"Who gives a f*** about an Oxford comma?" asked Vampire Weekend, three years before it became clear that the answer is, in fact, 'quite a few people'.
The furore caused by (inaccurate) reporting of Oxford University's mooted change of grammatical guidance regarding the use of commas in lists was fascinating - a reminder that, even in the age of :) smileys and SMS text-speak (M&M is gr8), people do, well, give a f*** about writing proper.
It intrigued me, however, that amid the tumultuous tweeting and media mayhem, there was little reaction from the creative communications industries. For marketers, advertisers and PR people, whose jobs are dependent on conveying subtle messages creatively and persuasively, the issue of grammar and general language-use is, presumably, fairly fundamental. No? After all, I can imagine the jump of glee in the O2 office when they struck on the idea of inserting a beautiful little comma into the otherwise fairly straightforward slogan, "We're better connected".
Curiosity suitably piqued, I did some digging. It transpires that advertisers in particular have often had their slogans subjected to grammatical scrutiny. In the '50s, the slogan, "Winston tastes good like a cigarette should", provoked widespread controversy, because, of course, standard grammar dictates that the sentence should have read, "Winston tastes good as a cigarette should". Walter Cronkite refused to read the line on the air.
The slogan, incidentally, was highly successful. Which is, I guess, the point. For brands typically have their own rules and guidelines, published in their own brand bible - which, as any marketer knows, always, always overrules any guidance from Oxford or elsewhere. The bigger the brand, the heavier the tome, typically.
In my opinion, it's quite right that we in the marketing industry, as storytellers and writers, should remain cognisant of changes to our language and the 'right' way to use it. But we must never forget that our mandate for creativity allows us, like a novelist or poet, to play with the form, to deliberately subvert standard rules in order to provoke surprise and elicit particular effects from our audience.
Didn't do Apple any harm.