Should you, as television commercials suggest, “ask your doctor if you’re healthy enough for exercise?” Certainly not. Listen, we’re not advising you to ignore potential health risks. We’re just saying you should use proper grammar when chatting with your physician. In other words, ask your doctor whether you’re healthy enough.
Call us sticklers, but choosing between if and whether affects the meaning of your message. While whether refers to an alternative (you’re either safe enough for exercise or you’re not), if is conditional. What pharmaceutical advertisers are saying is, literally, “if you’re safe enough for exercise, ask your doctor.” And that, of course, is silly.
We see these copywriting mistakes every day. Which reminds us: everyday and every day have different meanings. The first is an adjective and the second is an adverb. Your business can offer everyday low prices every day. But it cannot offer low prices everyday.
Should we really care about grammar in advertising? We should if we care about truth in advertising. As it turns out, some word-choice errors might not be mistakes at all.
Consider a politician whose voiceover at the end of a campaign ad states, “I approve this message.” By using approve, that candidate is saying, “I feel positive about this message.” But the implied meaning is, “I endorse this message and consent to its use.” See how that works?
Improper word choice can result from sloppiness or deceit; in either case, it reflects poorly on your brand.
What you need is a good copywriter. And then you need to copyright your message. And that reminds us…