Wednesday 16th May, 2012
I won’t send you to sleep with talk of politics, but recently I fought and lost a campaign to get elected as a local councillor.
I had a lot of fun writing leaflets, which I shoved (with much help) through people’s doors and published online.
But as always with these things, your views on the English language aren’t going to coincide with those of your neighbours.
That’s why, from a professional rather than political perspective, receiving the following email was a campaign highlight.
At the weekend I visited a relative in Hampshire where, on Saturday, we went to a Toby’s Carvery for a meal. Toby’s had a notice about their “menu’s” and another about their three roast meats and that, sometimes, they added a “forth“.
Then I came home and received and read your election letter.
I see that you have worked in seven different jobs and now have a copywriting business. Surely three of these jobs (teacher, journalist and education project manager), and your current business, call for a good knowledge and use of the English language. So why do you write “fed up of” twice in your first paragraph (when I assume you mean “fed up with“) and “bored of” in the second paragraph (when you mean “bored with“)?
Further, you ask can I vote for you. Well, of course I can (i.e. am able) to vote for you. But will I vote for you? That’s a different question! Then, again, “can” I help you?. Of course, perhaps I can help, but will I help is again a different question. And “kids” in your tweets - ugh!
So, what were/are our “kids” being taught? History, perhaps, but not good English! Did your editor not not mind bad English in his magazine? And do the clients for whom you now write “copy” not know any better, anyway?
All good fun. So I sent over a cheery reply.
Many thanks for your email. I love a debate about the English Language.
I’m a copywriter. I know about writing for my audience.
When you write in the way (most of) your audience speaks and thinks, you get a better response.
All the evidence gathered from the last 120 years or so proves it. It’s about creating a bond with the reader.
I would love to write a different election letter for every resident, but there are 4,500 households. It’s not going to happen.
But I take your comments on the chin. And if you’ll let me send a few over in return:
- My editor was a woman.
- It’s a ‘Toby Carvery’, not a ‘Toby’s Carvery’.
- If it were ‘Toby’s', the name would refer to a singular company — therefore you should have written ‘Toby’s had a notice about its “menu’s”…
Wishing you every kindness and — I hope — a friendly agreement to differ on how we wield the English language,
p.s. I have attached an advertisement for my agency. It will horrify you, but it has brought us brisk business. I got the idea for it from the great David Ogilvy.
I didn’t hear back.
There are two inviolable lessons to be learned from this.
- If you write a letter slagging off someone’s grammar, you will make a hash of your own.
- There’s nothing wrong with bored of. So there.