Interesting!

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We’re not fans of overusing exclamation marks. Like swear words, using exclamation marks sparingly enhances their meaning.

Or so we believe.

The upcoming generation doesn’t think so. According to a 2015 CBC article,

The exclamation point was found to make messages seem more sincere, rather than less, as it conveys information about how someone is feeling (enthusiastic, usually, or at least very strongly about something).

While some in recent years have lamented the rise of the exclamation point as the fall of proper grammar, many digital natives now see it as somewhat neutral — especially in an era of cry-face emojis and Instagram hearts.

How ’bout that!

But that’s not all the article said. It also referenced a study that found a change in the period’s reputation.

“The period was always the humblest of punctuation marks. Recently, however, it’s started getting angry,” wrote Ben Crair for the American magazine. “I’ve noticed it in my text messages and online chats, where people use the period not simply to conclude a sentence, but to announce ‘I am not happy about the sentence I just concluded.'”

So let’s get this straight.

To be seen as sincere, you have to come off as overly excited about everything. And to avoid seeming pissed off, you have to ignore the first and most basic rule of grammar.

A: What’s this world coming to?

B: It’s just the way the language is evolving!

A: It’s stupid. And it makes communication more unclear.

B: It’s progressive! And helps convey authenticity!

A: At the expense of clarity.

B: Hey! Can’t make an omelette without breaking a few….!

A: Oh shut up.

We Love When This Happens

Coming across a great use of words is such a treat. Most recently, it happened at a cottage in the Bruce Peninsula when we pulled this bad boy out to try.

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First of all, any game that requires a tie to play is our kind of game (we’re classy like that). Then “Game of Words” sold us because, well, y’know….

Turns out, Probe is AWESOME. It’s like hangman meets cribbage meets scrabble.

You think of a word, spell it out in cards and place them face down in front of you. If you go first, you might say “any Rs?” Anyone else who has an R has to reveal it. Players with more than one R in their words can choose which of their Rs to reveal based on their point values. Each card has a point value, which all go to you.

Your turn ends when you guess a letter that no one has. Then the next person goes.

What’s cool about the game is that it’s not a race to guess the word. Instead it’s a race for points. So even if your word is fully revealed, you still get to guess letters and collect points.

There are cool features like blank cards to bluff your opponents and activity cards that let you do things like triple your point value and get opponents to do things like keep score. As you can imagine, we created a few of our own activity cards. We had one dude play a round in a Scottish accent. It was very poor. And very funny.

Probe’s retail price in 1972 was six bucks. Good deal for our hosts.

Titles Shmitles

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We don’t have titles at Re:word. We have job descriptions. And they’re really easy. Dan’s a copywriter. So is Alex. Gina’s a copyeditor. Marie-Claude and Martine are translators.

“But wait…how are clients supposed to know who the good ones are?”

If they work for us, they’re good — no title required.

The Quest for Words

One of our graphic design partners once said, “Any job title with more than three words is bullshit.” And it’s so true when you meet people with full sentences under their names on their email signatures. Ask them what they do and they can’t give you a straight answer. “Well…I kinda do this, with a bit of that, but I’m actually supposed to be doing the other.”

And it’s not their fault. It’s the system we all work in that equates quantity with quality when it comes to job titles. If you’re a high-quality professional, you don’t need superlatives. CEO. Centre Fielder. Proofreader. Plumber. Easy.

Judge the logo. Not the title.

What do you call the guy who graduated last in his class from Harvard? A Harvard grad. If he was smart enough to get in and smart enough to get his degree, you know he’s worth a look. When you’re evaluating talent, pay less attention to what they do and more attention to who they do it for. A Google technical analyst is not the same as a Yahoo technical analyst. A BMW car designer is not the same as a Lada car designer. And a Re:word copywriter — well, you get the idea.

Apple’s Upset Core

Apple’s dashboard comes with a great dictionary/thesaurus. It’s intuitive. It’s easy to access. And for an offline tool, it’s impressively comprehensive.

We use it all the time and, until this week, had nothing negative to say about it.

Then we stumbled upon this while researching a white paper we were writing.

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Yes, they’re using the word correctly, but could they not have used another example? You know, one that doesn’t put off their key demographic (the creative class) or flat-out lie about them?

