Mama weer all writerz now

BBC4 has been showing a series of programmes about Slade – the band, not the art college. Some of us at Afia are just about old enough to remember the huge fuss they caused at school when they decided to spell their song titles wrongly.

Noddy Holder – endearingly called ‘Nod’ by his drummer – recalled the complaints, and explained that they used to write down their lyrics in what he called West Country vernacular. This sounds a bit like post-event analysis to me, but never mind. I think he just wanted to stir things up.

At my school we had teachers who were seriously annoyed about it, and said that Slade were obviously uneducated and would never get anywhere writing like that. Then we had others who calmly noted that Slade also wore four-inch platform shoes and glitter and these weren’t allowed at school either, so we should just get on with writing the way they told us to.

As for not getting anywhere, on Have I Got News for You, Noddy Holder quipped that Merry Christmas Everybody isn’t a song, it’s a pension plan. I don’t think he worries about his spelling.

Then came The Wall, with Pink Floyd singing about how they don’t need no education. Some teachers were hurt and worried at this insult and ingratitude. Others smiled and said that what they really meant was they didn’t need any education. Because we all knew what they meant, and we’d all heard double negatives used like that and still understood what they meant.

Again, a bit of a stir.

But it’s interesting to think of business writing in light of this. Is it ever justifiable to drop unconventional or vernacular language into our copywriting to draw attention to what we’re saying? We’d argue probably not, because one half of your audience will think it’s funny and the other half will think you’re an idiot. And most businesses can’t afford to annoy half their customers.

That said, some people won’t like the way we just started a sentence with and.

What do you think?

Is there room for being more creative (and less traditional) in how we use language when writing for business?  Can writers ever justify potentially annoying their readers?

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