Period Pieces

by Charmaine on January 23, 2011

We’ve become immune to the stylistic appropriation of periods for dramatic pause in titles and taglines.

It’s gotten to the point where I hear a little voice in my head — an overly dramatic one that doesn’t for a second actually mean or believe what it’s saying — whenever these egregious sentence fragments find themselves beneath my gaze. Here are several examples of subtitles from an employee publication. They’re all real, and I think it’s saying something that I didn’t have to edit a single one of them to hide the name of the client:

  • Small group. Significant impact.
  • Changing behavior. Reaping the rewards.
  • Two teams. One common goal.
  • Looking outwards. Growing internally.
  • Taking risks. Moving forward.
  • Fueling the future. Driving opportunities.
  • Power Management: Structured for growth. Positioned for the future.
  • Five business units. Unlimited opportunities.
  • Gaining access. Gaining knowledge.
  • Electing the best. Recognizing excellence.
  • Together. Overcoming every challenge.

Maybe I’m so annoyed because these are supposed to be subtitles, not advertisements. (I have been known to be overly sensitive to the encroachment of advertising into editorial.) Without the period, subtitles like “Moving forward” or “One common goal” would have gone right past me. Even a comma between the phrases wouldn’t have kept me up nights, but for some reason the periods here just smack of smarm.

Perhaps this trend echoes the rather recent adoption of periods to mean a dramatic or commanding tone when spoken, like “It. Happened. Again.” or “Get. Over. Here. Now.”

Slightly different but just as aggravating is this tagline:

  • Experience. Wellness. Everywhere.

I get it. It’s three separate taglines and yet still works as a complete sentence (a command sentence at that). But let’s go along for the ride and treat each one-word sentence as a singular concept thus applied to the company.  “Everywhere” might come off as a tad creepy (and probably inaccurate), while unfortunately the sole concept of “Wellness” applied to a health insurer might prove ironic. I kind of like “Experience,” which does double duty here as both a noun and a verb, but this word has been so overused in business contexts that would take quite a bit of evocative imagery for it to mean anything.

They’re a former client, and were absolutely delightful to work with, so enough finger-pointing.

Take a look at this Sony website. The tagline for their entire site is “make.believe” but they don’t even have a period after “believe.” Is this like India.Arie or something? A little way down the page is “Hip. Trendy. VAIO.” Although these are, like the other examples, sentence fragments, at least they’re not also doing double duty as a faux complete sentence.

I don’t suppose we can put the periods back in the punctuation box to play with only when we’re at the end of a thought. But do watch for confusion between what’s an ad and what’s just bad.

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