i am not amused

February 11, 2017

One of the earliest lessons we are taught at school is that language, especially when it is expressed as the written word, is governed by certain rules – there are grammatical conventions that we should stick to if we want to communicate clearly and make it easy for others to understand us.

One can carry this to extremes but respecting the basics makes a lot of sense. Take capital letters, for instance. They are useful for highlighting the fact you are starting a fresh sentence. And the letter i is always expressed as a capital I when used as a personal pronoun.

Some graphic designers, however, don’t really seem to “get” words. They treat these squiggly things as mere shapes, and overlook the fact they have particular meanings attached to them. Collectively words are just “content” and the only thing that really matters to a designer is that they fit neatly into their layout.

Yesterday I receive a flyer from my bank, offering me up to £24,000. Setting aside my personal aversion to paying 4.4% APR (for me GOOD spells Get Out Of Debt) I noted that every headline began with a lower case letter instead of an initial cap. Then, to make matters worse, I saw that what should have been an I was written as an i.


I have no idea. Maybe the designer felt it made them look more creative? Perhaps they thought sticking to the rules was boring? Or could it be they don’t understand how sticking to the rules makes it easier to read? Then there’s the possibility they don’t expect people to read it anyway? Could it be the brand guidelines told them to do it like that?

What I do know is that it annoys the crap out of me. Not because I’m some kind of grammar fascist. But because all of possibilities listed in the previous paragraph really piss me off.

What we have here is a lack of respect. Lack of respect for the English language. And lack of respect for customers (“let’s make it harder for them to read”).

I’m convinced the small print relating to this loan is very carefully worded (by lawyers, not designers). And they would hold me very closely to these terms and conditions if late payment came to repossession.

Looking for this small print I turn the letter over. It’s at the bottom. And just above it is some text saying that if I want “this in another format such as large print…ask in branch.” No thanks – just make the normal sized version easier to read by sticking to some basic rules of grammar.