May Insurance Marketing Grammar Goofs
A little dash of hyphens: how small mistakes can add up to lost sales
You’ve probably heard the phrase “The devil is in the details” before, but have you ever truly thought about what it means? The phrase, which dates back to the mid-1800s, means that sometimes, it is the smallest of things that can foil a larger plan.
The same is true with marketing and good grammar. Imagine a bus wrapped in a large and powerful advertisement – it could generate a lot of attention and recognition. However, that glaring typo that no one caught in the proofing process turns into the butt of jokes, not sales.
This month, we’re drilling down and focusing on the minutia. Perhaps one of the smallest but most misused punctuation marks is the hyphen.
To hyphen or not to hyphen
That pesky little dash has tripped up many insurance marketers. Think of a hyphen as a joiner, connecting two words to avoid confusion or to convey a single idea. Though there is some wiggle room, the hyphen has five key usage guidelines.
Five guidelines to remember
1. Avoid ambiguity. Hyphens often clarify meaning as shown in the examples below.
2. Create a compound modifier. A compound modifier is when two or more words combine to create a single concept. They typically go BEFORE a noun.
Note: When a hyphenated modifier that typically would come before a noun is instead after a form of to be, such as is, are, was and were, it maintains its hyphenation.
Now, to add to the complexity of the hyphen, those common combinations are not hyphenated if they come AFTER a noun.
3. Don’t use with other modifiers. And, let’s add one more twist to the world of hyphens: the adverb. Any adverb ending with –ly and the word very do not get hyphens. This is because readers already expect adverbs and very to modify words.
4. Avoid using a hyphen to create action. Many writers misuse the hyphen to join two words to create an action. Instead, the two words should either be combined or separated. When in doubt, check with a reliable dictionary. A common mistake is follow-up. As a noun or an adjective, it is hyphenated. However, when used in a verb form, it is two words, no hyphen.
5. Use in moderation. On a final note, use hyphens sparingly. Sometimes, you will want to reword sentences to avoid overuse of hyphens.
Stay tuned for more insurance marketing Grammar Goofs in June. If you haven’t yet subscribed to the Insurance Marketers’ Blog, do so now by entering your email in the top right corner of this screen.
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