Mind Your Language is not a tolerant column. Accuracy matters, and we don’t admit many exceptions. So this is notable. This is the only context where we’re prepared to let you deliberately use incorrect punctuation.
Punctuation picture from Shutterstock
We attended a course on how to launch an eBay business, hosted by training provider DDLS, last week. We’ll have a more extensive write-up on that in the future, but this is the relevant point from a MYL perspective: when you’re listing items for sale on eBay and the product name includes punctuation, you should not include it in the headline.
The reason? Most people find stuff to buy by searching rather than browsing, and most people are too bloody stupid to use correct punctuation. They will type the punctuation-free version. If you want to top those search results, you have to use the incorrect rendering.
Part of us hates this. eBay’s search algorithms should have enough grunt to handle both alternatives, and deliberately encouraging stupidity should be a corporation-closing offence. But we aren’t going to argue with the PayPal-abusing masses.
If flogging stuff is your game, go with the dumbest version, not the correct version. But please recognise (at least for yourself) that it’s dumb and wrong. Everyone else might be stupid, and you might sometimes have to pander to that, but don’t fall into the trap of adopting that approach elsewhere. Train yourself to be correct when that’s important. Accuracy matters.
Lifehacker’s Mind Your Language column offers bossy advice on improving your writing.