Atlanta copy writing

Gotcha Grammar: To Use or Not to Use—The Oxford Comma

In our last Gotcha Grammar blog, we explained the complicated world of the apostrophe. This time we thought we’d elucidate a grammar rule that’s a common debate topic among writers—even among those at McCauley Services: the Oxford comma.

Also known as the serial comma, the Oxford comma is used immediately before a conjunction (and, or, and even nor) in a list of three or more things. For example, in the phrase “Tim, Judy, and Frank design websites,” the Oxford comma appears after “Judy.” Whereas in this version, “Tim, Judy and Frank design websites” the Oxford comma is omitted.

You’re probably wondering, “So which one is correct?” Technically, they’re both correct (we told you the English language was tricky!). Copywriters and editors everywhere have strong opinions regarding whether or not to use the Oxford comma. In everyday use, it’s considered correct to utilize the serial comma, while in more journalistic writing (for those who follow the AP Stylebook) it’s a no-no.

Those who argue for the use of the serial comma say that its use in writing matches the rhythm of actual speech, with a pause before the and or the or. Pro-comma writers also feel as though the Oxford comma helps to distinguish and prevent confusion. Also, when a list gets extensive and semi-colons come into use, a semi-colon is always placed before the conjunction. So why not follow the same rules with commas in a list?

Writers and editors who are against the use of the Oxford comma say that the punctuation is unnecessary since the conjunction (and or or) already serves as a separator between the last two items in a list. Others (especially journalists) say that the serial comma adds unnecessary characters to an already tight word-count.

Confusion because of the Oxford comma is evident in the following example:

“John’s mother, Julia, and their dog were featured in the newsletter.” In this phrase, the Oxford comma causes confusion as to whether Julia is the name of John’s mother, of if there are three separate entities—the mother, the dog, and Julia. A better way to phrase it would be to write, “John’s mother (Julia) and the dog” if it’s just two entities, or if it’s three separate entities, “John’s mother as well as Julia and the dog.”

Confusion because of a lack of the Oxford comma is evident in the following example:

“Her brothers, Haley and Judith work in public relations.” In this sentence, it seems as though Haley and Judith are the subject’s brothers. However, when the serial comma is added in, it clarifies that the brothers and Haley and Judith all work in public relations. “Her brothers, Haley, and Judith work in public relations.”

Most grammarians suggest a moderate usage of the Oxford comma, not using it all the time and not eliminating it completely, but instead utilizing it when appropriate to better clarify the intended sentence.

For more writing tips, make sure to stay tuned for future editions of Gotcha Grammar on our blog.

McCauley Marketing Services’ Top Blogs of 2011

It’s the time of year when new organizations and people alike enjoy recapping the last year. What were the ups and downs? We thought we’d do the same and outline the most popular blogs McCauley had to offer in 2011! Check out our picks below and see if you agree.

Best Photo of the Week: Knowing When to Ask for Marketing Help

While we take pride in trying to find the funniest stock photos to use in these short blogs, this poor, crying little baby is probably one of our favorites. Maybe it’s the mini-office furniture, the baby-sized suit and wig, or the fact that we’ve all had days when we feel like this little gal, but this photo is just too funny to pass up.

Best PR Advice: The Lost Art of Conversation

Technology makes our lives a million times easier, but it doesn’t capture the nuances that are a part of in-person communication. Because so much about the ways we communicate is non-verbal, there’s a distinct element of internet communication that lacks the subtleties that are present when we pick up the phone or meet someone for coffee to discuss business. McCauley Marketing’s emphasis is on open lines of communication with all of our clients.

Best Website Design Advice: How to Build a Successful Website

Websites are more than just words on an internet page and corresponding pictures. While it may seem like that’s all there is to it, the truth is that the recipe for an effective website involves a lot of moving parts all working together for a positive consumer experience. Here we list the ingredients for a good website and how to bake one up!

Best Social Media Advice: Is Your Brand Social-Friendly?

There’s no denying that social media is the biggest boom in both every day and commercial communications. Making sure your brand is social media friendly involves more than just opening a Facebook account, but utilizing the myriad types of media available and making certain you emphasize quality over quantity with your posts.

Best Writing Advice: Gotcha Grammar: The Most Common Writing Mistakes Explained—Conquering the Apostrophe

It’s hard to know all the rules and exceptions to the rules in the English language. McCauley Marketing Services’ new series on grammar hopes to make these rules a little easier to understand. Our first blog in the series debuted in December as we took on the ever-difficult apostrophe. With copywriters on hand, the apostrophe is a grammatical element near and dear to our hearts.

