What’s more important than consistency in your copy? Give this a Go

January 22, 2018 4:15 pm

With matters of style in your content, there’s generally no right answer to whether you should be informal, use Oxford commas or do – or don’t do – a number of other things. Believe me, that’s a controversial enough statement. (I’ve been accused of being an Oxford comma fundamentalist.)

But it’s true.

We’ve stressed before to be, above all else, consistent. But ‘above all else’ is wrong. There’s something that trumps consistency.

I was just watching a short video about the ancient board game, Go. And there’s a clue here in what I’m talking about.

Go, the game, is interesting. But I’m drawn to why most spelling of games takes a lower-case letter. We write ‘chess’, not ‘Chess’. Or ‘tennis’, not ‘Tennis’. This is a constant. It’s not even so much about style, although we could probably think of rare exceptions in sports manuals or signage where these all get capitalised.

But try reading about Go, the game, if you use a lower case ‘g’. Given the meaning and common usage of the verb ‘go’ in English, it makes for hard work.

So here’s what trumps consistency: It’s pragmatism.
Above all else, be pragmatic with your content. Ultimately, you aren’t trying to prove you have been consistent 100 per cent of the time. You are trying to communicate. To influence. To speak clearly.

Be pragmatic 100 per cent of the time.

So I use Oxford commas when they help separate clauses in long sentences. I slip into informal second person prose for a call to action. I accept title case as opposed to sentence case makes sense when someone asks us for Google ad copy.

You will still aim to be consistent 99 per cent of the time. But that is not your goal. Your goal is to be effective. Pragmatism will guide you.

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