The Ad Grad

The Three Most Hideous Punctuation Errors in Advertising

Posted in Advertising, Copywriting by brookerandel on May 22, 2010

In advertising, concept comes first. But having a big-picture focus shouldn’t mean forgetting to polish and perfect every nuanced detail of a campaign. Suzanne Pope, ACD at John St, recently wrote about the implications of typos in ads. And she’s right. Obvious errors, like misspellings,  are bad.  But poor punctuation is just as common and often just as ugly. In fact, Grammar Girl Mignon Fogarty proves this point with her recent tweet:

So how does poor punctuation play out in advertising? What a well-timed question, my friend. Here’s a breakdown of the three most hideous misuses of punctuation in advertising. (Disagree with my top three? Add yours to the comments).


An ellipsis, or the infamous dot-dot-dot (…), represents a pause or break. While we do pause frequently in natural speech, ellipses look terrible in print, especially in advertising. When an advertiser uses an ellipsis, they come across as overly dramatic or untrustworthy. Here’s an example of a poorly placed ellipsis:

It’s better to be straight and to the point than to make consumers…question your sincerity.


Oh, quotation marks. For some reason, local advertisers especially seem to struggle with when and where to use quotes. And when faced with this struggle, it seems they always throw them in to there “just to be safe.” But if the copy isn’t actually quoting someone (or mock-quoting someone), then the quotes undermine the message. Here’s a classic example from the endlessly funny “Blog” of “Unnecessary” Quotation Marks:

I hope this yard sale lasts forever (Credit: The "Blog" of "Unnecessary" Quotation Marks)

Or take this sign, which attempts to explain the rules of the gym:

(Credit: The "Blog" of "Unnecessary" Quotation Marks)

When in doubt, go without. “Trust me.”

Exclamation Points

Exclamation points are intended to show enthusiasm. In advertising, they just look cheesy.

And stupid:

Remember, exclamation points are not question marks. They make ads sound incredibly desperate for attention!!!!


Advertising should be clear and meaningful. Punctuation can help achieve this, but not when used incorrectly. So…be aware. Be “alert.” And please! Be more observant.


3 Responses

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  1. Elizabeth said, on September 28, 2014 at 12:17 am

    Be “alert.” Well, because the world needs more “lerts”,,, don’t you think???!!!
    LOL. I enjoyed all your comments and agree with your top three choices.

  2. vasreadingresearch said, on September 28, 2014 at 12:45 am

    Thanks for the comments.
    I take issue with your attack on elipses, the three dot interruptions. I find that elipses convey a pause in thinking more accurately than any other grammatical device and have never associated the three dots with ‘untrustworthiness’ or being overly dramatic. If you have evidence to support this assertion I would be pleased. If you have a better alternative I will be grateful.
    Byron Harrison

  3. Social Bug said, on October 1, 2014 at 4:52 am

    Haha… these are great examples! The quotation and explanation punctuation errors are my biggest pet peeve! Here are my top 5 posted on the Speaking of Wealth blog!!!?? 🙂

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