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New Generation Of Eager-web Copywriters Comes Along,...

I would be wrong, of course. As each new generation of eager-web copywriters comes along, it stumbles upon this rich vein of worked-over puns and fancies it has found Eldorado. Someone should speak to it - like I am trying to do.

I don't dislike puns - not if they are appropriate, apt and original puns. As an example, let me run a pun-type ad for Peter Stuyvesant cigarettes past you.

This ad appears in full colour. It shows the pack with several cigarettes raised out of it; and the pack is superimposed over a night shot of New York skyscrapers. Length is the impression we are asked to gain - which is definitely the impression we get.

The headline runs: 'As long as it's Peter Stuyvesant'. A good pun, an appropriate pun and, as far as I know, a by-no-means overdone pun. I applaud it; as I do the other ads in that particular campaign. Be cautious, then, before you rush off in all directions shouting eureka because of some brilliant idea you've just had. Immerse yourself in the agency guardbook - cuttings of past ads. Chances are you'll find that whiz-bang ofa pun you are about to commit yourself to is mouldering away in some yellowing tome.

We now come to the exclamation mark. Its abuse and misuse.

Until a few years ago, I was as guilty of this folly as the next chap; but a kindly soul pointed out the error of my ways, since when I have been proselytizing with the best of them. I sometimes feel that if all the typesetting houses were to withdraw the exclamation mark from their spec sheets, half the copywriters in the country would be tongue-tied.

The screamer, as I'm sure you know, is meant to indicate a scream. It should not be peppered willy-nilly at the end of a few random sentences as a kind of show of force. Nor, in particular, should it be stationed after puns, mild jokes and throwaway lines to say, in effect, that what went before was designed to be funny.

This last and disturbingly widespread practice is both coy and, if you analyse it, insulting to the reader. The screamer is also misguidedly used to indicate urgency or immediacy. In my opinion it does neither; and its use in this respect does no credit to the writer either. You often come across this same sort of precipitancy in radio commercials.

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