I have been a classified ad afficionado for years. I first got intrigued with them in college, when I began reading Saturday Review. Through the magazine’s ups and downs—and it’s been like a roller coaster lately—the classified section has remained a constant, a stabilizing force in the face of editorial changes and design quirks. (It seems to me that someone tried to dispense with the SR classifieds, but reader outrage brought them back, even more enticing than before.)

Classified ads are not easy to write. The average length, just a few lines, puts great demands on the creativity of the advertiser. (You might say it’s an advertising version of “let your yea be yea, your nay, nay.”)

Anyone can come up with a splashing winner if given slick paper, four-color possibilities, and a full page to work with. But to grab a potential buyer, get him to read, and then beguile him enough to sell him something—that’s a tough assignment.

I don’t know where SR finds its classified ad people, but they deliver the goods every issue. Take a couple of examples: “LEARN 10 LANGUAGES A YEAR while striding for exercise.” That one’s got it all. You’ve stamped the envelope before you know it. Or, “FREE BOOK. Prophet Elijah Coming Before Christ.” That’s a recurring ad in the latest SR. Makes me suspicious. Is it a plant? Would a reputable magazine tamper with such a big reader favorite? Surely, that’s no place for humor. Anyway, it sounds more like it belongs in a CT classified section.

Which brings me to the relatively new and burgeoning section of this journal—Marketplace. With pleasure, I noted its appearance a couple of years ago. As I said, I like classifieds.

But, again, I find suspicious entries interspersed with the real thing (“WONDERS NEVER ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.