Coordinate adjective vs hierarchical adjective

A strange grizzled old man appeared at the garden fence.

The word ‘and’ can be used between ‘strange’ and ‘grizzled’ identifying it is a coordinate adjective and a comma should be placed, but not between ‘grizzled’ and ‘old’ meaning that it is a hierarchical adjective and no comma should be used.

Note the addition of a comma to denote the coordinate adjective:

A strange, grizzled old man appeared at the garden fence.

em dash vs en dash

When do I use an en dash vs an em dash? It’s a tricky question and appears to be as related to fashion as to strict rules of grammar.

It appears, in recent times, the em dash (—) has fallen out of favour in the UK, and is primarily used only in dialogue. It is not surrounded by spaces.


Em dash:

‘It is with shame that I am forced to admit the truth—that I was mis-using the em dash all along.’

En dash:

Molly was forced to admit the truth – that she had been mis-using the em dash all along.

Both examples represent a break in the sentence, so capitalising the following word is not correct.

Occasionally writers use em dashes to denote dialogue:

—I was mis-using the em dash all along.

Dialogue Tags

British vs American

British English maintains the logical structure of spoken dialogue and the containing sentence.

‘I promise’, she said, ‘to use magic only for good.’


If it’s obvious who’s talking, don’t attribute the dialogue:

‘The magic word is abracadabra.’

If it’s less obvious, use pro-nouns:

‘The magic word is abracadabra,’ she said.

If that’s not clear enough, use a name:

‘The magic word is abracadabra,’ said Mary.

If you’ve repeated ‘said’ too many times, try to express the attribution with an action:

‘The magic word is abracadabra.’ Mary presented her forearms as if to show me that there was nothing up her sleeves.

Adverbs are usually rubbish. Resist!

Exclamation and Question Marks

In both British and American English, exclamation marks in dialogue are included within the inverted commas of direct speech.

Mary opened her mouth and screamed, ‘Help me punctuate!’

Note: In British English, both exclamation and question marks are strong enough to drop the full stop at the end of the sentence.

Mary opened her mouth and screamed, ‘Help me punctuate!’

When the terminal punctuation of the quoted material and that of the main sentence serve different functions of equal strength or importance, use both:

  • She had the nerve to ask ‘Why are you here?’!
  • Did he really shout ‘Stop thief!’?
  • Was it Cain or Abel who said, ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’?

Colons and Semicolons

Both go outside the quoted material.

  • Mary opened her mouth and screamed, ‘Help me punctuate!’; she didn’t swear.

Interrupted Speech

Commas go outside the quotation marks.

Respect the punctuation of the uninterrupted dialogue.

  • Sally is looking radiant today.
    • ‘Sally’, he said, ‘is looking radiant today.’
  • Sally, you’re looking radiant today.
    • ‘Sally,’ he said, ‘you’re looking radiant today.’



When to Break A Line

Balance is the key. Evaluate each sentence, headline, phrase, etc. individually and then determine, based on the desired perception, where breaks best fit.

  • Do not break up linguistic units among lines.
  • Maintain balance, similar length, between multiple lines. Maintaining line-length balance is more important than keeping linguistic units together.
  • When absolutely necessary to keep linguistic units together (like a person’s name), then the line break should still not cause a line to be less than 50% of the other line.
  • The articles (a, an, the) are never followed by a line break.
  • Adjective should stay together with nouns, but two or more adjectives may be separated by commas, and then it is possible (though not preferable) to break a line after one of the commas.
  • Clauses should stay together (never break lines after relative pronouns like which, that, who, etc.).
  • Prepositions are not followed by a line break if the break would separate them from the noun they refer to. A preposition in a concrete/physical meaning (e.g. “The book is in the drawer”) always precedes a noun, and cannot be followed by a line break. However, in English, a preposition that is part of a phrasal verb (put up, figure out, take in) may sometimes not be followed by a noun (“I figured it out yesterday”), and so, it can be followed by a line break.
  • Proper names should stay together if possible (think of them as a single word with many parts).
  • The Oxford Style Guide advises, on page 140: “Do not carry over parts of abbreviations, dates, or numbers to the next line”, “Do not break numbers at a decimal point, or separate them from their abbreviated units, as with 15 kg or 300 BC. If unavoidable, large numbers may be broken (but not hyphenated) at their comma, though not after a single digit: 493,|000,|000.”

Thanks to LWTBP on English Language & Usage (LINK)

Avoid Agency In Inanimate Objects

Avoid attributing agency to inanimate objects.

‘The empty Champagne bottle might get me into trouble, so I hid it in the old grandfather clock.’

The protagonist might get into trouble, but the Champagne bottle itself is just an object. Accusations and recriminations come from people not objects.


Getting Real About Out of Home

Even the shortest journey is made up of a number of short cognitive hops. There are points along every road where the traveller unconsciously clocks a landmark and is reassured that they’re still on the right path. 

On a quiet country road, in the foothills of the Serrania de Ronda, on the outskirts of the small Sevillian town of El Saucejo, you will find a mini-roundabout known locally as the Roundabout of the Olives. This poorly signposted, and incongruous, traffic calming measure features a thirty-foot wide esparto weave basket overflowing with dozens of gigantic, shiny, black, Gordal olives; a fruit traditionally associated with that part of Spain. In many ways, this bizarre installation can offer us some insight into the future of OOH.

Like any good OOH location campaign, the Roundabout of the Olives succeeds on a number of levels. It is a landmark, a visual touchstone on a long dusty road with very few distractions. Truck drivers much surely feel a sense of gratitude as the roundabout shimmers out of the heat haze, on the road ahead, for in that moment, a transaction occurs—the location is transformed into a place. A humble location, with a low cognitive or emotional resonance, is transmuted into a colourful and vibrant landmark which reminds the traveller that there is more to life than the dusty highway. It also allows the town, the brand, to start a conversation with the traveller, the customer. 

