Tagline issues: Period or no? Caps or no?

These questions comes up now and then . . .

Should there be a period at the end of the tagline?

Should the tagline be all caps? Initial caps on every word? Just the big words?

If you’ve glanced at my Gallery of Taglines, you’ll notice that the taglines I’ve written cover all these options.

So, the answer is, it’s case by case.

If it’s a one-(heaven forbid) or two-word tagline, a period can look odd, but not always. In most other cases, I’m a fan of putting a period at the end of the tagline. I think it brings finality and definition to the line, and anchors the line. Many of my designer friends are inclined in the opposite direction, because the period is, to them, an extraneous element.

A long tagline usually doesn’t look great with every word initial capped, but, again, sometimes it works. If the tagline is all caps, that solves the problem of what words to initial-cap. But a line in all caps may feel to big, bold, loud for the sense of the line.

The point it, you have to respect the content of the tagline, the vibe, the feel, and let that be your guide when figuring out how it should be presented typographically.Remember that the tagline is an important, prominent chunk of branding language, and should be treated so as to underscore its prominence. That doesn’t mean you should use bold type. It just means if the presentation is feeling a little meek or like an afterthought, find a way to fix that, whether it’s going to all caps, or adding a period or changing fonts, whatever it takes.

Under NO circumstance, should the tagline be encased in quotation marks. And in almost every case, it shouldn’t end in an exclamation point. Those are my only hard and fast rules, and even then, the latter rule isn’t quite as absolute as the former.

For anyone out there who’s reading this, I’d be interested to know if you have any additional thoughts, tips or POVs about this topic. Feel free to share.

3 comments

  1. This is a great conversation starter, Jim. Here’s my take on it: If the tagline is a fragment (e.g., The pause that refreshes, Breakfast of champions), it should NOT have a punctuation mark at the end.

    However, if the tagline is a complete sentence (e.g., Just do it.), then it should have a terminal punctuation mark. The example I just provided takes a period because it is a command or a statement. If the tagline is a question (e.g., Got milk?), it takes a question mark. If the tagline is an exclamation (e.g, M’m! M’m! Good!), it takes an exclamation point.

  2. Michelle,

    Your take makes good sense. However, because the tagline functions as a design element that carries not jus the meaning of the words, but also a visual/esthetic aspect, I find that, sometimes, even though no period is called for according to the rule you suggest, if the tagline is a long sentence fragment, it visually begs for a period to “anchor” it. Conversely, there are one word taglines that constitute a complete sentence, but may look funny with a period. This is why I try to be as flexible as I can, even though I know my bias is to put a period on practically every tagline.

    Thanks for you thoughts.

  3. Greetings,

    Great post!

    We are in the process of changing our tagline partially for the benefit of SEO
    (we have a WordPress website), but primarily for the reason of branding.

    We are a copywriting agency, and like to pride ourselves in the ability to create effective tag lines. It’s so odd because we’ve created multiple taglines for others, but never for ourselves. Well today is a new day.

    Speaking from opinion, we find it effective to especially add a period (.) to a much longer tagline. For example: (Quality content, all the time.) is our new company tagline for Express Writers.

    We considered not adding a period, but felt like it was improper grammar. If we were to write a “three liner”, we most likely would not have included a period.

    Thanks for the great info. It’s all about perception!

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