Here’s the deal, Apple: Copywriters aren’t a cog in the big advertising machine. We’re the fuel that makes it work. We’re the ones who take advertising from art to persuasion. And you should know that better than anyone because great copywriters made you what you are. The famous “1984” Superbowl commercial? That was the work of copywriter Steve Hayden. I’m a Mac and I’m a PC? Barton Corley and Jason Sperling.

These are the people who turned your product into a brand and your brand into a juggernaut — and you repay them by insinuating they’re mere cogs?

But because we still love you, Apple, rather than make a big deal out of this, we’re going to help you with three alts for this dictionary entry:

Coffee cup makers have been seen as just a cog in the Starbucks machine.

Position-based coaches (O-Line, D-Line, etc.) have been seen as an important cog in the success of a football team.

Bulldozer operators are just another cog on the job site. But without them, nothing can begin.*

You’re welcome.

*PS: This example was inspired by a new client. Stay tuned for the announcement.

Talking to your Kids about English Class

12212474014_523cd63525_bThere comes a point in every high school student’s life when they wonder why they have to take English. “I know how to speak,” they’ll say. “And I know how to write.” How is reading The Stone Angel or another Shakespeare play going to help me?”

And you can say, “Glad you asked.”

Reading books

Three reasons to appreciate this.

Firstly, when you have a job and a spouse and kids of your own and a dog and the gym, all you’ll want is the time to sit in a chair and read a book. So take advantage now.

Secondly, your writing style is shaped by what you read, and the curriculum is designed to expose you to the best of as many styles as possible. We talked about The Stone Angel up top. Margaret Laurence (writing as Hagar Currie Shipley) tells it like it is — exactly what people look for from CVs, cover letters, emails and texts. But then you’ll also read The Grapes of Wrath, which will train your vocabulary to describe the things you see. When you’re presenting to a room full of clients, you’ll want to be able to spin a yard descriptively. As for Shakespeare — any high-schooler who reads Hamlet will know, no matter what they’re feeling, that they’re not alone.

Thirdly, reading gives you practice reading well-written, well-edited English. The more you see

to, too and two being used correctly, the less likely you are to use it incorrectly. Same with your / you’re, it’s / its and heroine / heroin.  

Writing Poetry

Poetry is about finding the best way to say what you want to say within the confines of an unforgiving construct. If you’re writing in iambic pentameter (ba DUM, ba DUM, ba DUM, ba DUM, baDUM), you have to know the word “wonderful” won’t work in your piece, but that “sublime” would.

In the real world you won’t find cadence-related restrictions, but character counts and word counts are everywhere. Poetry trains your mind to manage those restrictions and still impress. Your tweets, posts and blogs are all better when they’re shorter.

Literary Criticism

By dissecting a piece of writing, you’re mastering the art of thinking, reflecting and analyzing. Judging the quality of an author’s attempt at pathetic fallacy, metaphors and similes helps you judge the quality of any type of art later on in life.

Whether you’re evaluating a potential supplier’s pitch to you, engaging in conversation on a first date, strolling through an art gallery or in the audience at your nephew’s school play, having the ability to thoughtfully consider what you’ve seen and heard, and deciding if you like it, is key to both your understanding of the world and always having something to talk about.

Dan’s favourite English teacher was Ms. O’Brien at York Mills Collegiate in Toronto. His essays always smelled like cigarettes when he got them back, but the comments were always on point.

Who was your favourite English teacher and why? Let us know in the comments.

So You Wanna Be a Re:word copywriter

write-593333_960_720We get it. It’s a great gig. Here’s why:

There’s no heavy lifting.

Sure, there’s metaphorical heavy lifting in copywriting, like when you have to find one or two words to (a) express a massive idea and (b) get your reader to take a specific action. Your brain will hurt. But your back won’t.

You’ll learn something new every day.

As a copywriter, your role is to assume the voice of the company. That means you have to know what they know, as well as they know it, so you can talk about it as confidently as they do. In the past year our copywriters have learned:

– how hot runner machines inject liquid plastic into molds to create kids’ wading pools

– who is preventing Toronto’s Pearson Airport from becoming the world’s largest airport

– when the best time of day is to pin a home-decorating-related picture to a Pinterest board

– why the Great King Zazzdooks cast a spell over the Shinegans of Rolling Forest

– where the next big boom town is (not at all where you’d think it’d be)

– what the USA’s new mortgage laws actually mean

And that’s just the tip of it. We can’t think of another profession where you learn more about more. It’s awesome for picking up women at pub trivia nights.

