Stuff We Care About

Chief Grammar Officer

Does your organization have a Chief Grammar Officer?

Emblazoned on the flat screen at the end of the final game of the NBA Finals was a super that read, “Heat Defeat Thunder.” I read it once. And I read it again. “How could that statement be grammatically correct?” I wondered.

I then emailed our expert, Ermie Macknee, whom I’ve had the pleasure of working with for over 12 years. This is what she offered:

“With sports teams, I usually go with whether the team name sounds singular or plural instead of whether the verb is totally correct. So I’d say, “Heat Defeats Thunder.” After all, we still fight with the UK on whether teams are singular or plural! Or I just slide out from under by making the verb past tense: “Tonight, the Heat Defeated the Thunder.”

This is a perfect example of one of a countless number of such discussions we’ve had with Ermie over the years. In ad copy, there is always some degree of conflict with the rules of grammar, cultural norms and brand voice. Ermie always knows how to navigate those conflicts well. And if we have to break a rule, it’s justified, and everyone on the team is aware of the decision we made together.

I’d estimate roughly 99.9 percent of the viewing public that night didn’t even notice what I did. Nor would I expect anyone to. But when you’re in the business of representing brands with copy, you care deeply about getting it right. And you can’t help but notice issues like “Heat Defeat Thunder” when the rest of the world is thinking about how huge salaries have now been justified.

In our business, one slight mistake can lead to a world of trouble. That’s why we always take the time to check our work and check it again. Having an expert grammarian like Ermie on the team keeps us all in check.

As Ermie said, “Now you see why proofreaders get gray and lose sleep.…”


Want to read more on this subject? Check out the two articles that Ermie found.