July 30, 2014
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A few words about a few words Miscellaneous

The theme of this blog—Behind the scenes of RIT University News—is emblazoned across the top of this page. In marketing parlance, the phrase conveys our “unique selling proposition,” or our single core message. Just like a commercial slogan, it must be easily understood in a few words (not always an easy task) and achievable.

The theme is also our promise to you, which we must fulfill each time you visit. If we don’t deliver, who could blame you for not returning? So, in the recent redesign of our blog, I was particular that the phrase be prominent . . . and just right.

More about that in a moment.

First, Pete wrote recently about his project to create a content management system (intentionally spelled out—you’ll know why in a minute). Acronym-filled (XML, CMS, OO, PHP, MVC, N&E), his post was interesting and very informative, I’m sure—if you’re a computer geek (no offense to anyone in particular).

As for me, let’s just say I’m more of a ‘word geek.’

To me, carefully chosen words comprising a finely honed message are—to use Pete’s word—smoking (maybe in the same way OO PHP—or whatever—is smoking to those of Pete’s ilk). So, c’mon with me behind the scenes, and let’s talk about this blog’s theme and the power of a single word.

In an early version of the redesign, Pete substituted the word at for of in the slogan. “What’s the difference,” you might ask, “don’t both say essentially the same thing?” (Though he didn’t let on, Pete may have wondered the same.)

While both convey similar meaning, implicit in “Behind the Scenes at RIT University News” is, in my mind, a promise of greater visual representation—through, for example, photos that virtually “take you there” by showing what goes on inside Building 86 (and unless you enjoy seeing people sitting at computer keyboards, those would be mighty boring pictures).

Instead, we can best provide first-person, broad-in-scope written accounts of what we do (not merely where we do it—for the places are varied).

But there’s another, simpler reason for my preference for of rather than at in “Behind the Scenes of RIT University News”:

It sounds better.

Growing up in radio, I was taught to write for the ear. Basically, that meant writing conversationally. But it’s often as important to write for the ear in a visual medium, such as a blog, because readers ‘hear’ the ‘sounds’ of words in their heads—even while reading silently.

In this instance, of simply flows off the tongue better—making the phrase almost melodious.

To illustrate, say it with me (either aloud or silently, using the built-in pause provided):

Behind the scenes . . . of RIT University News.

Now say it using at:

Behind the scenes . . . at RIT University News.

Notice how the nasally sounding ‘a’ in at breaks the natural flow? (It might work if the slogan was “Back stage at RIT University News”—but that would be too theatrical for us commoners.)

So, yeah, I’m particular when it comes to word choice. But at least now you (and PJK—the acronym for Pete) know the reasons why.

 
  1. Pete K
    Aug 04

    I'm going to have to play the New Jersey card on this one.

    Certain syllables have a more pleasing ring to us NJ-ians. For example, I spent my entire life pronouncing the name of a certain video game 'Super MARE-io Brothers.'

    Don't forget to drink plenty of 'wooter', to sleep on a 'pellow', drink your soda, eat a sub, exit onto a jughandle, drive through a circle, drive on a parkway, and park in a driveway. :)

  2. Silandara
    Aug 07

    The best thing about a good slogan is that, when you read it, you just don't think about it all that much. After reading your post, Mike, I understand -- and agree -- why it's "of" and not "at." But if it hadn't been brought up, I wouldn't have given it a second thought.

  3. The Tiger Beat
    Aug 18

    [...] Aug18  Mike The Tiger Beat Blog: A macroscopic viewLast time, I discussed word choice in the catch phrase of this blog’s theme, Behind the scenes ofRIT University News. [...]

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