Unclear English


Apologies for my long silence – my musical life has taken over recently (three concerts down, and another on Saturday). As I’m not a natural performer, I’ve had to do lots of practice, something I’m not used to!

The Queen’s English Society is wrong on so many points, but I have sympathy with some of their views when I read the following (taken from a book review about the British intelligence services):

“Despite spending £1 billion a year, Urban is able to come up with numerous examples of things the intelligence services got wrong, some in key areas such as missile and chemical warfare stockpiles.”

We know what the writer means to say, but he has actually implied that it is Urban (the book’s author), who has spent the billion pounds, and not the intelligence services. If a way could be found of instilling into students the absolute need to read over what they have written, and not just write things down as they come into their heads, then the clarity of their prose would be improved immeasurably.

I don’t believe that even the most rabid descriptivist amongst linguists would accept the sentence I’ve quoted in their own work.

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