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Writing it right...

By Pat Franklin

It is always risky to correct anyone's poor grammar lest they catch you out in an even worse howler! My comment on Rushmoor Council's misuse of the English language was no exception.

It stirred up one reader up to go through the Star with a fine tooth comb looking for mistakes.

For those who missed it, I commented on the title of one of Rushmoor's officials, a woman who is known as the Healthy Rushmoor Co-ordinator.

The adjective "healthy" is wrongly used here and is what used to be known as a "misplaced modifier" in the days when grammar was still taught. It makes it sound as though the co-ordinator is quite healthy. In my school days when we had regular grammar tests, a phrase like that would have been used as an example of bad grammar.

How we all hated those boring grammar lessons. When I finished university and came out intending to teach English at secondary level, I, like many modern educators, wanted to chuck grammar overboard and just teach the creative side. That is pretty much what has happened in our school system, and how wrong it has turned out to be. Language is vitally important and how badly we need those grammar lessons today.

Anyway, a reader, Margaret Collins, of Ringwood Road, Farnborough, found a dandy in the Star last week. It was in the story about Lawrence Turner, who left Aldershot as a boy of 17 and returned for a reunion with old friends after 42 years in the States. See if you can spot it:

"Some old buddies he had not seen since emigrating to the United States as a 17-year-old in 1959. Lawrence's eyes often brimmed with tears as they walked through the door at the home of his sister…"

Margaret Collins asks if Lawrence's eyes are "an example of genetic modification." We have to plead guilty to that one, but in mitigation I would say that it was a story that came in at the last minute, and one for which we had to change a page.

Rushmoor Council, on the other hand, is run by committees which ponder matters like official titles and I cannot see any reason for their mistake other than ignorance of grammar.

But thank you for your letter, Margaret. It gave us a good laugh - at ourselves! Will we now hear a similar admission from Rushmoor? I'm not holding my breath.


Charlotte Neal
Chief Reporter (Aldershot)
Joshua Smith
Farnborough Reporter
Jon Couch
Sport Editor
Stephen Lloyd
Fleet & Yateley Reporter
Ros Collins
Junior News & Mail
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