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When I was teaching broadcast writing and production at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin in Odessa, I laid down some rules for writing radio or television commercials. Basically they said two things: 1. No trite overused phrases. 2. Surprise the audience with something unexpected.

Here are some phrases not to use: last chance. dreams to reality, now more than ever. I told my students they shouldn’t use any negatives (never, no, not, none) in a commercial.

I urged my students to use correct English. “Nobody does it better than us” should be “Nobody does it better than we do.” The most flagrant disregard for correct English usage is when a store is advertised. Most commercials say this: “The store is having their grand opening.” The correct way to say it is like this: “The store is having its grand opening.” The wrong usage of their (plural) and its (singular) is heard daily not only on commercials but also on newscasts. What absolutely rankles my ears is when someone is doing an adlib on a commercial or perhaps commenting on something in a newscast when the person says, “Me and her are going to judge the Christmas lights.” It should be she and I. Where were they in English class? Besides, the best adlib is a written (or memorized) adlib. Cumulative nouns like City Council create opportunities for errors. The City Council is singular. The City Council members are plural.

Pronunciation needs to be correct, too. In Texas we hear dudn’t for the word doesn’t.

On a broadcast spot, you shouldn’t have the person rushing off to buy the advertised product. So many times we see a couple of people driving along and one talks about a product, then the other one stops the car and runs into a store to buy it. Kind of ridiculous. Insults a person’s intelligence.

Don’t shout. So many car commercials feature the spokesman screaming at the audience in staccato speech delivered at warp speed, frantically demanding that the viewer or listener come in and spend $75,000 for a pickup. That won’t work for me.

I’ve never understood the radio voice. It is different from the normal speaking voice, but really shouldn’t be any different. I told my students to have respect for the microphone. Let it do its job.

My students won 120 state and national awards during the 34 years I taught there. Two of my commercials won CLIOs, the advertising equivalent of the movie Oscars. They were simple spots, just voice over music. The words were lyrical prose about West Texas symbols (mesquite, windmills, etc.). The name of the sponsor wasn’t even mentioned until the end of the spot. Some people said they didn’t know it was a commercial. The spots had immediate emotional involvement.

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