Bad language: it’s always a sign

Written by copywriter by on Oct 22, 2010 in Copywriting, Thoughtful freelancer

I’ve just had a guest blog post published by Mortimer Chadwick Gray, a public relations company based in Leeds and London. They invite guest bloggers and copywriters like myself to contribute articles on subjects like photography, marketing, food, PR and language.

Public sign in a park in Chapel Allerton, Leeds. It reads "The riding of motor cycles and horses or the playing of golf strokes is strictly prohibited on this land"

Poorly written public sign in a park in Chapel Allerton, Leeds

I chose the latter and penned a light-hearted tongue-in-cheek rant aimed squarely at poorly written public signs. It’s a subject close to my heart since attending a copywriting course run by the Plain English Campaign. Why obfuscate a public sign in incomprehensible gibberish that has just one objective: to be understood?

Grrr. My blood is boiling again so I’ll take a deep breath and let you read the full Bad Language: it’s always a sign article at Mortimer Chadwick Gray’s blog. Alternatively you can download the article as a PDF file.

Judge for yourself: pedantry or point valid?

One Comment

  1. I share your anger and vent my spleen when I see incorrect use of language and grammar, a classic example being ’5 items or less’ in Tesco as opposed to ’5 items or fewer’, which I see as a manifestation of sloppiness and laziness.

    However, Stephen Fry recorded a podcast on this very matter on 22nd December 2008 (which happens to be my birthday, well, 22nd December 1982 in fact – do not mistake me for a particularly capable 2 year old) and reasons with particular eloquence that language is a fluid and evolving autonomous being, therefore if the intended meaning of a phrase in successfully conveyed to its target audience, then all is well.

    Furthermore, pedants who dogmatically insist on correcting grammatical ‘mistakes’ of others help to create a feeling that language is a special ‘boys club’ which only invites membership of those with high IQs – in other words, people who are fussy about grammar are snobs.

    I highly recommend you download it – easily done through iTunes, or the associated software package of a generic MP3 player..

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