I never realized how strongly I felt about the capitalization of formal titles until…

Last week at work I had to edit a series of copy for a web page. Our organization follows the Canadian Press style guide so I was horrified to see that my colleague in Communications had put all titles such as “Parks Department” (for the title of a department) or “Access Services” (for the formal name of a program) into lower case.

Seeing examples such as “parks department” or “access services” evoked a violent tirade against the inaccuracy of the style guide, made me want to hurl the computer through the window, but I settled instead for shoving the screen into the recycling bin and dousing it in tea. It is a scientifically tested fact that tea does not ignite.

A similar emotion was evoked up the removal of all my carefully placed Oxford commas, which I love. The Oxford comma is the comma placed right before the final ‘and’ of a list. I.e., “I’d like to thank my parents, Evelyn Hart, and George Balanchine.” I feel it a necessary addition as particularly in long lists, it helps to separate clauses, and out of consistency, I use it on the spectrum of lists. Visually, the Oxford comma provides a visual clue to the reader that reinforces the grammar of the sentence. Without the Oxford comma, ambiguity can reign: “I’d like to thank my parents, Evelyn Hart and George Balanchine.” In the original sentence, the subject of the sentence is thanking her parents, and two other people. In the second sentence, the subject is thanking two people who are her parents. I err on the side of being more formal, and thus being clearer.

I found this example in the write-up for a dancer in Ballet BC, who happened to the daughter of a friend of mine at work; knowing full well the name of her parents, the example drove the point of the Oxford comma home.

Copy from 2009 for a Local Toyota Dealer in Alberta

My brother asked me to put little vignettes together for a client of his in Alberta, the inspiration of which was some catalogue he’d read about that sold products through stories. Stories help people position themselves close to a product; I always liken the use of stories in marketing to the use of parables in the Bible (not that I’m a Bible thumper but it is a very successful tool from a marketing perspective).

2009 Toyota Venza Custom Ad Alex Hejduk

Here is the ad for the 2009 Toyota Venza:

It had been one of those weekend starts where the kids had decided to get up extra early to make breakfast.

After surveying the no-man’s land in the kitchen, I figured I needed a quick exit to let a tox. squad fix this mess and my sanity.

I had Pierre and Cecile put clean clothes on and put their day packs together.

Salish grabbed the dog, who’d been trying his own fix-job on the kitchen floor, and hauled him into the back of the Venza.

“Kids?”

“Check.” Giggles from the back.

“Dog?”

“Check.”

“Half a tank of gas, half a pack of chips, it’s overcast, and we’re wearing sunglasses.”

“At least it hides the bags under our eyes!” I whispered.

As we drew near to the Badlands and sunny skies, the kids and the dog had their noses pressed up against the windows. All three started running circles around the car the moment we parked.

As I pulled some spades from out of the back of the car, I asked, “Okay, anyone up for a bit of dinosaur hunting? Front seat reservation on the way home for the first one who finds something!”

By all the yelling and barking, I knew this was definitely the best way to bum a bit of energy in the kids, and to be a bit like kids ourselves!