Now that 2011 is on its way out, we want to know what blog topics you’re interested in learning more about. Tell us in the comments below what advertising, social media, public relations, web design, or writing blogs you’d like us to write in 2012!

Gotcha Grammar: The Most Common Writing Mistakes Explained—Conquering the Apostrophe

Our team of copywriters creates large volumes of content every day. From print ads to website copy for education and search engine optimization (SEO), there are words written by marketing professionals on pretty much every subject you could imagine nowadays. Grammar is one of the most important elements of copywriting. While proofreading is crucial to preventing grammatical errors, sometimes they just slip through. We understand that the English language is pretty confusing sometimes. There are plenty of exceptions to every rule.

One of the most common errors in writing is misuse of the apostrophe. There are three accepted uses of an apostrophe:

  1. In possessive nouns (to show something belongs to someone: John’s blog.)
  2. To show the omission of letters or numbers (like in contractions: can’t, don’t, the ‘60s, etc.)
  3. To pluralize lowercase letters (like in “mind your p’s and q’s; not necessary when you pluralize capitalized letters, numbers, or symbols though some editors prefer them.)

Apostrophes are not needed to pluralize regular words (“Hand me the portfolio’s” vs. “Hand me the portfolios“). When you’re wondering if you should include an apostrophe on a word like this, ask yourself if the word you’re adding the ‘s to owns the word after it.

For example, in the sentence “Teacher’s shape lives,” the teachers are not in possession of shape or lives. Therefore, the sentence should be written, “Teachers shape lives.” In the sentence, “Jill’s battery died,” the battery belongs to Jill and so an apostrophe to show possession should be used. Other examples include the following:

  • My brothers both work in public relations.
  • The kitten’s fur is soft.
  • McCauley’s marketing tips are useful.
  • James’s sister ate my candy. (“James’ sister” is also acceptable since the noun [James] ends in S)

When the subject in possession of something is plural, the apostrophe goes outside the S, as opposed to inside between the word and the S. For example, “three cats’ toys” indicates that three cats (more than one) are in possession of the toys. Other examples include the following:

  • “five designers’ applications”
  • “seven writers’ drafts”
  • “all the flowers’ petals”

Another tip: you can add ‘s to the end of compound phrases, “my mother-in-law’s recipe,” and to the end of the final noun in cases of joint possession, “Sam and Christy’s presentation.”

There’s only one exception to these rules: its and it’s. Because the possessive and contraction of the word “it” would both involve an apostrophe according to traditional rules, there’s a small caveat to the original rules. The possessive “it” does not have an apostrophe: “The dog chased its tail.” Meanwhile, the contraction “it is” does involve an apostrophe: “It’s time to start holiday advertising.”

The proper use of the apostrophe is one grammar rules where it seems like the exceptions are endless. We hope our explanation helps sort out the proper use of the apostrophe so all your writing and website content management can be grammatically correct!

For more marketing tips and answers to your marketing questions, make sure to connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

Photo of the Week: Knowing When to Ask for Marketing Help

tiny-officeMarketing is one of those jobs that everyone thinks they can do on their own, “It’s advertising! How hard can it be?” However, the research and careful consideration that goes into each element of your strategy when marketing your business can be a job in itself. Pair that with the other requirements of your business, and you could be setting yourself up for quite a headache. With the constant updates going on with internet marketing in areas like social media and search engine optimization (SEO), it can be challenging keeping up with the latest trends and changes while managing other aspects of your job.

The McCauley Marketing Services’ team understands that marketing and advertising isn’t easy to try to do yourself. If you’re feeling in over your head, we hope you can use our website and blog as resources for information and as an indicator to know when it’s time to consult a professional.

You can also sign up for our monthly newsletter for even more marketing tips and news!

This week we’d like you to caption this photo.

Our take: “Judy had almost finished her plan for the Pampers account when her computer froze. Looks like it’s time for a nap.”






Photo of the Week: The Right Tools for the Job

The Right Tools for the JobAn important part of any project is making sure you have the right tools to get the job done. Whether your task is a print advertising campaign or a website redesign, it’s important to do the proper research on your target market and your brand. It’s even important to research competitors’ brands and marketing attempts, as well as paying thorough attention to analysis. Just as you would prepare for a meeting or a job interview, plan for each project before embarking upon it in order to avoid crucial mistakes that could damage your business’s image.

This guy looks like he didn’t come completely prepared, so he had to improvise.

This week the McCauley Marketing team wants you to tell us what you think is going through this man’s head. Our guess:

“Oooh, what’s he going to do when he gets to his upper lip? Sometimes improvising isn’t always a good thing.”






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