Archives for posts with tag: Written

IMG_3535Where’s a physical spell checker – otherwise known as a dictionary, which nobody carries any more – when you need one? I remember about 20-some years ago in the US I saw a ticket tout with a sign saying ‘I wont (sic) tickets’.

Here’s a picture of a slightly more recent gaffe.

Online spell-checking tools in our email and document creation applications make it easy for us to avoid elementary blunders. They’re like calculators though, they make us lazy with our command of the basic skills of literacy and numeracy.

It’s OK to make these mistakes verbally, because it’s a different language to the written form and no-one can read what you say. Not so when your output is codified for all to see.

We can’t always rely on our friends to put us right on our mistakes. We have to do the work ourselves, or risk being found out.

As our beloved written and spoken languages evolve and become – dare I say it – a little more relaxed, we don’t seem to mind committing the formerly heinous crime of ending a sentence with a preposition. Back in the day – which itself is an odd idiomatic phrase – people used to get pretty worked up about grammar and syntax.

This was the one rule which caused the well known Churchillian reaction:  “This is the sort of English up with which I will not put.”

They say that language neither progresses nor decays, it simply changes. Whatever it does, I think it serves us all better to be more flexible and less rigid. A great example of this is in poetry and songs, where ending a line with a preposition can help the writer out and make the line scan more elegantly. Who could forget the famous double preposition of Wings’ Live and Let Die: “…this world in which we live in…”?

More recently, but already a classic, is the Jay Z and Alicia Keys song Empire State of Mind with its line “concrete jungle where dreams are made of”.

Prepositions are handy little nodes connecting elements of a sentence together, so let’s continue to allow them to roam free, for which our language will be the better :-).



I got a hand-written card today! From an organisation! I was so excited. The oblong hole in the front door is not just for bills after all.

Somebody had written me a personal thank you note and a different hand had written my name and address on the envelope too. This wasn’t from a friend or family; this was from a large organisation.

Yes, the good people – I always suspected they were good but now I know it – at Movember wrote to me personally to thank me for the huge sacrifice of growing a moustache for 31 days. Now there are thousands of people a year that raise money for this prostate cancer charity, and I bet we all got a hand-written thank you letter. Mine was from Sara and she signed it ‘Sara x’. Who cares if it wasn’t actually Sara, it’s the thought, and the perception, that counts.

I shall definitely grow a moustache for November 2014; they have me for another year, and another few hundred quid, with one thoughtful gesture.

Attention people who have customers – or people who want to stay on the right side of someone else: show you care by taking three minutes out of your day to write a card and envelope and why you appreciate them. You’ll need a stamp too of course, but if there is a better return for such a small investment, I don’t know what it is.

Incidentally, even if you’re not in marketing – or even business – you should dip into the daily genius that is Seth Godin’s blog. Here’s one of his best ever pithy-but-explosively-useful posts containing the handwritten thank you note.

Anyway, back to emails, the web and calls…

Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure was a clever bloke.  He distinguished between 2 languages: langue, the language, and parole, the spoken language.  We speak one, and we read and write the other.  They can be quite different.

So it seems a bit odd to me that we write to be read, rather than to be heard, especially in the stripped down, dumbed down, sound-bite-driven world that we inhabit these days.  The blog seems to me to be a classic example of this.   You can certainly get quicker through those posts that are written closer to the language of conversation.

Re-read the sentences from this post.  Could you see yourself saying them, exactly as written?  Some of them maybe, others not?  Odd, isn’t it?   Perish the thought you do a spell check and Word tells you your sentence is not a sentence, but a fragment.  Shocking.  🙂