Monday, May 5, 2014

an open letter to planet fitness.

Mr. Chris Rondeau
CEO, Planet Fitness
113 Crosby Road, Suite 15
Newington, NH 03801

Dear Mr. Rondeau,

I'm a professional business writer and self-confessed grammar geek from Austin, Texas, and I'm writing to both express my distress about and request a couple of corrections to your company's marketing language.

I'm distressed about Planet Fitness' use of the phrase "Judgement Free Zone." While I understand and fully support your philosophy of offering an environment where gym members can exercise without feeling self-conscious, I must alert you to two blatant grammatical errors within the phrase "Judgement Free Zone."

Error #1: Misspelling of Judgement

In American English, judgement is generally considered a misspelling of judgment for all uses of the word. In British English, judgment was traditionally preferred, but judgement has gained popularity over the past couple of centuries, so today, both spellings are common – in Great Britain. There is a web-based myth that judgement was the original spelling and judgment is a 19th-century American invention; this is simply untrue.

Error #2: Lack of hyphenation between Judgment and Free

In the phrase "Judgement Free Zone," judgment and free work together as a single adjective describing zone: a zone that is free of judgment, or judgment-free. This compound modifier must be hyphenated. Without the hyphen, both judgment and free are working as separate adjectives, each describing zone – so you are effectively saying the zone is both a judgment zone [the opposite of your actual intention] and a free zone [wholly inaccurate, as your members all pay dues to work out in such a 'zone'].

I urge you, now armed with these corrections, to change your company's use of Judgement Free Zone to Judgment-Free Zone. Any company that can invent and trademark a clever term like lunk for its own marketing purposes can surely take care that all its marketing language is grammatically correct. Planet Fitness – the self-proclaimed "most innovative health club brand in the United States" – deserves no less.

Thank you in advance for your contribution to proper English use.

Best regards,
Kristen Card

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