MR. OBAMA'S PUNCTUATION GOOF!--PERIOD?
by Andy Weddington
Tuesday, 07 August 2012
"Advertising research is one-half frustration, one-half exclamation point, and one-half question mark. If this adds up to more than 100 percent, it proves that mathematics and research sometimes give confusing results." Michael P. Ryan
'The Art of the Presidency' -- commentary for 01 July 2012 -- drew comparison between the Romney and Obama campaigns logos. Apparently my analysis and opinion struck a funny bone in one camp and a raw nerve in the other for reader traffic grows by the day. http://acoloneloftruth.blogspot.com/2012/07/art-of-presidency.html
Shortly after posting email rolled in. Some offered it was an insightful observation. The word 'astute' popped up a few times. I don't know about that, maybe it was, but it seemed rather obvious to me--that Mr. Romney's logo is built around the idea of us, America, and Mr. Obama's logo is built around the idea of, well, Mr. Obama. The letter 'O' or the letter 'I'--what's the difference? And so each reflects the general sense of the respective candidate--as they have presented themselves to America. That's the way I see it. It's an opinion; an easily defended opinion.
One perturbed reader, certainly an Obama supporter and possibly someone with a hand in the logo design, submitted an acerbic comment. I opted not to post it because it was personally directed; there was no counterpoint, whatsoever, to defend their position; and they cowardly hid under the shell of anonymity. They violated the simple requirements of civility to see their comment posted in this forum. Again, all comments welcome but they must conform to the rules for the good order.
Anyway, about a week ago there was flap in the media about the Obama campaign tag line: Forward.
The issue was whether or not the word Forward should or should not be followed with a period.
With or without?
The campaign's decision, and assuming Mr. Obama approved, was with period. So, Forward. it is.
That struck me as peculiar.
A period is a punctuation mark that indicates stop or end. Forward stop?
Perhaps I am missing something but isn't the purpose of a presidential campaign, everything about it--from logos to tag lines to ads to candidate personal appearances--to get a voter's attention and stir excitement? Yes, I believe so.
So why a period? Why not an exclamation point!
An exclamation point, according to 'The Chicago Manual of Style' "...marks an outcry or an emphatic or ironic comment." Emphatic! What do you know about that, the exclamation point's role is to draw attention. Arguably, to excite.
The dissenter who submitted comment opined some people should stay as far away as possible from graphic communications as a career choice. No argument, that's excellent advice. But it is curious as to how those people managed to congregate to create the Obama campaign logo and tag line.
Punctuation makes a difference. It matters. As Edgar Allen Poe said, "The writer who neglects punctuation, or mispunctuates, is liable to be misunderstood for the want of merely a comma, it often occurs that an axiom appears a paradox, or that a sarcasm is converted into a sermonoid."
Considering Poe's thought, students of Chaos Theory--the world of nonlinearity--well know that small things can make for disproportionally big consequences. The difference a descending tapered vertical mark above that period makes is huge as to the semantic reaction (to that, study the field of General Semantics) in people. Think of a semantic reaction as an event that triggers changes in the nervous system. It happens. Go ahead, try it: Fire. vs Fire! or Forward. vs Forward!
Even ellipses ... would have been better. Maybe. But not being a graphics communication "professional," thank goodness, I wouldn't know anything about that.
No, no, wait, make that -- Good grief!
To move a unit of Marines forward from a stationary position the unit leader gives the command, "For-ward, March!" With "March" being the command of execution while "For-ward" is preparatory--meaning, standby Marines, something else is coming. What's coming after Mr. Obama's Forward.? No idea. That little period is a big stop sign.
Every little edge, even if only a subliminal one, in a campaign for the presidency matters. As to logos and tag lines, Mr. Romney enjoys the edge simply because his visual is about us, America. The other guy's logo is about him, and his tag line unremarkable and confusing.
Considering Mr. Ryan's opening quote, 'one-half frustration, one-half exclamation point, and one-half question mark,' perhaps the Romney campaign, for the next 90 or so days, should just plaster our visual world with...
It's simple. To the point. And sure to frustrate. Period!
In closing, some are probably wondering "What's the big deal? This seems a big ado about nothing." Maybe. Maybe not. But if making a mountain out of a period helps even an iota in the cause to correct an error, a goof, then so be it. I happen to subscribe to the ideas of Chaos Theory.
Besides, I'm rather enjoying this flap about using punctuation to express an idea.
Forward! The lean, suggesting movement, is better still, don't you think?