Are Smartphones Creating the Demise of the Literary World?
Grammar Nazis say that commas save lives. Take, for instance, the sentence, “Let’s eat grandma.” Surely, the author who penned it meant “Let’s eat, grandma.” Or did he? No doubt he (or she) did – and don’t call me Shirley!
Language is changing before our very eyes (and ears). Our vocabulary is changing daily. Words like “meme,” “troll” and “cryptocurrency” are now part of the vernacular. People are getting lazier and lazier with their writing. It’s embarrassing. English teachers who check out Twitter must cringe when they look at their mobile devices.
Have you been on Twitter’s site lately? Most tweets leave out all punctuation – to the detriment of the tweeter – and the English language. And, they who post, write in the most casual way possible. Obviously, there is little discipline that goes into tweeting.
It’s the Technology, Stupid!
We can blame the demise of the literary world on our smartphones all we want. And some of that blame is warranted. With their small chicklet keys, it can be painstaking to craft legitimate sentences.
But linguist John H. McWhorter, author of Doing Our Own Thing: The Degradation of Language and Music, and Why We Should, Like, Care, often talks about dying languages. He insinuates that people generally take the easy way out when communicating. One example that he uses is people pronounce the double “T” in bottle as if it were a “D.”
Fortunately, the autocorrect feature on our phones, we are told, is getting better. Apple’s new iOS 11 will include “smart punctuation.” This from a company whose slogan is “Think different.”
Words, Words, Words
Mark Twain said “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter – it’s the difference between lightning bug and the lightning.” Well, not only do words make a difference, but so do the way they are presented.
There’s a story about a teacher writing words on a blackboard in front of her class. She wrote: “A woman without her man is nothing.” She then asked a boy in the class to add punctuation to it. He did so and it read “A woman, without her man, is nothing.” The teacher then changed it to “A woman: without her, man is nothing.”
For some reason, this reminds me of the Groucho Marx line, “One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got into my pajamas, I’ll never know.”
The Humble Apostrophe
Last week I wrote about what are called “apostrophe books” – an expression that was coined regarding books that have Tom Clancy’s name on them – but weren’t written by him. This week I want to mention apostrophes themselves.
The apostrophe came into existence in the mid-16th century. It has Greek roots. It was important enough to find itself on the earliest typewriters. Other symbols, however, that are in common use today, didn’t make the cut. That goes for #, $ and !. Back then, however, you could get creative and type an apostrophe, then back space over it and type a period. This would get you your exclamation point.
The apostrophe is the Rodney Dangerfield of the English language. Many consider it optional. Try explaining that to Shaquille O’Neal, Bill O’Reilly or former Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O’Connor, each of which would probably take umbrage – or give you an argument – if you said your computer doesn’t have their dinner reservation in the system.
There is hope
Fortunately, a number of books have come to the rescue. You can get them for your favorite uncle for Christmas. You know, the one who writes like he never graduated from third grade.
Here are a few that are at the top of my recommended list:
- Lapsing into a Comma: A Curmudgeon’s Guide to the Many Things That Can Go Wrong in Print – and How to Avoid Them, by Bill Walsh
- The Elephants of Style: A Trunkload of Tips on the Big Issues and Gray Areas of Contemporary American English, also by Bill Walsh
- Eats, Shoots and Leaves, by Lynne Truss
- The Girl’s Like Spaghetti: Why, You Can’t Manage Without Apostrophes, by Lynne Truss and Bonnie Timmons
- Anguished English: An Anthology of Accidental Assaults Upon Our Language, by Richard Lederer
And, here are a few that are for the serious writer:
- On Writing Well, by William Zinsser
- The Careful Writer by Theodore M. Bernstein
- The Elements of Style by Strunk and White
If something isn’t done soon, you may find yourself saying something like “Sadly, the days of using proper English are went.”
Can Advertising Be Effective for Lead Generation?
There is no doubt you can advertise pretty much anything, anywhere, these days. Many of the methods and techniques are highly questionable now though in terms of effectiveness, or ROI.
The majority of advisers considering advertising are not terribly interested in creating a brand awareness campaign…they are interested in generating leads, or new client opportunities.
So how effective is advertising in generating leads for a professional services firm today?