You get to say things you’d never say in polite company

That’s not to say that it’ll ever get printed or published. But we can promise that you’ll NEVER be fired for pushing the envelope. It’s a lot easier to pull you back than to push you farther.

Some of our clients will wish they were you.

Seriously. It’s quite the ego trip. And it’s 100% true. One day, you’ll show up to a client meeting at some stuffy office where everyone’s wearing pleated pants and collared shirts and the only sounds you’ll hear are the hum of the fluorescent lights, the clickity-clack of typing and the occasional phone. You’ll start presenting your work, and based on your tone alone, they’ll know when you leave it’ll be back to your funky office in the funky part of town, whereas they’ll be heading back to Beige City.

You can say goodbye to 9-5.

A lot of “office jobs” claim flexibility, but don’t deliver. Not so with copywriting. If you have a project due Thursday at 2:30, we won’t care where you are and what you’re doing until Thursday at 2:30 — as long as you give us something fabulous.

Ok, so those are the broad strokes of working for Re:word. Want to find out more? Drop us a line or give us a call.

How to Write a Resignation Letter

entrepreneur-593378_960_720As much as you probably can’t wait to drop the bomb and get outta there, the actual drop itself can be a bit daunting when the time comes to resign from your job. You want to word it just right so you leave gracefully and don’t burn any bridges — unless you do want to burn them, in which case, burn away.

Ultimately, you’ve decided to move on to bigger and better prospects and should be a good sport about it. And as horrible as your job may have been, it’s a good play to leave on a positive note because you don’t know when you might cross paths with those people again.

When crafting an impactful resignation letter, you obviously need to watch your words. In all likelihood, they’re the last ones they’ll hear out of you. So make them good.

Be short and sweet.

Don’t beat around the bush. Get straight to your point and make it quick. The main point you’re trying to get to should be something like this:

Dear so and so…

Please accept my formal resignation.

My last day will be two Fridays from now.

Depending on how long you’ve worked at this particular place, this may not be the best policy.

If you’ve put in a decade or more, you may want to go into a few more details such as how you plan on helping them with their transition in finding and training a new person.

Keep it professional.

Want to drop the hammer in the most cathartic and profane way possible? Resist the urge and relish in the fact that you no longer have to deal with them. Keep a professional tone that shows no resentment or hate.

But if there’s something you want to get off your chest, phrase it in the form of respective constructive criticism. You’ll know what you mean and so will they.

Keep the lines open.

Even if you have no intention of doing so, tell them you’d like to stay in touch for whatever they may need in the future: you never know when you might cross paths again (especially in niche industries). Keep your friends close and your enemies closer, right?

How to Choose the Perfect Book as a Gift

Books as Presents - IMageWe like to include books as part of every birthday gift. Sometimes they’re novels, other times they’re books of quotes like the one above. And they’re never the whole gift, so don’t think we’re those jerks who give books because we write and edit for a living.

We give books because we love ideas. And the written word is still the best way to share them.

In a movie, you can hear something brilliant. But then the story moves on and you can’t stop to consider what was said ¾ well, you can, but then you’d have to pause the movie — and the person you’re watching with probably won’t appreciate it.

But with reading, you have the power. You can stop. You can think. You can put the book down to research the idea further and then go back to it. And you can take the time to formulate your own ideas you can then share with others.

It’s like re-gifting.

129,864,880 choices and counting.

In 2010, that’s how many book titles there were in the world according to Google. So there really is something for everyone. Just a little bit of thought can go a long way to perfectly matching book to birthday girl.

For Avid Readers

They’ll appreciate your gift more than anyone. But they’re also the most discerning. They know what they like and you should too. Next time you’re in their house, take a discreet pic of their bookshelf, then go to the bookstore and ask for a recommendation based on what they like to read.

Tip: Don’t buy off the Bestsellers list. These people know what’s there. If they wanted to read it, they probably already have it.

