Schoolhouse Rock is strong with me today
If you’ve read my book (The Grumpy Grammarian’s Guide To Copy Editing For Copywriters), you know I’m not a fan of Valley Girl words in your writing.
Totally. Whatever. As if.
They make my skin crawl like I have prickly spiders running up and down my tattooed arms.
But here’s the exception — the word “like.”
I love this Valley Girl word. I particularly enjoy using it as a conjunction.
Other penchant grammarians will scold you for using it as a conjunction. Because it’s a preposition. They might even break a ruler over your knuckles for your “mistake.” (But I think that’s illegal and highly problematic nowadays just like the Schoolhouse Rock song & video “Conjunction Junction.”)
But using “like” as a conjunction has been happening for 600 years by some of the greatest writers, including William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, HG Wells, and William Faulkner. Even style guides (that enforce this archaic rule) inadvertently use it.
It’s okay to break this grammar rule. I give you permission. You get my frowny face of approval.
Wanna know why?
During the Mad Men era, every cigarette brand had a slogan. The most infamous? “Winston tastes good, like a cigarette should.”
It didn’t become infamous because it was a catchy jingle. It became infamous because it contained a grammatical error – using “like” as a conjunction. (Oh, the horror!)
Steven Pinker, a psychologist and linguist, says, “The New Yorker sneered at the error, Ogden Nash wrote a poem about it, Walter Cronkite refused to say it on the air, and style guide icons Strunk and White declared it illiterate. The slogan, they all agreed, should have been ‘Winston tastes good, as a cigarette should.’”
You know what this controversy achieved? Unpaid publicity and extra revenue. This ad campaign was wildly successful. Because brands are in the market to do business not to teach grammar.
So ignore this grammar faux pas and do what you do best — writing copy that persuades readers to take action.
P.S. Ginger looks studious today. It must be because I sang that Schoolhouse Rock song to her.