was: "A good building is like a good person - you can't have one without the other." Whaaaaaat? Newsflash: Just because you use a manly, authoritative voice-over doesn't mean what he says makes any sense.
In the past, few organisations outsourced writing - most of the writing was done in-house by their own PR departments. However, from what clients and friends tell me, the art of writing has today become an elusive skill that eludes even communications staff. Hence, most writing is now outsourced. Yet we are still surrounded by bad English (I previously wrote about bad English being used in official channels in this post). Haiz.
In the quest to be original and capture attention, organisations and copywriters sometimes embark on English gymnastics. The trouble is if you're not an expert at it, you might end up in a tangled heap. Often, simplicity is best. No need to try so hard to be clever. Just be correct.