Why grammar sometimes doesn’t matter (that much)

Loo's This Way

I hate a misplaced apostrophe as much as anyone. And I really hate unnecessary capital letters.

But, as any editor will tell you, the real reason for describing a piece of writing as bad is nothing to do with breaking the ‘rules’. It’s to do with communication. Ultimately, crimes against English happen when something about the writing prevents the message from getting across.

And this particular message – repeated at several places along the Thames Path – was very clear. And undoubtedly, for many of its readers, very welcome. I don’t think they would have cared about that apostrophe at all.

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Never work with editors

We recently moved to new offices, and the first time we had our weekly editorial team meeting was a chance to check out the new board room. As the editors assembled, our administrator observed “There are less chairs in this room.”

Several pairs of eyes turned in his direction and several voices said, almost in unison: “fewer chairs.”