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.

24 Comments

Michelle Hutchinson, Wordhelper

about 5 years ago

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.

Tagline Jim

about 5 years ago

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.

Julia McCoy

about 3 years ago

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!

Tim

about 1 year ago

So funny- our GM is constantly making fun of my period use. I agree with the poster above on fragmented/complete dictating use. Makes all the sense in world. Question though- I am an unrealistically enthusiastic lover of semi-colons. Have any of you found success using them in a tag? I'm dying to try it out!

Tagline Jim

about 1 year ago

Tim, I don't believe I've ever even attempted to use a semi-colon in a tagline. Not that I"m opposed to semi-colons. I use them when it feels right when writing copy. But it seems almost certain that if the tagline required, or even just allowed, for a semi-colon, the thought being expressed by the tagline would be just be too complicated to be a good tagline. Having said that, I will now always feel compelled to consider the possibility of a semi-coloned tagline when I'm doing an exploration. Thanks for that. I think. Tagline Jim

David

about 9 months ago

Hi Guys! One of my clients who used to teach grammar at a university directed me to this amazing post. Any thoughts on how I should format : David's Pet Services Keep it consistent A period? Caps on all letters? Etc?

Tagline Jim

about 9 months ago

David, Sounds like there's a lesson there. Any grammar instructor who directs someone to this blog will likely be fired. All seriousness aside, first let me say, I find your tagline intriguing. It makes me want to find out more about your services, so congratulations on a tagline that isn't just the same old lame stuff. As for your formatting question, I must start by saying that, when it comes to taglines, you have a lot of leeway. It is largely up to personal preference. My bias is for all initial capitals and a period at the end. The capitals differentiate the tagline from just some ordinary thought. And I just think it looks better. Of course, there are exceptions. Sometimes, with a long tagline, all those initial caps can get weighty and cumbersome. I prefer ending with a period usually, because very often you are making a statement and a period helps it feel self-assured and definitive.Like you're serious and really know what you're talking about. And both initial caps and the period lend a sense of gravitas, or help the tagline feel grounded. Obviously, this is very nuanced stuff, and a different tagline writer might well tell you something different. Of course, they'd be wrong. How's that for a long answer from the Long Story Short guy?

Marty

about 7 months ago

We are launching a new business, an Orthotics clinic, and we have the following: ProMotion Orthotics is the name and the tagline Our support has no limits I am trying to figure out if we need a period, if we should use caps etc... Any feedback is appreciated. Thanks

Tagline Jim

about 7 months ago

My recommendation or preference would be Our Support Has No Limits. So, yes, initial caps, and yes, a period at the end. Alternative wording of your tagline that I might prefer: Support Without Limits. I like the name a lot. Good luck with your enterprise.

Anna

about 6 months ago

Thanks for a great post! As someone trying to come up with her own tagline, it was very informative. I'm slightly embarrassed to share that my first tagline had an exclamation point at the end because I thought it was good for emphasis. Thankfully, I've amended it from: Be extraordinary. Engage a strengths coach! to: Be Extraordinary. Be Strengths Coached. If definitely looks much better with the initial caps and no exclamation point. So again, thanks for the great post.

Nicole

about 6 months ago

I was on the internet, hoping the grammar/branding gods had an answer to my question, and I found your post. Perhaps you can share your thoughts with me on the following: my company started using a new tagline this year. The tagline has two periods, and goes something like this: Blue. Makes the Sky Look Clearer. (This is not our tagline, but this is the style of the phrasing). Now in printed materials the tagline is stacked--with Blue on the first line and the other text below. Everyone likes the way the tagline looks online, in headers, in printed materials, etc. My problem is how to use the tagline in internal documents, when discussing it with investors, employees, etc., in an annual report, newsletter, etc. For example, if you were to use it as part of a sentence, "Our new campaign centers around Blue. Makes the Sky Look Clearer. and has been featured ...." Would you take the periods out, even though the tagline is trademarked with the periods? I want to keep the brand sacred and maintain the rules, but the periods do look ridiculous when written that way. I would love your thoughts on this.

Tagline Jim

about 6 months ago

Nicole, First, thanks for finding me. So, I'd feel a little more comfortable responding if I knew what the actual tagline is. However, since you've given me Blue. Makes The Sky Look Clearer. that's what I'll respond to. In the example you use, using it in a sentence, it would help it look less funny if you put the tagline in quotation marks or italicized it (as I try to do whenever referring to a tagline) or bold it. Any of these will set the tagline apart as its own entity, and should help with including in a sentence. As for other contexts that you mention (internal documents, annual report, newsletter),I see no reason to depart from the way you present the tagline in other printed materials. If everybody likes how it looks "in headers, online, in printed materials etc.", I don't know why there would be an issue using the same approach on, say, an invoice, or any other printed medium. To answer another way, I personally like to keep the periods in, in all contexts, in the name of consistency, and because the periods function to help the tagline be processed the way you want them to be It sounds like your only real issue is when referring to the tagline in the context of a printed sentence, where the periods "look ridiculous." Let's say you did take the periods out in such a case, but did nothing else to set the tagline apart. Wouldn't that also "look ridiculous" or at least look wrong somehow? So, I would reiterate that the only solution I can think in these instances is to set the tagline apart via italics, quotation marks, or possible by bolding the line. I hope my response is helpful. Let me know if you'd like to discuss this further. If you want to take the conversation off line, feel free to email me at jim@taglinejim.com.

