October 2019 Heartbeat

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October 2019 Heartbeat


By Ann Trimble-Ray

How we attempt to wrestle the English language into submission

As communicators, our mission is to tell our customers’ stories as well as our own. Using the marvelously complex, mercurial, magical, and frustrating English language to convey those stories is more often challenging than simple.

Using English, in particular American English, requires study and adaptability. As our culture evolves, our language does as well. Each year, new words are coined, slang slung, and dictionaries expanded. In 2018, Merriam-Webster added several entries into its tome. One of those was the abbreviation TL;DR. Know what it means? Too long; didn’t read.

To prevent any readers of this missive from labeling it TL;DR, I will get to the point.

As complex and evolving as our language is, HMG uses AP Style as a tool for consistency and correctness. This guidance helps our writing convey the intended message without the distraction of variable styles in one piece.

Like annual additions to the dictionary, AP Style undergoes evolution as well. This spring, the long-held practice of spelling out percent after a numerical reference, ie., 2 percent, was changed so the correct usage is now 2%. More recently, AP Style announced a change in hyphenation rules so first-quarter results became more correctly first quarter results. However, due to the hue and cry of the masses, they reversed themselves so first-quarter is once again the preferred style.

I do deviate from AP Style in one regard – the Oxford (or serial) comma. I will defend and extol its virtues with vigor! Why? “I’d like to thank my parents, Jane, and God.” vs “I’d like to thank my parents, Jane and God.”


How do you keep up?!

I follow AP Style in social media, Google frequently, and, very likely, break the rules a lot. In addition to using the internet (note the lower case i for internet – another recent style update), I also read as much as I can. In July, I attended Ann Wylie’s workshops at the Ag Media Summit, master classes in being better writers so readers can be better engaged. Plus, lately, I have also been listening to the Grammar Girl podcast to help fuel my understanding and fascination with language.

In the end, our mission is to creatively but clearly tell our customers’ stories whether in print, online, or – as of this fall – on billboards. Thanks for the opportunity to talk about you!


October is set aside for commemorating causes near and dear to our hearts. Related only by timing, the opportunities are a good opportunity for us to eat pork, wear pink, and be green!


Delicious, nutritious pork brings us joy when we create meals at home or enjoy it prepared by professionals. We know pork producers are facing threats of foreign animal disease, including African swine fever, as well as the consequences of trade wars. We join them in urging signing of the USMCA as well as opening other markets so more can benefit from the expertise pork producers continually grow as they provide protein to feed the world.


Pink ribbons remind us of the necessity of good selfcare. During breast cancer awareness month, we celebrate our friends who have been victorious in their battle against this disease, cheer for those who are in the midst of their fight, and remember those whose battle has ended. We encourage YOU to be proactive in your health care plan!


Barb’s commitment to 4-H and the youth who are part of this youth development and mentoring organization could not be greater! A 4-H alum herself, club leader for nearly 40 years, and former Iowa 4-H Foundation officer, we celebrate 4-H with great regularity here. This month, the organization gets a starring role on our office windows, too!

Look! Up THERE!

Heartland Marketing Group was honored to work with our customer, Landus Cooperative, to develop artwork for three billboards now on display in central and northwest Iowa. The outdoor ads promote the coop’s proprietary soybean seed, Acre Edge. A marketing campaign this fall builds on the them, “The engine driving your soybean performance.” So be watching on US 20, westbound, north of Sac City as well as on US 30 on either side of I-35 for these billboards.

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