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The Copy Police are on Patrol…

July 11th, 2009 by Bob Bly

…and we’ve issued a summons for wrong usage to

They sell a food producer which they claim is equivalent to professional models that sell for $1,200.

They proclaim that by buying Health Master, “you won’t pay even a fraction of that price!”

But yes, you WILL pay a fraction of that price — simply because ANY discounted price is a fraction of the higher price.

If they sell the processor for a mere $100, that’s still a fraction of the professional model price — and that fraction is 1/12th.

A nitpik? Yes. But whenever you misuse the language, you get a percentage of readers who are driven to distraction and won’t buy from you because of the error.

So it pays to write it right. As the TV commercials for vocabulary courses point out: “People judge you by the words you use.”

Does Health Master’s error rub you the wrong way too?

Or am I just making much ado about nothing?


This entry was posted on Saturday, July 11th, 2009 at 4:43 pm and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

42 responses about “The Copy Police are on Patrol…”

  1. Jodi Kaplan said:

    This reminds me of a local tutoring service that was running TV ads with random acts of capitalization; not exactly a good way to build trust and credibility.

  2. Brett Owens said:

    Yeah I’m with you, nice call by the Copy Police…besides being inaccurate, it also reads in a strange way.

  3. Ken Norkin - Freelance Copywriter said:

    Of course you’re not nit-picking because “you won’t pay even a fraction of that price!” is nonsense in every way — usage, marketing, legal, purely factual.

    This is one of those cases where I can’t even correct it in my head to say what they intended to say, because I have no idea what they’re trying to say. As you hint at, only if the processor is free will you not pay even a fraction of that price, since every price other than free is a fraction.

    The best I can figure is that the price is so low that “you’ll pay only an unbelievably low fraction of that price!”

  4. Phil Wrzesinski said:

    Have you considered that their price might actually be higher? Then you wouldn’t be factually paying a fraction of the price. Maybe this was the legal department’s way of covering themselves when they gouge the heck out of you with some bait & switch or hidden fee.

    Of course you have to call these people on it. It’s just like the Wal-Mart Price Rollback signs with higher prices than the previous price. They are expecting gullible people to buy their hype, when hype is all it is – no substance.

    Keep it up, Copy Police. We need you.

  5. Bob Bly said:

    Phil: The price is not higher, and I know because they gave the price in the commercial, naturally. But even if it was higher, it is still technically a fraction — if the normal price is $1,200 and theirs was $1,500, that fraction would be 5/4.

  6. Conrad said:

    Hi Bob,

    Anyone meeting a client would take the time to clean the lint from their clothes, buff their shoes and make sure their hair is straight. At least, anyone interested in making a good impression would.

    So what is it that makes some advertisers careless and flippant when they are dressing their product with advertising copy?

    Even worse than making a bad first impressions is that once their ad is “out there,” they will continue to make the bad impression over and over and over again. Who hasn’t read a poor ad and wondered how a company can care so little about itself that it allows the ad to continue running?

    Keep picking the nits, Bob.

    Conrad Hall

  7. Bill Perry said:

    I think by saying it that way, they were going after a psychological trick of making it even less expensive than when the other guys say “You can get it at just a fraction of the normal price.”

    Other than that, I’m not sure.
    My 1/50 of a dollar 😉

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