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Does spelling and grammar matter?

April 9, 2014

I am over fifty, so my answer is yes. As a mathematician cum engineer, who I am to say this (I once had a client who owned and ran one of the UK's premier writers' magazines: writing to him was sheer terror; I do not know my gerunds from my subjunctives, and he preferred the active to the passive, as he would often, but politely, remind me). But getting some of the basics right is still useful.

My late mother was for ever spotting typos in shop windows, and whenever I see them (all the time) I think of her: I think I have genetic pedantic syndrome. This blog explains some of the symptoms.

I know that anyone under the age of XX doesn't think spelling is important, and I also know that I am known to be an awkward reviewer for wanting typos changed, but I hope never to see a letter like this:


I have of course made the entire letter up. It is my attempt to summarise many of the most frequent mis-spellings I see in everyday practice- oh, and some of my pet hates.

Pet hate (1): why do so many emails, and letters, ask the recipient if he is well? If it is a sincere hope, that would be fine, but it is so commonplace that it is meaningless. This week, we got a flyer from a local firm of estate agents, telling us they have people interested in houses just like ours, addressed to Dear Occupier, starting 'Hope you are well';

Pet hate (2): why are business emails cc:ed to all and sundry?

Pet hate (3): why don't people change the headings, or start fresh emails, when subjects change?

Per hate (4): people whom I know getting my name wrong.

I suspect there are some areas which 'don't matter': 'should and would' is perhaps one. Some are notoriously hard to remember, such as it's and its- it does seem quirky that its is the possessive, not it's.

Finally, I wonder what will happen when my children's generation enter the workplace, which they will over the next few years. Will letters, or indeed blogs, have to end:





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