Does "help save the planet with your mobile phone" have a different meaning or connotation than "help save the planet using your mobile phone?"

  • Out of curiosity, how does using your mobile phone save the planet? (and for context) – Adam Mar 21 '11 at 21:05
  • One cell tower at a time. – mvexel Mar 21 '11 at 21:09
  • Also, is there really a difference between "meaning" and "connotation?" I've always used them (perhaps wrongly) synonymously. – Adam Mar 21 '11 at 21:10
  • So you're saying not using it saves the planet? (I'm probably overlooking something) – Adam Mar 21 '11 at 21:11
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    @advs89 - To my mind a connotation is something less clearly defined than meaning. A meaning is what you could look up in a dictionary, a connotation is more subjective? A separate question I guess! – mvexel Mar 21 '11 at 21:18

In this case, "using" can be seen as a more explicit description of what to do with the phone. "Using" more or less encases "with" but it doesn't work the other way around:

Stand over there with your phone.

Stand over there using your phone.

In the context of a phone and saving the world, the options of doing something with the phone is small and it can be implied that the intention was to use it. Other words have more options:

Help save the planet with your donation

Help save the planet using your donation

Help save the planet by spending your donation

Help save the planet by giving your donation

There are also plenty of other things we can do that completely muck around with the implications:

Help save the planet while using your mobile phone

Help save the planet by using your mobile phone

Help save the (planet with your mobile phone)

Help save the (planet using your mobile phone)

The context makes the latter two silly but it shows the importance of choosing your words carefully:

Attack the man using your phone

This could mean all sorts of things and reminds me of the classic:

Fruit flies like a banana

  • Didn't you forget the "Time flies like an arrow" before the "Fruit flies like a banana"? ;-) – Jürgen A. Erhard Mar 21 '11 at 23:50

Slightly. The first could be interpreted that your phone will be "used up" by the process or used physically (e.g. plugging the gap in the ozone layer by throwing your phone into it).

The second sentence does not have this implication. Ergo, I prefer the second although I'd add a word.

Help save the planet by using your mobile phone

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    +1: Agreed. In the right context, though, I'm not sure it would make a difference. – Adam Mar 21 '11 at 21:08
  • I completely agree, there isn't that much between the two sentences but if one had to choose between the two....... Both are effective though. – Quibblesome Mar 21 '11 at 21:11
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    Interesting point. Adding 'by' does not make it roll off the tongue any easier, why would you do that? – mvexel Mar 21 '11 at 21:14
  • True but I believe the "by" helps the sentence make more sense. Otherwise "help save the planet using your mobile phone" could be read that the planet is using your mobile phone (although that then makes the "help save" confusing). The by removes this implication. If you don't like the "by" then i'd suggest using the "with". I doubt people would misinterpret it. I guess for advertising the first is better but for technical clarity my suggestion is just a teeny bit better. :) – Quibblesome Mar 21 '11 at 21:45
  • @mvexel: See my answer. Adding "by" splits "planet" from the clause "using your mobile phone." While not completely necessary for this example it makes other uses much more clear. – MrHen Mar 21 '11 at 21:47

One interpretation could be "have your phone with you while you help save the planet", an implication that the phone itself is incidental to the process. This doesn't make sense, at least not the sense you wish to convey.

Consider: "Use your phone to help save the planet" or similar.

Also, "help save the planet" is a little clumsy as it has two verbs together; consider "help to save" (i.e. use the infinitive) in future instances of this.

  • Is disagree that "help to save" the planet is required. "Help save the planet" is fine. Also in advertising to the general public the less words the better. – Quibblesome Mar 21 '11 at 21:39
  • "Fewer words". I didn't say it was a fast rule, it just has better English, something advertising cares little about. – lotsoffreetime Mar 21 '11 at 23:29

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