Behold! A basket of olives. Are you hungry? Here is a place to call home. Why not stop in our beautiful town and return to a simpler time and maybe, while you’re here, enjoy something to eat. Welcome to El Saucejo!

Cultural geographers, anthropologists, sociologists and urban planners have long known that certain places hold a special meaning to particular people. Locations that are said to have a “sense of place” have a strong identity that is deeply felt by inhabitants and visitors. 

In childhood we develop a special bond with our environment; it forms part of our identity and, as adults, we tend to consider new places in relation to this ‘primal landscape’.  While our sense of place develops over time and through repetition, the process can also be undermined by disruptions in routines or abrupt changes in environment; when considered in the context of OOH, this offers an interesting opportunity for brands to engage with customers on a much deeper level. Advertisers who are able to empower a sense of place in target demographics may also engender a deeper connection with a brand.

OOH is all about place, and never was this more noticeable than in the recent pandemic. When DOOH.COM launched their successful #MyHeroes campaign, as a celebration of key workers during the early stages of lockdown, they specifically targeted roadside screens and bus shelters servicing hospitals and health centres. While the connection seemed quite natural at the time, we were surprised by the outpouring of affection on social media, not only for key workers but also the Media Owners, who generously donated their space and time to the campaign. 

OOH screens are more than just screens at a fixed location, they are a part of a deeper cognitive landscape, and whether we know it or not, those screens, we pass every day of our lives, become a part of our world—our reality.  

Many of the early innovators within AR immediately recognised the importance of place, and routinely hung virtual props in real-world spaces; by attaching Geocaches or Pokemon Go stops to physical landmarks and real-world locations they could lend their ’fake’ worlds a sense of authenticity.  

The rise of augmented reality and Facebook’s staggering investment in the meta-verse embedded internet may appear to be at odds with traditional OOH but these innovations can only challenge our sense of the virtual world; OOH, in contrast, is based entirely in reality. When compared to other advertising mediums, there is less of an abstraction between an OOH advertisement and the viewer. Unlike the internet, television, or print, OOH advertising, by nature, is out and about in the real world, alongside us, as we go about our physical lives. OOH exists on the same physical plane as ourselves and as a result, our relationship with it is deeper.

OOH emerged from the pandemic and ven though high profile city-centre screens saw a decline in impressions during the lockdown, suburban and roadside locations appeared to enjoy a significant upturn in location-aware bookings. Perhaps brands are beginning to realise the benefits of empowering a sense of place and binding themselves to locations in emotionally engaging ways. 

DOOH.COM has been helping brands enable location call-outs in their OOH creative for many years but during the pandemic, we began to start thinking about locations in terms of how they might empower emotional engagement as places. 

Distributing creative across many thousands of screens, over a wide geographic area, presents some technical challenges. A single video file weighing only a few megabytes can equate to many hundreds of gigabytes of data circulating around a network. As consumers demand higher bandwidth at lower and lower data tariffs, more and more data will become available to OOH advertisers and as a result, over the coming years, without the physical constraints of limited bandwidth, we will begin to see the emergence of hyperlocal content that adapts to specific locations (and in turn places), with increasingly disruptive and emotive content that engage audiences like never before.

The shift towards location-targeted OOH campaigns has been happening quietly behind the scenes for years; it started with tentative copy lines at low point sizes but has gradually grown in boldness-of-execution as brand confidence increased. 

More recently DOOH.COM have been working with elegantly layered motion and artwork files, which beautifully combine location with creativity, in order to move beyond the staple ‘insert location here’ design brief and put high-fidelity location callouts front-and-centre across many hundreds of locations throughout the duration of a campaign.

Inevitably, the wider the distribution footprint of an OOH campaign, the harder it is to maintain consistency over such large geographical areas. In order to maintain campaign fidelity at scale, technical innovation will play a vital role in production, delivery, as well as reporting. As our understanding of how our sense of place plays to the unique strengths of OOH, we must be ready to augment location campaign creative messaging in ever smarter and more pertinent ways.

With the inevitable rise of virtual and augmented meta-verses, the ties that bind us to reality will become more and more important. Our sense of self, place and our relationship to the world around us has never been more important. 

If the pandemic taught us anything, OOH is an intrinsic part of our physical landscape; while that landscape may soon be pock-marked with digitally augmented advertising real-estate, I can confirm that, or the time being at least, the Roundabout of the Olives, halfway between Seville and Malaga, in southern Spain, does not have a Pokestop! Not yet anyway.

Test Readers

The Spooky Art by Norman Mailer

The great American author Norman Mailer confessed, in his excellent book on writing: The Spooky Art, that he hated reading his stuff to his college writing group. His fellow students never seemed to react the way he wanted, or expected. Which left him disspirited and full of self-doubt; even Pulitzer prize winners have to build up their confidence. It was only when he realised that readers naturally bring themselves to what they read that Mailer began to relax.

The diversity of opinion in a group of test readers can be enormously useful. It allows you to better understand what’s working and what’s not. It also throws up serendipitous discoveries which can nudge your writing in new and surprising directions.

Make no mistake. Most people will hate what you write, otherwise every novelist would sell billions of copies of everything they publish. Authors don’t sell billions, they sell thousands or millions (if they’re very lucky) the bestselling novelist’s audience represents a tiny percentage of the population. But a tiny percentage is enough.

Write for the select few who will love what you do, not for the billions; they are as fictitious as your half-formed characters.