Ever since the days of Elaine Bennis’s employment with J. Peterman, I’ve thought it would be fun to write/edit copy for lifestyle brands. When reading product copy, I’ve often wondered, “Who came up with this schlock!” — in a charmed way, of course.
We’ve all sat at the breakfast table slurping milk and cereal and reading the cereal box copy that sits in front of our noses, and who hasn’t perused a beer bottle label while gathering up the courage to chat up the cute guy or gal at the bar? Product labels get read by consumers, who subsequently form impressions of the brand based on what they’ve read.
Recently I met an editor who worked on soup can copy. I knew there had to be someone out there doing this work.
Well, someone has dropped the ball, because there’s a grammatical error on my beloved Frank’s RedHot Sauce. (For copy editing mistakes galore, check out Terribly Write.) Nobody uses more Frank’s than me. I’m like the old lady in the ad: “I put that sh*t on everything.” So I’m pretty familiar with the bottle and the label. Here’s what the label says:
FRANK’S Original REDHOT Sauce is made with a premium blend of aged Cayenne peppers that add a kick of heat and a whole lot of flavour to your favourite foods.
(Yeah, the pic is blurry, but if you look closely you’ll see that I’m quoting the first sentence on the label.)
What we have here is a mistake of subject-verb agreement. The subject is blend, which is singular, so a singular verb form should be used: the blend adds a kick.
But wait. In The Copyeditor’s Handbook, Amy Einsohn explains that there are three principles of subject-verb agreement: formal agreement, as I’ve demonstrated above; notional accord; and attraction or proximity. Formal agreement is rule-based, notional accord is concerned with meaning over grammar, and attraction or proximity is based on a certain construction sounding right to the ear.
With the sentence above, I think a combo of notional accord and proximity holds, so I’m not going to halt production at Reckitt Benckiser (the company that makes Frank’s) any time soon.
Now, don’t get me started on whether or not Cayenne should be captitalized. (The Canadian Oxford says it shouldn’t be.)