Ellen Howe

about 5 months ago

Tagline Jim, Our tagline is DECLARE YOU ENERGY INDEPENDENCE I like it that way on the web and collateral for more impact. Others want to see it as a complete sentence: Declare your energy independence. What say you? Thanks, Ellen

Tagline Jim

about 5 months ago

Ellen, Of course, I'm flying blind here because I haven't seen the brand name/logo, I don't know what business you're in or who your audience is. So my opinion should be taken with some grains of salt. In general, using all caps tends to be very "loud", like you're shouting at your customers, which isn't usually what you want. Impact is one thing. Brand personality is another, and using all caps can equal coming on too strong. My bias is to err on the side of quieter, because doing so signals confidence and self-assurance. My recommendation would be to go with the complete sentence, with the period at the end. But I'd use initial caps on each of the words, which will give you some of that stronger, more impactful voice, without being overbearing. And let me add a congratulations for not using an exclamation point. I'd say that "Declare Your Energy Independence." is itself a declarative sentence, not an exclamation, so the exclamation point would be too much. I hope all this is more helpful than confusing. And thanks for making contact. Tagline Jim

Ali Voron

about 3 months ago

Hi there! We just launched our new inspirational for profit business called beYouLoveLife. Our tagline with our business name is: beYouLoveLife Inspiration For Living. Does that look right to you? No period at the end? Caps ok? Thanks!

Tagline Jim

about 3 months ago

I find the tagline confusing as you have it. I am most puzzled that the "b" in "be" isn't capitalized. That looks funny, like a typo, because there's no apparent point to keeping it lower case. My preference would be to introduce some kind of punctuation to help the reader know how to interpret the thought. But if you do that, then the need for a period at the end is introduced as well. For example, Be You. Love Life. If I'm reading your tagline right, this seems like the best way to go. On the other hand, Be You. Love Life would look funny. If you're going with any punctuation, it then begs for the period. I don't know if any of this helps. Let me know if you have any other questions. Good luck with your business.

Tracy

about 3 months ago

I serve as a director for a community education department within a K-12 public school district. Our department's new website is under construction and we have created a new logo with a tagline to help freshen our appearance. While our staff likes the design style of using periods within our new tagline and believes the use is appropriate, we want to solicit your opinion. It would be poor form for an educational organization to be challenged on this. Our tagline is Educate. Enrich. Inspire. Your opinion would be greatly appreciated.

Tagline Jim

about 3 months ago

Thanks for making contact. I would be surprised if you were challenged on the punctuation, given that there are countless taglines out there using three individual words with a period after each. (Of course, there is almost always someone out there who will object regardless of how you punctuate something.) Punctuation for taglines doesn't really carry its own rules, just customs. So, there may be taglines with three individual words that have no periods, or have two commas and a period. But since each individual word is meant to represent its own complete thought, to me it makes the most sense to have a period after each word. Since you didn't ask for my assessment of the tagline itself, I will refrain from giving it. You won't have to dig too far back in my blog to discover my general stance on Three. Word. Taglines. Thanks again for making contact, and I hope the "brand refresh" goes well. Jim

Dawn

about 3 months ago

HI There! We are launching our brand and I am unsure of the best way to puncute our tagline. The name of our company is Ghost Garden's and our tagline is Ghost Gardens... A Better Choice. I am unsure how to best punctuate between "Ghost Gardens"and "A better Choice." Your thoughts?

Tagline Jim

about 3 months ago

Dawn, Thanks for making contact. I'd love to know what "Ghost Gardens" is. In any case, If "Ghost Gardens" and the tagline are just on their own, rather than occurring in a sentence, then you want to "initial cap" both the name and the tagline,and put a period at the end of the tagline only, i.e. Ghost Gardens A Better Choice As often happens when I get an inquiry like yours, I'm not asked my thoughts on the tagline itself, so I will withhold those thoughts, much as it pains me to do so. Jim

Latoya

about 3 months ago

Hi! This is such a useful post. I like how you give value to the vibe and feel of the tagline. I am having a hard time deciding between capitalizing only the important words or using sentence case. The company name is 'FASHIONFLUENTIAL' in all caps. The tagline is 'Shop less, Dress well' or 'Shop less, dress well.' When I look at them together, I lean toward the sentence case (second option), but I would love your thoughts.

Tagline Jim

about 3 months ago

Latoya, I would actually recommend a third option: Shop Less. Dress Well. Using commas subtly diminishes each of the thoughts in your tagline by not treating them as independent, whole thoughts.As for the initial caps for all four words,this is my bias, as well as a well-established convention. It gives the entire tagline some weight and "gravitas", which helps the tagline, combined with your logo, anchor whatever communication they occur in.And the initial caps seem especially important, given that your logo is all caps. Of course, these comments merely reflect my own personal stylistic biases and preferences. If you feel strongly that the tagline needs to look different from what I'm suggesting, trust your gut. Thanks for making contact, and good luck. Stoically, Jim

Denis

about 1 month ago

Hey TAGLINE JIM, I was really in a fix that how should I use the tagline in my site. But I think it is clear now. Now it is in this form: ".....IT AIN'T BEST BBQ, UNLESS THERE AIN'T NO SMOKE". What do you think? it will be great to hear from you. You can actually see my site. and you know where to find it.

Tagline Jim

about 1 month ago

I love the enthusiasm. And I love that you've got the tagline right there with the name, nice and big. As for the tagline itself, I confess that I know nothing about BBQ and smokers and all, so I'm not sure I get what you're saying. But that may not matter since I'm not in your target audience. It certainly is an intriguing line, and I'm fine with your use of "ain't"—twice, no less—because you're going for a conversational feel. I have two technical suggestions: Take the comma out after the word "BBQ". You don't need it, and it interrupts the flow of the line. And I'd recommend a period at the end of the line. Your tagline is a complete thought and a complete sentence, which begs for a period at the end. I wonder if you have customers asking you what the tagline means? If so, great, because it gives you an opening to sell your story. Thanks for checking in and "best" of luck with your business.

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