For Sometimes Readers

A collection of short stories is perfect for these folks. And there are titles in every possible genre, so you go with something they like. They can commit to a few pages at a time (like, say, on the throne), and they won’t lose out on leaving a month or two in between them.

Tip: Look for books mostly contributed to by journalists. They write informative, digestible copy for a living.

For Never Readers

Books remind these people of high-school English class. Blech. So instead of thinking biography or novella, think cookbook or collection of movie posters. Because everybody needs to eat, and movie posters are awesome.

Tip: These folks most definitely judge a book by its cover. So find something interesting. Chances are it’ll be a display piece anyway.

The Right Moment for a Perfectly Timed Curse Word

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Even those who aren’t avid cursers will let an F-bomb out at the appropriate time. WTF? There’s an appropriate time to swear? All you polite rule-followers may want to listen up because we’re about to share all the times when you can get away with a perfect dose of profanity.

At the peak of pain.

Whether the pain is physical or emotional, whether it’s the pain of your own failure or whether you’re pained by the injustice of the world — all are fair game. You stubbed your toe? F@#%! You just deleted 18 hours worth of spreadsheets by accident? S#*&! It’s a release of emotion after being hurt, so it’s immediately justified. Especially if it comes out in a very loud, drawn-out yelp. Level of drama should be proportional to the degree of pain.

To break an awkward silence.

Heard someone say something really strange and not quite sure how to react? Well, f*@&. There are just certain times when no other words can do the situation any justice. In that case… sh!#. That one lone curse word is vague yet precise enough to either end the conversation, or make the other person comfortable enough to keep it going and hopefully break the awkwardness. One can only hope.

To channel fury.

Studies have actually shown that swearing (as opposed to bottling up anger) is a healthy way to deal with rage. Letting those curse words out is a cathartic release that makes us feel better. Don’t apologize for the expletives — you’re just looking out for your own well-being. It’s science; curse on!

To put an idiot in his place.

Sometimes, there really is no better way of telling someone to shut the f%#* up than by just saying it. Chances are they deserve it. This is a time when you really shouldn’t hold back. The more sass, the better the effect. Just make sure you’re in the type of relationship with them to be able to get away with it. Your boss probably isn’t the one to use in this situation.

Just because.

If it feels natural, do it. Why the fuck not?

Taking Ownership: What Makes Words Ours?

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Just like the idiosyncrasies of our personalities, our vocabularies make us distinctly who we are — or at least make us sound like who we are. Look at a block of written text someone you know wrote, and you can probably tell who wrote it just by paying attention to the words they used.

From the pet names we have for others to our distinct catch phrases, to our assortment of curse words; we have a way of sticking to certain ones that we eventually adopt as our own. And at that point we call others out for using “our words.”

Let’s take a closer look at what makes words distinctly ours.

Saying it first.

Being the first to say it is the definition of coining a term, right? Oy with the poodles, already! was born out of thin air. It’s just how it happens. You’re in the moment, and BAM! It’s like the saying goes about modern art: I could’ve done that. Yeah, but you didn’t.

Saying it often.

Paris Hilton was far from being the first person ever to say that something was hot. But she kept at it. Eventually, we ended up with the mindless yet catchy, “That’s hot.”

*eye roll*

Similarly, Donald Trump decided to reserve the rights to the phrase, “You’re fired!” after using it in every one of his The Apprentice episodes. Talk about originality.

The same principle works in literature; you know The Great Gatsby is talking to you when he asks, “How about that, old sport?” Or that Dear Sugar is soothing your worries when she calls you “sweet pea.”

Saying it, period.

Have you ever heard anyone other than Fred Flintstone say, “Yabba Dabba Doo?” Maybe cause no one else can pull it off. Same way that only Bart Simpson can tell you to eat his shorts. As long as you’re saying something outlandish enough that no one else would ever say, consider it yours. Bazinga!

Saying it with sass.

Joey from Friends probably inspired many to use his classic pick-up line, “How you doin?” Nothing special about the line itself, except how he said it. Similarly, Frank from Everybody Loves Raymond had a very specific way of saying, “Holy Crap!” Specific enough that it became his thing.

So next time you notice someone start to use the same words you do, consider it a compliment.