Monday, July 10, 2006

Floss, Toss, and Follow the Dictates of Your Own Conscience

The tag line for my favorite brand of individual floss picks is "Floss, toss, and go."

For some reason this strikes me as presumptuous. After I've flossed my teeth and tossed the pick, it’s no longer the concern of the Dentek Corporation what I do. I might not want to go. I might want to linger in front of the mirror admiring my freshly flossed teeth. It’s more likely that I’d want to stick around and brush my teeth.

Where, exactly, do they want me to go at that point?

As a writer by nature and a copywriter by profession, I'm a big believer in rhythm. There's a reason why good writing is said to flow: It's because it moves along with the same pace and fluctuation of human speech, allowing the reader to concentrate on meaning without crashing into the rocks of poor sentence construction. Or goofy metaphors.

There is, however, such a thing as being a slave to rhythm. You see it in advertising copy from time to time, when a writer just can't stop himself from going for a line that sounds good but doesn't quite work. “Floss, toss, and go” certainly fits into a rhythm that we’re all familiar with: “Stop, look, and listen,” “Stop, drop, and roll,” etc. But the “go” is unnecessary. It oversteps the assumed boundary between manufacturer and consumer.

It’s like saying “Rinse. Lather. Repeat. Step out of the shower. Make yourself a sandwich.”

I should point out that I became a convert to flossing a little over a year ago, after a rather tragic dental appointment that finally made me see the light and realize that brushing twice a day isn't enough. The problem (before my conversion) was that I just couldn't get the hang of standard dental floss. That business of wrapping it around both index fingers was just too awkward, so I'd given up on flossing, assuming it to be the exclusive province of the superdexterous--gymnasts and ballet dancers and whatnot. But then I discovered the individual floss picks, and my teeth and gums were saved. With these little deals, you can floss an entire mouth in 30 seconds or less. You could theoretically floss yours and a friend's in under a minute. It's all about speed and convenience, which is why the Dentek copywriter went with "Floss, toss, and go."

But he should have stopped at “toss.”

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