There are several methods which are becoming increasingly irrelevant. Some because the ROI is so poor it is madness to use them, and some because they only attract the wrong sort of enquiries for most professionals.
In the category of “just damned expensive ways to get leads” you would have to include mass direct mailings, whether that is physical or digital. Equally, cold calling the phone book or a purchased list of suspects with little qualification is an increasingly appalling numbers game. Door-to-door (even where it is still legal!) is even less effective for most. My perception is that pure advertising (banners, sponsored adverts, etc) on social media networks are also very poor – though the incredibly low cost (generally speaking) might make them worth considering in the absence of any better ideas if you have high sales margins per customer.
Then there are the advertising options that work to a degree, though often with questionable ROI at the front end, which present a different problem: attracting the wrong sorts of clients. Yellow Pages advertising, or phone or online directories definitely fall into this category. They work best in a commoditized industry or service, where the “product” is fairly homogenous. As such they have a tendency to invite cost or price comparisons quickly, or sell on convenience factors. Both of these attributes undermine the real value of a professional, and almost inevitably the professional finds they are working with that most frustrating type of client: the price-sensitive, transactional, order-giver.
In a similar fashion, high pressure referral generation techniques and strategies or high pressure seminar selling tend to drive similar types of leads. Most of the leads generated from advertising or marketing this way will also be poor clients, or a poor return on investment.
Good effective advertising complements the rest of the marketing cycle, by addressing the necessary first step of simply getting attention. Having got attention – which really is the objective of the advertising itself – the rest of the marketing machine then swings into action, gradually qualifying prospective customers and moving them along the emotional buying cycle.
Great advertising today cuts through the clutter by being intriguing, or unique in style and approach, together with appealing to positive emotions: fun, interesting, entertaining, humorous, etc.
In today’s cluttered and noisy world great advertising is also dynamic: able to evolve and adapt rapidly, if not take on a life of its own. Static displays (billboards; yellow pages; print advertising; DLE brochures) are simply not dynamic enough. They are yesterdays news the day after you got them into the market.
In today’s challenging, volatile and dynamic world of professional services the effective advertising techniques are usually digitally based. More importantly they are understood to be only the first part of a longer engagement cycle. The patience and thoughtfulness that goes into creating such advertising, and then supporting it with a good engagement process, together with the high level of rapid adaptability is what makes such advertising effective for todays professional services firm.
Corporate Risk: At This Point There Is More Downside Than Upside
As we’ve stated in recent market notes and quarterly conference calls, we have grown somewhat cautious on corporate credit. It is best to anticipate a turn in the market and position ahead of widening spreads, but as we all know, the signs are not always obvious when it comes to calling an inflection point.
One caution sign we see this year is corporate spreads modestly widening from historically very tight levels. Some of this widening we attribute to technical factors. There is less buying support from foreign buyers as hedging costs rise in tandem with LIBOR spreads. There is also some selling pressure while corporate treasurers unload short-term bank bonds as part of their cash repatriation program.
But some of this widening, we believe, its attributable to investors acknowledging that corporate earnings are peaking, balance sheets are cyclically fully leveraged, and current tight spreads may not fully compensate for risks at this point in the cycle. Recently we have seen BBB’s start to widen vs A’s, and we believe this could be one of the early signs that all spreads may continue to drift wider as this long-lasting credit cycle starts to fade.
What makes calling the inflation point an art rather than a science is that not all signs are pointing in the same direction. For example, high yield spreads are, in some cases, holding in better than investment grade spreads. Perhaps in this yield starved environment greed still overcomes fear, or perhaps high yield default rates are still very low.
Heeding the above caution signs, we have peeled back some corporate risk in portfolios. At this point in the cycle there is more downside than upside, so it makes sense to act on these early signs and anticipate the turn.
You Pay More Taxes Than You Should
Taxes, are you paying more than you should? Are taxes creating a greater financial pressure in your life? Well, it might just be your outlook.
Today, John Smallwood emphasizes the importance of viewing future tax opportunities rather than being impatient. Opening up opportunities later down the road is much more rewarding. John also shares insight on the macro strategy, which he uses to help clients pay fewer taxes, gain a higher return, and with the least amount of risk.
Click below the image to listen in as John walks us through the importance of viewing future tax opportunities rather than being impatient .
What will you do to maximize your tax benefits?
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