If you’re offered a choice

August 27, 2008

The one problem I’ve had all my life has been that I’m a semantics freak. I’m a holdover from times when people would get irritated if phrases were misused or words were spelled incorrectly. It seems that the category of people who care about language and messaging has morphed into a collection of messagers (or messengers with messages) focused on the speed with which a message can be delivered and not with the accuracy or efficacy of a message.

Here’s a billboard that I saw last week in Syracuse, NY. Please tell me (leave a comment on this post) what you see wrong with the message.

Wait a second. I don’t want my comment fields filled up with angry pro-choicers or pro-lifers battling for their particular cause. Just tell me what’s wrong with the words in the message.

That’s right. The word CHOICE was used by a clearly pro-life group. What a horrible copywriting mistake.

Why would you ever validate the opponent’s tagline or cause descriptor by using it in your own messaging?

And worse, the way this billboard is written leaves the discussion open.

I’m not telling you which way I lean, but let me argue both sides.

PRO-LIFE: We are using their messaging against them. Bwahahahahaha. We are showing them that abortion isn’t a good choice.

PRO-CHOICE: Let’s rejoice. The opponent just wrote that abortion is always the wrong choice, which means they have finally come to their senses and realize that having a child IS a choice. They have given validity to our cause.

From a purely semantic point of view a different word would have worked much better and stifled any joy the pro-choicers could take from the messaging.

I posit that this tagline would be stronger, more direct and less assailable.

Abortion is a decision nobody can live with.

It turns ‘choice’ into a decision. It implies finality. And it connotes the serious message I’m sure the pro-lifers wanted to convey.

I guess they’re not too proficient at teaching communication skills in church.

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