07.31.12 Your Daily Interruption

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Punctuation Nerds Stopped by Obama Slogan

By CAROL E. LEE, Wall Street Journal

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The. Obama. Campaign. Slogan. Is. Causing. Grammarians. Whiplash.

“Forward.” is the culprit. It was chosen to reflect the direction Mr. Obama promises to take the country if re-elected. It also is designed to implicitly convey the opposite: that likely Republican nominee Mitt Romney would set the nation in reverse.

Simple enough. Except the moment seven characters became eight, things got complicated. Period. Even for some in the president’s orbit, the added punctuation slams the brakes on a word supposed to convey momentum.

“It’s like ‘forward, now stop,’ ” said Austan Goolsbee, the former chairman of the National Economic Council who still advises the Obama campaign. He added, “It could be worse. It could be ‘Forward’ comma,” which would make it raise the question: “and now what?”

The president signed off on his own slogan, but evidently isn’t sold. “Forward! Period. Full stop,” he has joked to his campaign staff, according to an Obama adviser.

On that, if on nothing else, Mr. Obama has bipartisan support.

“It’s sort of a buzz kill,” said Rep. Pete King (R., N.Y.).

The period was a subject of a spirited debate as Mr. Obama’s senior advisers and outside consultants spent hours in a conference room at their Chicago campaign headquarters deliberating over the perfect slogan, according to an adviser who was in attendance.

Does a period add emphasis? Yes! Does it undermine the sense of the word? Maybe!

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